Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Review: 'Catalyst: A Rogue One Novel' by James Luceno

Displaying Star Wars Catalyst by James Luceno.jpgI am a Star Wars fan, which should come as no surprise to anyone right now. Now that December is officially about to start, my life will once again become devoured by anything and everything Star Wars and Rogue One, which includes everything from trolling the Internet for news to reading every single thing put out by Lucasfilm. And that everything naturally includes Catalyst: A Rogue One Novel! Thank you to Random House and Century for providing me with a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Pub. Date: 17/11/2016
Publisher: Century

War is tearing the galaxy apart. For years the Republic and the Separatists have battled across the stars, each building more and more deadly technology in an attempt to win the war. As a member of Chancellor Palpatine’s top secret Death Star project, Orson Krennic is determined to develop a superweapon before their enemies can. And an old friend of Krennic’s, the brilliant scientist Galen Erso, could be the key.
With any Star Wars novel it is sort of necessary to set a context. When is it set, who is in it, why does this story matter, and finally, do I have to read it if I want to watch the films? Well, let's get to answering those questions! Catalyst is set roughly between the last Prequel, Revenge of the Sith, and the first Original, A New Hope. The first half of the novel covers the last third of RotS but from a completely different perspective, which enriches the viewing of the film. At the heart of the novel is the story of Galen Erso, a scientist caught in the middle of a war and unwilling to pick a side. Catalyst is a prequel, of sorts, to the upcoming Rogue One, whose main character is Jyn Erso, daughter to Galen. As such, the novel prepares the reader for the film, setting the scene and introducing some of the key new characters. Is it necessary to read Catalyst? If you just want to enjoy the film and get swept up by a good rebel story, no. If you're interested in the Star Wars universe, in the discussions that the Lucasfilm Story Group is trying to start in all of its output etc. then I would recommend it.

Catalyst is a very timely novel, with at its heart the question whether it is necessary to make a choice in a conflict. Galen Erso is a scientist who just wants to work and to remain neutral. However, conflicts such as the Clone Wars and the eventual rise of the Empire forces the necessity of making a choice onto everyone. In a time such as our own, with dozens of conflicts around the world and a growing distrust in politics, it is very interesting to read a novel that deals exactly with such topics. One doesn't have the luxury of ignoring what happens at the top, of deciding it doesn't matter what others decide as long as you can keep doing what you're doing. Catalyst addresses a lot of different topics such as environmentalism, warfare and science. Alongside Galen we also get to see his wife's struggle to make a choice and to survive. She is exactly how I like my women, spunky, opinionated and dedicated to her cause, whether that cause is peace, her daughter, her work or her husband.

Luceno is one of Lucasfilm's most frequent authors, especially in recent times. He has penned novels on some key canon characters, such as Tarkin, as well as Legends characters. As such, he is incredibly familiar with the context within which his novel is set, with everything from spaceships to aliens and outlandish planets. Since so much of the novel is dedicated to science it can feel a bit long and dry here and there. No matter how hard Luceno tries, it's not necessarily for everyone to read about the intricacies of energy research in a fictional universe. However, the novel is rife with fun asides, great descriptions and interesting dialogue. The only major criticism that can be given is that there is no immediate tension to the story arc of Catalyst. As a prequel novel, it is almost too aware of its role as a starter, doing a brilliant job at introducing characters and plot lines, but not necessarily being able to do much with those characters or plot lines. It is a quick and enjoyable read, but definitely one for dedicated Star Wars fans.

If you'd like to read more of my thoughts on this novel, hop over to my other site, Clone Corridor, for which I wrote 'Catalyst, Oppenheimer and the Necessity for Choice'.

I give this novel...

3 Universes!

I really enjoyed reading Catalyst but also know this is down to my undying love for Star Wars. Luceno does his best with a tricky job, creating interesting characters but unable to take them very far. If you're a Star Wars fan, I'd definitely recommend reading this because it poses a lot of very interesting questions that can keep you busy while you wait for Rogue One.

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