This month’s installment in my Star Wars chronological read through is Catalyst A Rogue One Novel by James Luceno. This is the second time I’ve read this book, but the first time I’ve read it post Rogue One. Now, anyone that follows me knows that I’m not a huge fan of Rogue One (you can read some of my thoughts here). But how does Catalyst hold up, and what are the takeaways a few months out from its publication?
The Utterly Ruthless Empire
Both Rogue One and Catalyst show the merciless greed of the Empire, and the extreme lengths it will go to to maintain tight-fisted control while squeezing every possible resource out of the galaxy. Both Krennic and Tarkin demonstrate considerable contempt for anyone who stands in their way (including each other). The manipulation of Galen Erso, the elaborate scheme to seize planets to extract their resources, the political one-up-manship…are but parts of the play of the rivalry that is part of the background that Catalyst sets up for Rogue One to explore further.
The Orson-Galen-Lyra Love Triangle
This may be a very Amy-specific read of Catalyst but I saw a lot of subtext indicating that Orson Krennic’s obsession with Galen Erso wasn’t just with Galen’s scientific genius but also to do with Galen himself. His pointed jealousy of Lyra and Jyn (whom he almost exclusively refers to as “the child”), his triangulation to maneuver Galen to side with him, an oblique reference to Orson’s party days. I may be likely reading too much into it (I do this with everything) but this interpretation added an element that made Catalyst more appealing to me, so I’m going with it.
Post Rogue One
Rereading and reflecting on Catalyst post Rogue One leads me to where Rogue One did: the glaring gender disparity. Knowing that James Luceno’s hands were tied by the film, I must still lament the disappointment of the contrast between the Lyra Erso we meet in Catalyst with the Lyra we meet in Rogue One, the lack of women (why couldn’t Galen or Krennic been gender-swapped?) and the echo (again) of Daddy Issues being the primary parental focus. It’s an area where Star Wars has a lot of growing to do. I also feel like James Luceno ties many alien species and other Star Wars elements we know in really well in a way that enhances the story he is telling.
Ultimately, Catalyst is a lot like Rogue One for me: a fine story, but not really for me. And as I’ve stated numerous times, that’s ok. Next month, I’m going to start the Adventures in Wild Space series of books to continue the Star Wars Chronological Read Through.