(WARNING: This post will (obviously) have spoilers for Catalyst: A Rogue One novel)
Out in stores November 15th, #Catalyst is a prequel novel to the upcoming #StarWars spin-off film, #RogueOne. Unlike all the other canon novels that have come before it (which were standalone adventures with possible clues to the future of the series), Catalyst can actually be seen as the first required reading for the saga. The tie-in novel sets up major events from the upcoming film, focusing on Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen) and Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn) as they negotiate the years prior to the film. The novel is written by James Luceno and unlike his last Star Wars effort, Tarkin, I really enjoyed this novel for its great characters and interesting world building (I thought Tarkin was good but could've been better). If you're planning on watching Rogue One (who isn't?) and want the key facts to take from Catalyst, look no further. Here's everything we learned that could prove pivotal to Rogue One.
1. Lyra Erso
The mother of Felicity Jones's Jyn in the film, Lyra is the fiery wife to Galen Erso and surprise! She's #Force sensitive. While she's not a Jedi or a practicing Force user, Lyra is open with her husband about how she feels about the Force and the Jedi Order. She would often go outside to the gardens and get in touch with the Force, sensing its presence through nature. Time will tell if this sensitivity has passed down to Jyn, and if it helps her and her Rebel team against the Empire.
2. Orson Krennic Versus Governor Moff Tarkin
One of the most interesting developments in the novel is the relationship between Orson Krennic and legendary Star Wars villain Moff Tarkin. Although recently promoted to Admiral and Moff, Tarkin prefers his Governor title, and casually (and coldly) reminds those around him that they don't simply hand out those kind of titles to anyone. In the novel, Tarkin represents the aristocratic Imperial, whereas Orson is a bit more blue collar, having to work hard and manipulate others to get to the position he's in. The two men often interact with each other and a cold rivalry between the two can be felt. Tarkin fully believes in the power of the Death Star (code named Project Celestial Power) but openly doubts whether or not Krennic can finish its construction after many setbacks and delays. Tarkin, being favored to oversee the super-weapon, plots against Krennic to discredit the Rogue One villain — who often oversteps his authority.
3. Galen Erso: Mad Scientist Or Brilliant Prodigy?
A self-proclaimed pacifist, Galen Erso would not take sides during the Clone Wars and would not join the Empire once the Separatists fell. Instead, he devoted all his time to researching Kyber crystals, to the point of missing a good night's sleep for months on end. Despite being a genius, Galen often acts obsessively, sometimes even talking to the crystals instead of his own wife. Furious that the Republic-educated Galen would not pick sides, Orson Krennic slowly reels Galen into the Imperial ranks, first offering him energy projects until Galen became an Imperial devout, unaware of the real reason the Empire is courting the pacifist.
4. Kyber Life
Kyber crystals have been integral to the Star Wars canon for decades now. With the new canon rewriting some of that lore, we're still getting fresh information about the krystals and their functions. Much like the #Ahsoka novel from earlier this year, Catalyst contains ample information on the Kybers , which are the focus of Galen's research. He wants to use them for renewable energy, but the Empire has plans to weaponize them into the super-weapon known as the Death Star. Since the crystals are his life, Galen carries a small opaque one with him at all times, likely the same crystal we saw in the international trailer (above) in Jyn's possession.
5. The Death Star
Remember this scene from Episode II: Attack of the Clones?
That's right, we all know the Death Star is a Geonosian design thanks to Attack of the Clones and we got a hint of it being built over the planet in the animated series, #StarWarsRebels, but the novel jumps head first into the construction process of the Death Star, with which Krennic was heavily involved, and how he manipulated those around him to achieve his goals. Krennic knew the Death Star needed weapons and played the long game by recruiting Galen into the weapons program to use Kyber crystals.
Krennic even got Poggle The Lesser (the Geonisian from Attack of the Clones who hands Dooku the plans) to rally his troops and build the machine, something Krennic casually boasts about as "cheap labor."
6. Galen Erso And Orson Krennic: Best Friends Forever?
We get a lot of character backstory in the novel and learn that Orson and Galen attended school together. Galen was something of an academic prodigy, but Orson failed to be as academically gifted and would often be getting into drunken fights (or protecting Galen from such beatdowns). The two were never close friends, but Orson had a fond admiration of the brilliant student.
Early on in the novel, Krennic rescues the Ersos from imprisonment on Brentaal, which becomes a Separatist planet early on in the novel. Seeing the value in Galen's research and hoping to persuade the pacifist scientist to the cause, Krennic organizes a rescue operation to bring home the scientist and hopefully recruit him into the program. Galen sees himself being in Orson's debt for saving him and his family from imprisonment, but adamantly refuses any military work. Over the years, Krennic essentially grooms Galen by offering him jobs, including a professor position and a glamorous research facility, claiming to have Galen's best interests at heart. Over the years, Galen grows closer to Krennic, even inviting him to dinner, embracing him in friendship and confiding in him.
7. The Jedi Are OLD
In a passing comment when talking about Kyber crystals, it is revealed that the #Jedi were using them for AT LEAST 10,000 years. That information alone opens the floodgates for Star Wars to go way back in time with its storytelling. We already had a peek into The Old Republic with Darth Bane's canon appearance in the Clone Wars TV show, but just how medieval did the Jedi look that far back? I can't wait to find out!
The main event that will likely tie directly into the film (based on the last domestic trailer) is that of the defection of the Ersos. After working on a successful test-fire using the crystals, it's not long before Galen (with the help of Lyra's intuition and resent for the Empire) discovers that they were being played and Galen's research was being used for the Death Star. The Ersos decided to flee from their home to Lah'mu, which is likely the remote planet we see at the start of the trailer.
This defection causes the recently promoted Commander Krennic to be demoted back down to Lieutenant Commander and almost ruins his career, as he'd stood by Galen ever since the rescue operation, swearing he would be the key to weaponize the crystals. This also adds fuel to the rivalry with Tarkin, as it creates further delays. With this in mind, it's more than likely that the opening moments of Rogue One's trailer shows Krennic arresting Galen.
9. Saw Gerrera And The Ersos
When the Ersos decide to make their escape from Krennic and the Empire, they do so by putting their lives in the hands of an expert pilot through a smuggling connection. That pilot, as it turns out, is Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker).
A veteran of the Clone Wars (and its TV show), Saw quickly forms a bond with the Ersos as he delivers them to the planet Lah'mu, likely the isolated planet from the domestic trailer. The young Jyn Erso sees Saw as a friend and continues to do so into her adult years as he plays a part in the upcoming film, likely helping Jyn with her mission.
So, that's the key information from Catalyst. I'm curious to see how much of the information will play out in Rogue One, but as a novel I thought it was quite entertaining and wish it was a little longer. The story jumps over quite a few years, but it's always engaging and well written. The character dynamics between Galen and Krennic drive the story and it's great to see how their differences in ideologies clash. The novel shows the lengths to which Krennic's manipulations drive the obsessed scientist, and it'll be great to see their interactions in Rogue One. There's a smuggling sub-plot, which sees Saw Gerrera's introduction, but it's unfortunately the weakest part of the story as it isn't as interesting as the interactions between Galen and Krennic. In the end, the novel stands as one of my favorite canon novels thus far and is certainly one of the most important Star Wars novels to date for moviegoers and book readers alike.