I so very much enjoyed the 2016 film Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. After watching it and 2015's Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, I feel like the Star Wars cinematic universe is back on track. Star Wars has meant so much to me for as far back as I can remember. One of my earliest Christmas memories was toddling down the hallway the morning of December 25 in my footie pajamas, clutching my blue teddy bear (oh so cleverly named Blue Bear), and seeing the entire Star Wars action figure line standing on the coffee table in front of the Christmas Tree. Yes, my parents removed the figures from their original packaging. Nobody knew any better back then. In 1997, I was a university junior and I remember wearing my beloved Boba Fett shirt, standing in lines for hours with my friends outside the Cinedome in Orange, California to see the Special Edition releases, trembling with the same anticipation I imagine must have filled the movie-goers in 1977, 1980, and 1983 when the original trilogy of films were released in theaters. Such a fan was I that I immediately forgave the less popular updates to the films. So thrilled was I to be watching a Star Wars film IN THE THEATER, that I took no offense at the addition of Jabba the Hutt in Mos Eisley spaceport's docking bay 94 --that most wretched hive of scum and villainy. I think I actually enjoyed that scene because Boba Fett was in it.
Like many of us fans of the original trilogy, the prequels were a source of massive joy upon announcement, followed by crushing disappointment upon viewing. So we will not discuss that period of time further.
The Force Awakens and more so, in my opinion anyway, Rogue One brought the franchise back to the light in the most forceful of ways. To quench my thirst for more Star Wars, I read many of the expanded universe novels during my college and early adult years. Timothy Zahn's Thrawn trilogy and Michael Stackpole's Rogue Squadron series had kept me from spiraling into a pit of despair after --well, we said we would not discuss it. So after I saw and loved Rogue One and learned there was a novel that served as a prequel to it, I asked Santa Claus for a copy and she delivered! I read the book in eleven days, which is fast for a subvocalizer like me.
I had hoped the novel would be a Jyn Erso origin story --cuz I kinda fell in love with Felicity Jones during the film-- describing how she went from hiding in a cave as a small child at the beginning of Rogue One to ending up on the prison planet Wobani as a fully grown and defiant young woman. I wanted that gap filled. To my brief disappointment, I discovered that Catalyst is the story of the friendship and falling out of Galen Erso and Orson Krennic. Author James Luceno writes the story so well though that my disappointment was fleeting. Before too long, I found myself happy that I was learning about the relationship of these men in their younger years. At the beginning of Rogue One, they clearly have a history but their relationship is strained, contentious. What caused that tension? Catalyst answers that question. I know those characters so much better after reading this book. I even find Krennic a bit more sympathetic, blinded by ambition, but seeming to believe he is working toward the greater good, confident in his principles.
The story is heavy on talk, light on action. In that way, it is not very Star Wars-y, but this novel shows us that not all Star Wars stories require lightsaber battles and starfighter combat to be interesting. If you enjoyed Rogue One, if you enjoy Star Wars at all, then I highly recommend Catalyst: A Rogue One Novel. If you enjoyed the film, read this book and then watch the film again to give the opening scene additional heft.
Star Wars is back and I feel like that little kid in footie pajamas again.