Star Wars: Catalyst: A Rogue One Novel

Spoiler Warning: I have only seen the trailers for Rogue One, but having been a Star Wars fan since I was born, I can guess what will happen and am going to recklessly speculate. If you have no desire to have any possible part of the movie ruined, don’t read this. Thank you for the click though.

Rogue One comes out on Friday. The plot for Rogue One was spoiled at the beginning of Star Wars in 1977. We all know that the Rebel mission will be successful, so the question for the movie is not will Jyn Erso and her Rebels steal the plans for the Death Star, it’s how interesting is the mission that leads to Princess Leia’s blockade runner, the Tantive IV(no, I didn’t have to look that up on the internet). The secondary question for the film is whether or not any of our new Rebels survive? My guess: no. It’s supposed to be a war movie, all the Star Wars movies have involved sacrifice and our heroes have never been very bulletproof. On the other hand, it’s a new Star Wars movie and it feels less like a shameless cash-in than young Han Solo (starring Alden Ehrenreich who I really liked in Hail, Caesar) or young Boba Fett (don’t care, has either Fett done anything to really earn their status in Star Wars?) Anyway, I’m super-pumped for this movie and have loved everything I’ve seen in the trailers. All the reviews that I’ve skimmed have been positive and other than the fact that they steal the plans to the Death Star, I don’t really know what happens. And Darth Vader shows up, which is nice.

Speaking of shameless cash-ins though, let me tell you about this book. First off, the title alone makes my brain hurt. I’m not really sure how to hyphenate it. Is it Rogue One Catalyst: a Star Wars Novel? Star Wars: Rogue One: Catalyst? Catalyst: A Star Wars Rogue One novel? Oh there it is, Star Wars: Catalyst: a Rogue One novel. If you put that many colons together in something doesn’t that make it a comparison problem like one would find on their ACT test?

Besides the correct title of the book, I also discovered an interesting bit of authorship trivia on the title page: “written in partnership with Leland Chee, Pablo Hidalgo, Matt Martin and Rayne Roberts of the Lucasfilm Story Group.” What? James Luceno didn’t write this by himself? Or was he not trusted to write this by himself? Was this a dumb decision by Disney? Yes

James Luceno is one of the best Star Wars Expanded Universe, I mean Legends, writers. That is not up for debate. The only one that beats him is Timothy Zahn, who is responsible for the creation of Grand Admiral Thrawn, Mara Jade Skywalker, Garm Bel Iblis, Talon Karrde and the planet Coruscant. James Luceno takes second place because his novelization of Episode Three is mind blowing. The book is so much better than the movie that George Lucas should be embarrassed. Yes, I know that Revenge of the Sith is the best of the three prequels (spoiler alert: it is until December 16th, 2016J) but it is still deeply flawed. Free plug: since I don’t want to explain why right now go listen to the Story and Star Wars podcast series on Storywonk for all the details. The book fills in every plot hole from the prequels, explains how masterful Darth Sidious’ master plan really is and takes you inside the minds of the characters in a way you just can’t do with a movie. It was so good that Starwars.com voted it the best piece of expanded universe.

Knowing that, I had high hopes about this book…

And…

Its…

So…

(Le Chiffre loves tension and dramatic pauses)

Boring.

Nothing happens that you wouldn’t expect to happen. Galen Erso (Mads Mikklesen) is a scientist that has a very specific field of expertise that brings him to the attention of Orson Krennic (Ben Mendlesohn) during the Clone Wars. Krennic tricks him into helping him fix some scientific problems with the Death Star’s Super Laser. All the while, Krennic is locked in a political battle with Grand Moff Tarkin (Peter Cushing) Do Darth Vader or the Emperor appear? No, but you do get healthy doses of Mas Amedda, the Grand Vizier of the Empire. He is the equivalent of Captain Marvel in the Marvel Universe right now. Someone that is being pushed as a major player but no one really cares about. I mean, Mas Amadda is so unimportant, I’m not even going to spell check his name later. I’m so glad that I didn’t buy this book. I checked it out at the library and it was a strain to get through 330 pages of it. I’m a pretty heavy reader and if I say that, there is a problem. What book did I finish before this one? Robert K. Massie’s biography of Catherine the Great and it’s about 800 pages. I flew through that. This felt like a chore. There is very little tie in to the larger Star Wars Universe, which to be fair, the Death Star was a secret project. One that apparently took 18 years to complete and had to involve thousands if not millions of different people. There is no Rebel Alliance in this book. No mention of Mon Mothma or Bail Organa. Forrest Whittaker’s character Saw Guerrera does show up, but it feels like they just throw him in so reviewers can say that he was there. At the end, when Jyn’s parents figure out that Krennic is evil, their escape is so easy I thought that it was a typo. SPOILER: all they do is check through security at a smaller gate. That’s it. Galen Erso holds the key to making the planet killer weapon on the Death Star fully operational and he escapes apparently because Imperial TSA isn’t doing its job. Would you like to take bets on who did their next performance evaluation- Vice President of force-choking morons Mr. Darth Vader? I bet it was a short meeting. Unless they were part of a union. Then Vader probably would have gone through them and their union reps, which might have taken slightly longer, but I doubt it.

Do you need to read this to enjoy Rogue One? No, unless you want something to lower your expectations. Just go back and watch the trailers a couple times or play some Star Wars video games. Heck, go read that Catherine the Great biography instead. You might learn something interesting about Russia. What did you expect, in my real life, I’m a quarter Russian.

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