I have recently completed the novel Catalyst, a 352 page science fiction novel written by James Luceno. This book is also in the Star Wars universe timeline, which was one of the reasons I read it in the first place. James Luceno is a New York Times bestselling author and the writer of many other Star Wars novels. He has also written a multitude of other science fiction novels.
I read this novel because I really like science fiction and action novels and because I am also enjoy Star Wars. This book comes right before the new Star Wars movie that came out, Rogue One, which I had just seen so I thought it would be a good idea to read over the backstories of all of these characters. I did not, however, read this book to get pages for the 8k Reading Challenge as I have read books of this genre way too many times.
Catalyst starts with the war between the Republic and the Separatists a brilliant scientist, Galen Erso. who is experimenting with energy production from crystals. His work has captured the attention of both sides of the field, making him a crucial pawn in the war After the war is over, the newly formed Empire sees the potential for Galen’s research to finally put the finishing touches on the superweapon for the in-construction Death Star. Orson Krennic, a lieutenant commander in the Imperial Navy and one of Galen’s old friends, rescues Galen from imprisonment of kidnappers. In large debt, the Ersos must escape from their benefactor’s grasp and untangle what Galen’s research is actually being used for.
I was surprised how the author included so much detail in the start of every chapter. When he did this, he elaborated about the description of the setting, what was going on, and many other tidbits of information that almost made me lose interest. But what he gave in this sense, he made up for with action and powerful dialogue. On page 163, Luceno describes the city world of Coruscant. Keep in mind that this is only the start of a detailed and almost perfectionist summary of what Coruscant really is like. “Coruscant was most frequently described as a city world — an ecumenopolis — and while it was true that the fully urbanized eastern hemisphere buildings touched the sky, creating chasms thousands of meters deep, there was an area in the western hemisphere halfway between the pole and the equator where one could stand on the planet’s undisturbed surface; an area where climate control had yet to overrule nature, where the sky wasn’t scrubbed clean and storms weren’t scheduled or regulated. (163)” . Now, I think we can all agree that was quite some run-on sentence and that the author could have most definitely broken that up into smaller parts. In fact, as I was reading it I may have started to drift off to sleep. I don’t know if I was just tired that day or something but it was very boring. And that was only a paragraph. The other sentences are just about that long. This was surely an instance where I despised semicolons.
The structure of this book was set up into three parts: Life During Wartime, The Pursuit of Peace, and Dead Reckoning. These parts have, as you can probably tell from the titles, the descriptions of the Separatist/Republic War, how the Empire tries to finish the Death Star, and how it all turns out in the end. I think the most important section of this novel was the middle section: The Pursuit of Peace. I think this way because this is the part where we really see into the minds of each character. This is the part where most of the characters’ backstories get explained. All in all, this was also probably the least boring section as well. This portion was filled with suspense and had me on the edge of my seat for most of it.
One thing I noticed in this novel was the development of Galen’s character. His story of how he got to where he was is one that pretty much goes back and forth. Galen was the son of a poor family on a distant planet. They barely had enough money to get him an education. This was until one day where Galen built a transmitter that could catch radio or TV signals. People found out that this kid was going to be an absolute genius, so they got him the best education and eventually he got to the field of energy production. He meets his caring wife, Lyra on a crystallography survey and they go on to make a family together with their infant daughter, Jyn. Now this is when Orson Krennic rescues the Ersos from Separatist kidnappers. With Orson’s offer of him being able to continue his research, and with every resource at his disposal, he can’t say no. So he agrees to work for the project without really knowing that what he is doing will not be used for good, but the total opposite. Galen then finds out what the Empire has done and what they are really using it for and finds a way to fix it (and no this will not spoil the ending).
A passage I found interesting was on page 247, when the Empire is testing out Galen’s research on a small-scale weapon. They are test firing it into two collapsing stars, just so it wouldn’t damage any planets. I found the way the author describes these stars to be very interesting. “In the middle ground of a perilous expanse of deep space, two collapsed stars were attempting to devour each other, the mated fields of their accretion disks resembling a mask, the black holes as cutouts for eyes. Warped by gravitational lensing, realspace swirled, making the nearby starfields appear to be rotating, dragged around the edges of the mask by unseen forces. (247)”. I liked this quote because of the image that it put into my head. Just thinking of these twin supernova stars next to each other would make me think that it would be some sight to see, however this would probably not be seen by humans in quite some time. Overall, I would give this story an 7 out of 10 because even though it was good, it was very slow to read in some parts. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes a book with a lot of action and science fiction.