Many Star Wars fans have wondered if the novel prefacing Rogue One, called Catalyst, enhances the film it was released with. While Rogue One certainly stands well on its own, the book is a capturing read with several intriguing characters, and it also adds several dimensions to Rogue One that will make viewers appreciate the newest Star Wars film even more:
SPOILERS ahead for Rogue One and Catalyst:
- Galen’s Dedication
While we certainly saw a lot of Galen’s inspiring sacrifice in Rogue One, Catalyst delves more deeply into his dedication to serve the galaxy. The opening of Rogue One shows that he wants nothing to do with the Death Star; the first chapter of Catalyst shows that he’s actually completely against the evils of war itself. He works with one particular company, Zerpen, specifically because it wasn’t supposed to take part in the Clone Wars that are raging during the beginning of the novel. Even as the Wars progress, and more and more people request Galen’s work for the improvement of the Republic’s (and eventually the Empire’s) military, he utterly refuses.
The offers continue throughout the novel, and Orson Krennic even tries to convince Galen to work with him by showing his homeworld being ravaged by war. However, the only way in which Galen resumes his work (after Zerpen is unable to contact him) is by being duped—in fact, Director Orson Krennic himself is the one that fools him, saying that Galen’s research is providing power for less fortunate planets. This information not only justifies that scene in Rogue One where Galen is drinking happily with Krennic—it also confirms just how dedicated Galen Erso was to bettering the galaxy, whether it was through only ever improving energy research or taking down the superweapon that had taken his life’s work into practice.
- Jyn’s Mother
While we see some of Jyn’s father in Rogue One, we get very little of her mother, Lyra Erso. Catalyst is able to provide a much deeper look into this character, as she is one of the narrators of the story, and a proactive one at that. Krennic’s description of her as “troublesome as ever” in Rogue One is made much clearer throughout this book, as we see Lyra combat her opponents time and time again. She not only momentarily evades warriors in the first chapter and continually bounces back against threats from Krennic—she is the one to initiate the discovery that Galen’s work is being misused by Krennic, and the one who plans their escape from the Empire’s tightening grasp so they can try out a peaceful life.
In addition to seeing Lynda’s actions, we also get to see a bit of explanation for her interest in the Force. In Catalyst, we see that she works closely with Galen as he’s first researching Kyber crystals, and that she holds a sort of reverence for the Jedi, even after their Temple falls and their reputation is slandered. At one point in which she seems to try coaxing her husband away from his research, she asks about the Jedi, “couldn’t it be that they were protecting the rest of us from [the Kyber’s] power?” Such reverence leaves her considering the Kyber crystals as almost sacrosanct, and offers a greater understanding for why she both offers Jyn the necklace with a Kyber crystal and counsels her to “trust in the Force.”
- Krennic’s Power
Finally, Catalyst shows that Krennic is more than a simple pawn in Tarkin’s game; instead we learn that he is a true, powerful rival of Tarkin’s, and a suave opponent that few are able to easily halt. We see more clearly in the novel that he is the man who orchestrates the construction of the Death Star’s superlaser, and we see that he accomplishes this task by masterfully manipulating those around him. Such power leaves the reader wondering whether the title of Catalyst is supposed to refer to Galen or Krennic as they both ensure the creation of such an awesome weapon.
We see Krennic’s abilities several times: at one point, he practices picking up on the slightest details of Emperor Palpatine’s advisor—such as the quiver of the lethorns on his face, or the position of his fingers—carefully steering conversations to manipulate the advisor’s revealed feelings and use his resources. Even when dealing with the war criminal Poggle the Lesser, Krennic familiarizes himself with the captive’s language to the point that he can “proffer a formal greeting that took Poggle by surprise,” and eventually convinces the leader to provide some assets. And, with Galen Erso, Krennic repeatedly manipulates the stubborn pacifist, varying his tactics from logical debates to showcases of Galen’s planet being destroyed, until he’s finally able to deceive the engineer into starting the energy research necessary for the weapon.
As we see these endless efforts, we also see who Krennic is, and that he considers himself adept at leading people in teams, to the point that “his leadership became as important to a project as their contributions.” He even covertly tells Galen what pushes him to perfect his final project, explaining that “I stumbled onto something I’m good at, so I’m fulfilled.” And as we see how much Krennic has dedicated to the construction of that destructive laser, the novel offers an even deeper reading into what Krennic’s death truly means. Not only is his brainchild turning against him at the end of Rogue One—his life’s work is being twisted around to finally halt the project-building he was so “good at,” to destroy everything that once fulfilled him, much like he did to Galen Erso.