/me sighs… wonders how to do this without sounding grumpy…
I’ve always been a Star Wars fan: I remember my parents taking us to the drive-in to see the original on a double feature with Damnation Alley and have seen all of the films multiple times; I remember that the first Star Wars figure I got was R2-D2, and that I collected every Kenner figure and all the mail-in redemptions all the way through the end of Return of the Jedi; I own several of the novels, including Alan Dean Foster’s Splinter of the Mind’s Eye, and the Brian Daley penned Han Solo Adventures. Suffice it to say that Star Wars, and its effect on culture, has been a visible part of my life.
All that said, Catalyst is really no more than a very average novel, set in a universe that deserves better. It’s literary white bread: there’s plenty of it, but there’s no there there. Perhaps I should have expected that; after all, it’s of a type with things like Star Trek and Dungeons and Dragons novels, and most of those are pretty ordinary as well. They have a place, but in literary terms, they’re empty calories.
While the story fills in the events prior to Rogue One, introducing us to the Erso family and Orson Krennick as driving forces in the creation of the Death Star, and detailing the political and personal conflict between Krennick and Moff Tarkin, it just doesn’t do it in a compelling way. The story is predictable, the tension never really gets there, and I wasn’t convinced enough to care about any of the characters except perhaps the long-suffering Lyra Erso, who is effectively a woman abandoned at the hands of a weak-willed husband too obsessed by his work.
I’ve not read any of James Luceno’s other novels set in the Star Wars universe, but he obviously has a history with the material. I’m not entirely sure why I found this book uncompelling. I’m sure other folks will disagree with me and truly enjoy it. I guess I expected more.
I was determined to finish Catalyst, as I really did want to know what happened in this (kind of) prequel that’s now an official part of the Star Wars canon, but I wouldn’t really have missed anything if I’d just stopped and moved on to something else.
If you’re a Star Wars fan, you’ll certainly get something from Catalyst, but if your tastes in SF and fantasy extend to meatier fare, you’re probably better off with any number of other authors.