Saturday, May 27, 2017

James Review -- Star Wars: Rogue One: Catalyst

This week I decided to review Star Wars: Rogue One: Catalyst by James Luceno. 

The story begins early in the Clone Wars. Galen Erso is a pacifist scientist working on a project aimed at using synthetic crystals based on the Kyber crystals mostly controlled by the Jedi Order to generate energy for worlds in need. But a Separatist-backed military coup claims Vallt, the planet Erso is based on, and the scientist is imprisoned, with his pregnant wife Lyra placed in house arrest, to encourage him to aid the Separatist cause. Meanwhile, Orson Krennic, who studied alongside Erso in the Galactic Republic's Futures program for gifted students, has become part of the Special Weapons Group of the Republic Military's Strategic Advisory Cell. His unit is racing to complete the most powerful mobile battle station in galactic history before the Separatists manage to create one of their own. Krennic believes that Erso's research and abilities would be vital to creating an appropriate primary weapon for the station. Acting on this belief, he convinces smuggler Has Obitt to aid him in a plan to kidnap some Separatist scientists and exchange them for the Erso family, now including newborn Jyn.

The exchange is carried out, but Erso refuses to work on a military project despite Krennic's best efforts to convince him that the work is necessary even as Erso tries to convince him to leave the military.. Eventually, Erso accepts a job for a communications firm on distant Lokori. But the planet soon becomes besieged by the Separatists as both sides of the war deploy fleets to the system. After months of battle the shield generator protecting the corporate compound where the Ersos live is destroyed and the family finds itself fleeing an invading Separatist army.

After the end of the Clone Wars and the rise of the Galactic Empire Krennic approaches Galen Erso again. This time he offers the scientist a position leading a team working on a project code named Celestial Power supposedly an initiative backed by Emperor Palpatine to find a way to provide power to energy-starved worlds. But this is actually part of the ongoing effort to make the Death Star battle station a reality.

Meanwhile Has Obitt has unknowingly been drawn into a plot by Krennic to provide sufficient justification for the Empire to seize former Legacy worlds, planets protected from large scale exploitation by Republic law, to strip mine without provoking large-scale dissent. But while serving as escort to Lyra Erso on an expedition arranged by Krennic to separate her from her husband for a time, Obitt takes Lyra and one of her most trusted friends to see the worlds seized because of his actions. And when the time comes to set up Salient, the next world on his target list, he instead launches an effort to aid the system's defenders aided by fellow smuggler Saw Gerrera.  This leads to what had been planned as a swift invasion led by Moff Tarkin turning into a lengthy campaign.

And when Galen realizes what he has been tricked into working on and that a number of colleagues working on other parts of Celestial Power that were supposedly killed by anti-Imperial extremists or in accidents were actually killed by the Empire his family is left with no choice but to launch a desperate attempt to escape the heart of the Empire...

Also included is the short story "Voice of the Empire" by Mur Lafferty. It focuses on reporter Calliope Drouth as she debates whether to remain a loyal Imperial reporter or to become a spy for the growing rebellion.

I give the main book 7 out of 10. The early portions could have used some follow up later in the book, like seeing what became of Vallt after the Clone Wars, and I feel that the Lokori portion was much longer then it needed to be, but the middle and late chapters did a really good job exploring and establishing this as a period when the Empire had to tread lightly and how it had managed to claim what it desired without sparking widespread outrage. Also, I wish the campaign at Salient had been covered in more detail. And it suffers badly from being a prequel. Has Obitt is the only major character whose fate isn't covered in Rogue One which reduces the tension level because any readers familiar with Rogue One know the other key characters have to survive so I was never wondering if they would get out of any dangerous situations they found themselves in. The story would have benefited greatly from more original characters tied to the key plot.

"Voice of the Empire" I give 5 out of 10. I feel that the story wasn't written to stand alone. Instead it feels like the author took part of the early chapters of a planned novel and submitted them as a short story with little or no rewriting. Also, I don't see why this was a story that needed to be added to the lore of Star Wars; it just feels like something written for the sake of writing something rather than a tale that served a purpose in the overall story. And I feel no connection to the characters. With well-written characters, whether heroic, villainous or in between, I feel something should they die or be injured, but I believe that this story could have ended with all of the cast members who weren't protected by appearing in stories set later being wiped out and I would have felt nothing.

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