The journey to Rogue One: A Star Wars Story has truly begun and with Catalyst the publishing team have brought out a great companion piece to the film. Is this novel essential reading to understanding the film? Probably not. Is it a well constructed story that’ll add to your enjoyment of the picture? Yes.
The book predominantly tells the story of Galen and Lyra Erso and their relationship with the Empires’ Orson Krennic who is very interested in Galen’s research into kyber crystals (you could almost say the power is “immeasurable”). As the front cover has the massive Death Star on it, you can see where the story may be going.
However, when I heard James Luceno was writing this book at Celebration London I wasn’t exactly thrilled. He certainly has the largest vocabulary of all Star Wars authors but his tone of writing can be quite dry and sadly lack some emotive direction. This was one of the reasons I disliked Tarkin as much as I did and sadly Catalyst can fall at this hurdle too. I read a lot of crystal science that I just didn’t understand and some scenes that begged for it completely lacked any emotional punch.
Examples of these weightless scenes involve Galen and Lyra who are trying to save their struggling marriage. Galen is so caught up within his research he is guilty of losing complete sight of his family, as you can imagine, this causes some strains and when Lyra rightly confronts Galen the writing can lack the emotion it rightly deserves. These moment seem almost trivial at times and that is a shame as you really want to get to know these characters and see the impact it will have on the character of Jyn, who of course is our leading lady within the film.
Now don't get me wrong, there were some glowing highlights in this book and that is Luceno’s forte - the villains. The writing of Krennic and Tarkin was nothing short of superb. Luceno has the knack of being able to describe the motives of the evil characters perfectly and the chapters involving these two were by far the best in the book. When thinking of how to describe Krennic I could only think of one phrase and that was a manipulative sonofabitch.
Orson Krennic is able to control everyone around him, whether that be the Ersos, the smuggler Has, Tarkin and even The Emperor’s right hand man Mas Amedda. Looking ahead to Rogue One, Orson has to be the character I’m most excited about, if Ben Mendelsohn plays him as well he’s written we may have a villain for the ages.
Then you have Wilhuff Tarkin who Krennic interacts with a lot. Luceno obviously has a bit of history with Tarkin (having written a book about him) so he is able to play these two off each other with aplomb. Surely, SURELY with all the bad blood that is made between these two Tarkin has to appear in Rogue One to bring their rivalry to a fitting end? With all of his ambition, Krennic would have loved to have fired the Death Star and yet he didn't...there is a lot of story still to he told. Bring. It. On.
This novel is able to carry on what is becoming a rich tradition within the new canon, the strength of the Imperial/Dark Side characters. We’ve got Kallus in Rebels, the ever present Sloane within the books and of course the fabulous Vader comic that recently ended. The Story Group have let the authors have fun with the villains in the books whilst the films have delivered for the “good guys”.
What of Jyn you may ask? Well…she grows up throughout the book as a very effective timeline, you read of her birth and her rise through the early stages of her life. She is very much a passenger as the story passes her by, however her time will come in the middle of December. The influence of her mother and her love of the Force could well be telling. Her mum is sensitive to the force but is unable to manipulate it like that of a Jedi. It'll be interesting to see what such an outlook has had on Jyn, as from the trailers, we know she is fond of The Force.
Before I conclude, Saw Guerra has to have a mention, he is fabulous. The Story Group have managed to bring a much loved Clone Wars character into another medium and he is an incredibly strong character with inspiring leadership skills. He is passionate about "rebelling against injustice" and his influence on those around him was nothing short of incredible. Saw and his relationship with Jyn promises to be a spectacular watch as it was a engrossing read.
Overall, this book delivers. It is a fascinating insight into the cast we shall meet very soon, but mostly, it is a story of deception and how through power an Empire can cause those to act beyond their means in order to do something they believe is “good”. Sure, this book isn’t perfect, but if you want a read that’ll broaden your enjoyment of the film on the 15 or 16th of December then you simply have to read this book.
Until next time and enjoy the film!