When I saw "Catalyst (Star Wars): A Rogue One Novel" on the shelves at a bookstore, I initially assumed that it was a tie-in edition for Rogue One, the movie. I looked it up online, and it turned out to be a prequel. I requested this book from the library but it was a hot release, so instead of waiting I picked up the audiobook version on Audible. My review below is of the audiobook version.
The audiobook is 11 hours long and is narrated by Jonathan Davis, a rather well known and popular narrator on Audible. It was the first time I listened to his narration, though, and I was instantly smitten. Davis does various voices and accents quite wonderfully, and the audiobook itself is full of accompanying sounds and noises. Which almost seemed as if I was listening to a radio drama which reminded me of my childhood (gosh, I used to love those!).
It took me awhile to get through the book though. Not because I did not like it, but because it was rather slow paced and required a rather thorough knowledge of Star Wars universe. Unfortunately, even though I watched the movies more than once (especially Episodes IV - VI - my favs!), I had trouble remembering all of planets and moons and keeping track of who was where.
The book is set right between Episode III and Rogue One. It is told in third person and focuses on the Orso family, mostly on Galen and Lira, Jyn’s parents. Galen is shown as a slightly distracted but brilliant scientist who is conned by the Empire into developing an extremely valuable and unlimited source of energy, which is eventually used to power the Death Star. Galen is led to believe that his research will save millions of inhabitants of the empire and only by the end of the book discovers the truth. His wife Lira is a smart and brave woman, who not only supports Galen in his research but also tries to shield him from the influence of the Empire. I found both Galen and Lira absolutely lovely and very believable. It was the first time that I got to see the things from the Empire employees’ perspective, which was rather refreshing.
I think that if I were a more of a SW fan, I would have enjoyed the book more. I went to see Rogue One before I was fully done with the audiobook (I had about 2 hours left and it was just the remaining few chapters after the big revelation - funnily enough, the movie took off almost from the same moment where I had stopped listening). I enjoyed the movie a lot and I think that it was mostly thanks to this prequel. Some people I spoke to complained about Rogue One lacking character development and depth - I agree and believe that the movie should have been merged with this prequel novel and split into two parts, which would have made the plot more balanced between political intrigue and battle scenes.
I enjoyed this book, even though sometimes I was lost in all of those names of planets and worlds; even though sometimes the story was too slow paced; even though I knew exactly how it was going to end. The performance by Davis made it all worthwhile.
Plot: 3 stars
Performance: 5 stars
Overall: 3.5 stars