We’re less than a month away from the release of a new Star Wars movie. How exciting is that?
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story hits theaters on Dec. 16. Much of what awaits us in the film has been kept under wraps by Lucasfilm, but we know the gist; Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) and a ramshackle team of freedom fighters risk everything to steal the secrets of the Empire’s greatest weapon.
Diehard fans of the saga who want as much information about the film’s story as possible will want to read the new book from James Luceno, Catalyst: A Rogue One Novel. Serving as a prequel to the upcoming film, Catalyst revolves around Jyn Erso’s father, the brilliant scientist Galen Erso (played by Mads Mikkelsen in the film) and the part he unknowingly plays in the creation of the Death Star.
You won’t need to read the book to understand Rogue One, but it provides invaluable context to the state of the galaxy as well as characters who will play key roles in the film, like Galen, Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn), and Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker).
Here are 15 Secrets Revealed In Catalyst: A Rogue One Novel.
15 Old Friends
The heroes and villains of the Star Wars saga are often connected to one another, whether by the bonds of family and friendship or shared allegiances. Rogue One will continue that tradition, as Catalyst reveals the extensive history between the Erso family and Orson Krennic.
When the novel begins, Krennic is a rising star in the Republic (and later, the Empire) who is intent on hitching his proverbial wagon to the massive Death Star project. When the scientists and engineers working on the battle station have trouble developing the weapon that is the project’s most crucial element, Krennic immediately recognizes his opportunity to raise his stock in the future Emperor’s eyes. He does so by calling in an old friend; Galen Erso.
As students, Krennic and Erso were peers during their time with the Republic’s Futures Program for gifted young minds. Their careers ultimately sent them on different paths, but Krennic remembers Galen’s unique genius and his focus on the energy potential of crystals, specifically the kyber crystals used in Jedi lightsabers. Krennic is certain that Galen’s expertise is the key to developing the Death Star’s weapon.
14 Life Debt
Galen Erso is a pacifist who takes a position with a private company during the Clone Wars rather than leverage his genius to help the Republic war effort. His interest in crystals is based solely on providing renewable energy to needy worlds, and he has no desire to assist in creating weapons. That moral stance presents Krennic with a quandary, and his first step in dealing with it is placing Galen and his family in his debt.
Working on the remote world of Vallt throughout the war, Galen and his pregnant wife Lyra are arrested when the planet’s governing body shifts its allegiance from the Republic to the Separatists. Though Lyra is made comfortable for her impending birth, Galen is kept in a basic prison cell for his refusal to work for the Separatists.
His captivity is a relatively friendly one, and he is allowed to be with Lyra when she gives birth to their daughter Jyn. Still, they are thankful when Krennic arranges a Republic-sponsored hostage swap in order to free them from Separatist clutches. It’s the first in a series of moves Krennic makes to place the Ersos in his debt.
13 Born In Captivity
As noted, Galen’s wife Lyra was pregnant when the pair were arrested on Vallt. Their stay as captives is a lengthy one and she ultimately gives birth to Jyn under those circumstances.
Luckily, Lyra is treated more like a guest than a captive, and that courtesy is extended to the infant Jyn, who spends her early months on Vallt being doted upon by both her mother and local nursemaids. Though officially captives of the Separatists, Lyra and Galen (and then Jyn) deal only with local Vallti who are themselves adjusting to the sudden regime change, so they are treated with friendliness and care.
Even if her status as a captive is nominal and the experience comfortable (relatively speaking), Jyn’s birth in captivity is an interesting part of her history. Having left the planet as an infant, it’s unlikely she retains any real memories of her time there, but the nomadic existence her family leads will likely inform who she becomes as an adult by the time of Rogue One.
12 Clone Wars Construction
How long does it take to build a battle station the size of a small moon? A really long time, it turns out!
Fans will no doubt remember the appearance of the Death Star plans at the end of Attack of the Clones, in the possession of Separatist leader and Sith Lord Count Dooku. After the Battle of Geonosis and the beginning of the Clone Wars, those plans somehow find their way to Chancellor Palpatine (imagine that!) who tasks his military with creating their own version of the battle station, ostensibly before the Separatists can do the same.
That’s right; construction on the Death Star begins early in the Clone Wars, in orbit over Geonosis, and is a heavily guarded secret for decades. If the trailers are any indication, it looks like it is only just reaching completion by the time of Rogue One, some 20-odd years later.
All of which makes you wonder... when did they get to work on the second one?
11 Force in the Family
Set as it is during the ‘dark times’ that Obi-Wan Kenobi so ominously referred to in the original Star Wars, Rogue One is not a story where the Jedi arrive at the end to save the day. Though the characters may speak of the Force (specifically Donnie Yen’s Chirrut Imwe) none can use it like a Jedi can. Rogue One is about a group of ordinary people facing impossible odds, with no magic powers to save them.
With that in mind, it’s interesting that Jyn’s own mother is a firm believer in the Force. Though not sensitive to it (at least not enough to have been identified by the Jedi) she believes in it wholeheartedly, and speaks of feeling it during her visits to some of the galaxy’s most beautiful worlds. While living on Coruscant, she spends time on the Jedi Temple grounds, and she is devastated by the Order’s destruction at the end of the Clone Wars.
Naturally, her appreciation for the Jedi isn’t viewed very positively in the Empire’s new order; more on that later.
10 Slave Labour
When you’re building the biggest battle station the galaxy has ever seen, you need a big workforce. As it happens, the events of the Clone Wars provide the Republic and Empire with just that.
As part of the Separatist leadership, Geonosian leader Poggle the Lesser is captured by the Republic, and to secure his freedom he pledges his drone subjects to the Death Star’s construction. When Poggle inevitably betrays the Republic, it gives the future Empire all the justification it needs to essentially enslave the entire Geonosian race, and force them into years of brutal service. The Empire also cannibalizes the planet’s droid foundries and asteroid belt, both of which featured prominently in Attack of the Clones.
Your average prequel-hating Star Wars fan may cringe at the thought of the original film’s iconic battle station being constructed by thousands of Episode 2’s CGI-based critters, of course. Arguably, the role of the Geonosians and their planet in the Death Star’s construction is a clever way to tie the two trilogies together.
With so many vying for the Emperor’s favor, it’s no surprise that many of his servants would dislike each other. Interestingly, Catalyst reveals that one such rivalry developed between Orson Krennic and Wilhuff Tarkin himself.
Though outwardly friendly to each other, the pair foster a mutual disdain. Tarkin views Krennic as an overconfident upstart who should not be entrusted with the Empire’s most critical initiative, and Krennic sees in Tarkin his chief rival for leadership of the project (and, by extension, the Emperor’s favor).
The manipulative Krennic even manages to rope Tarkin into a prolonged military campaign with an independent star system, knowing his rival’s pride will prevent him from abandoning the mission before it’s completed. While Tarkin is otherwise engaged, Krennic shores up his control of the battle station.
Tarkin does ultimately achieve his goal of heading up the Death Star project, but it’s clear that Krennic still plays a key role in it by the time of the new film. Rumors still persist that Tarkin will make some sort of appearance in Rogue One, so their rivalry may not be confined to the book.
8 Clone War Casualties
The Clone Wars ravaged the galaxy, and the Erso family were just one of the many caught in the crossfire.
Their captivity on Vallt was not the last time the war caused them trouble. After settling in back on Coruscant, Galen finds himself stymied in his pursuit of a meaningful career, until his old friend Krennic identifies an opportunity for him on the planet Lokori. It’s a largely inconsequential position that will only increase Galen’s restlessness and frustration, which the manipulative Krennic is counting on as he maneuvers the scientist closer to the Death Star project.
But Lokori is not safe from the war, and the Separatists invade, razing both the facility where Galen works and the surrounding city. Attempting a desperate escape, Galen, Lyra and a very small Jyn find themselves cornered by battle droids and facing certain death until all the droids suddenly power down. Unbeknownst to the Ersos, the war had just come to its abrupt end, saving their lives while dooming the Jedi Order and giving rise to the Empire.
7 Voice of Dissent
Lyra Erso had an appreciation and respect for the Jedi that was unshaken by the Empire’s official story of the Order’s ‘betrayal’ and subsequent destruction. Unsurprisingly, her faith in the Jedi marks her as a potential troublemaker within the Empire, and Krennic in particular becomes concerned about her impact on Galen and his research.
In addition to her continuing belief in the Force and the legacy of the Jedi, she fosters a growing distaste for the Empire itself. That feeling is only strengthened when she discovers how the Empire is violating old Republic treaties in order to mine certain protected ‘Legacy’ worlds of their valuable resources. As her mistrust of the Empire grows, so does her status as a threat in the eyes of Krennic.
Lyra's growing suspicions about the Empire's real plans for Galen’s research are a source of friction between the couple, though he also comes to nurse similar suspicions, and ultimately they work together to discern the truth.
6 False Pretenses
How do you get a pacifist to develop the most destructive weapon the galaxy has ever seen? That’s the riddle Krennic devotes himself to solving, and the answer he ultimately comes up with is, you don’t.
Instead, with the Ersos safely back on Coruscant after the end of the Clone Wars, Krennic introduces Galen to Project Celestial Power, which he portrays as the Emperor’s dream to provide crystal-based energy to worlds that need it. It’s Galen’s dream job, but unbeknownst to him, it’s all a sham. While he gets to work coaxing unprecedented power from the kyber crystals, Krennic has other teams throughout the galaxy working around the clock to weaponize his research. Meanwhile, he creates mock-ups of energy installations that the Empire is supposedly developing throughout the galaxy to satisfy Galen’s curiosity about how his research is being used.
Though Galen is a brilliant man, he devotes himself fully to his research, so he doesn’t discover Krennic’s ruse until after he has provided him with the means to power the Death Star weapon.
5 Environmental Impact
The Death Star project consumes an incredible amount of resources, and the Empire is ruthless in its pursuit of them. No planet is safe from the project, even the aforementioned Legacy worlds that were formerly protected from such exploitation.
Where the Empire cannot simply claim resources for themselves, they trump up charges of espionage and dissension as justification for annexing resource-rich planets and taking what they need. This is the fate of Samovar and Wadi Raffa, but those aren’t the only planets that are devastated by the Death Star project.
The Empire also claims thousands of lives on the world of Malpaz, when scientists working to weaponize Galen’s kyber research accidentally cause a devastating explosion. When Galen learns of the tragedy, Krennic frames it as the action of anarchists, an explanation Erso accepts, albeit uneasily. When Galen ultimately learns the truth behind the devastation on Malpaz, and that the Empire is using him to create a weapon, it’s the final straw, and the Ersos plot their escape.
4 High Risk Employment
The accident on Malpaz is far from the only blood spilled in the creation of the Death Star.
Thousands of the Empire’s most brilliant scientists and engineers are spread throughout the galaxy working on all facets of the project. But the Death Star is an extremely top-secret initiative, and only a select few like Krennic and Tarkin are aware of its actual scope. Many scientists like Erso are confined within their individual groups, all believing they are working on smaller, unrelated projects.
Inevitably, however, the Empire learns that you can’t keep the galaxy’s brightest minds in the dark forever. When one team in particular (including Galen’s former mentor Reeva Demesne) becomes suspicious of the work they are being asked to do, Krennic tells them their task is complete and they’re being released from service, only to promptly have them killed and their facility on the planet Hypori destroyed.
3 Friend of the Family
Star Wars fans got a big surprise when the news broke that Forest Whitaker’s character in Rogue One is actually Saw Gerrera, a character previously introduced on The Clone Wars animated series. How would this character, previously glimpsed as a rebel fighting for the freedom of his home world of Onderon, factor in to the new film?
We still don’t know how much of a role Saw plays in Rogue One, but thanks to Catalyst we know that he has a history with the Erso family, and Jyn herself.
When the Erso’s discover the true purpose behind Galen’s research, they are determined to escape from the Empire’s grasp, but they need help. While their smuggler friend Has Obitt diverts Krennic’s attention, Saw Gerrera arrives on Coruscant to spirit them away. In doing so he forms a bond with young Jyn that is sure to be explored in the film. She even asks if he can come and visit them at their new home on the planet Lah’Mu...
2 On the Hunt
Throughout his dealings with the Ersos, Krennic always maintains a mask of friendliness. Even when he all but threatens Lyra for her snooping into the truth behind Galen’s research, he frames it as a concern for what might happen if she compels her husband to break his many security oaths.
Krennic keeps a watchful eye on the Erso family throughout the novel. Naturally, the facility in which Galen works and lives on Coruscant is thoroughly monitored, and few events escape the Empire’s notice. As a result, Krennic is well aware of the growing concerns fostered by both Lyra and Galen, though he is still taken by surprise when they enact their escape plan.
The loss of the Ersos is a costly one for Krennic, who is reprimanded and demoted, although he retains his control over the Death Star project. Further, he feels betrayed by Galen, having gifted him fame, fortune and importance by putting him to work on such a crucial project. As the book ends, he is determined to find Galen and force him back into service; and as the Rogue One trailers have revealed, he is ultimately successful in doing so.
1 Settling Down
Free of Krennic and the Empire’s grasp, the Ersos set out to find a new home for themselves in the galaxy. Luckily, they have an experienced galactic traveler like Saw Gerrera at their side who knows all the best places to hide from the Empire, and he recommends that they settle on the remote planet of Lah’mu.
It’s a peaceful planet that has somehow escaped the Empire’s gaze, and seemingly the perfect hiding place for Galen and his family. For a time, it would seem, it’s exactly that. But with Rogue One on the horizon, we know the Erso’s peaceful home life isn’t fated to last. Krennic eventually catches up to them, Galen is ripped from his family, Lyra meets an uncertain fate, and Jyn is, presumably, left to wander the galaxy alone.
Catalyst ends a number of years before the new film is set to begin, so there are many questions left to mull over; where does Jyn go after her father is abducted? Does she ever see him again? What crime (if any) lands her in the Imperial prison from which the Rebellion springs her? We’ll have the answers soon!
That's what we learned in Catalyst. Are you even more excited to see the movie? Let us know in the comments.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story arrives in theaters on Dec. 16.