Catalyst: A Rogue One Novel is a 2016 Star Wars Expanded Universe novel by James Luceno (who previously wrote Tarkin in the same continuity, and wrote the Star Wars Legends novel Darth Plagueis), serving as a prologue and background to Rogue One, taking place several years prior during the Clone Wars.
Before becoming the director of the Death Star project, Orson Krennic was a mere member of the project's team. Finding that his old friend, brilliant scientist Galen Erso, has conducted energy-focused research that could be the key to this new superweapon, it also attracts the attention of Krennic's enemies, including the Separatists.
After rescuing the Erso family from Separatist kidnappers, the Ersos are deeply in Krennic's debt. With Galen and Lyra's approval, they allow their studies to be used, under the false belief that they will be used purely for altruism, unaware of Krennic's true plans of making the Death Star a reality.
Trapped in their benefactor's tightening grasp, the Ersos must untangle Krennic's web of deception to save themselves and the Galaxy itself.
The novel contains the following tropes:
- 90% of Your Brain: Well, no, but the spirit of the trope is there. Galen is so efficient about the use of his brain that he figured out a while ago how to use his dreams to figure out things he couldn't consciously. Whatever is going on with the kybers has been altering that, making him overwork in order to complete it and working in different regions of his brain than he's used to, as his old approach probably wouldn't work as well for the explicitly magical crystals.
- Actual Pacifist: Galen has absolutely no interest in the Clone War. He will provide his services to either side, but only for reasons not related to killing people.
- Adult Fear: Lyra begins to doubt Galen's fidelity to her. The two of them begin to argue, not helped by Galen keeping secrets from her (although not without reason). Eventually, they discover that Krennic is keeping them under surveillance, and are forced to flee their home in the dead of night. Krennic is hot on their heels.
- Allegory: The description of Jyn's story of Brin sounds like the inspiration for Galen's design for the Death Star. For example, 'eight pieces of magic' may be the inspiration for the eight sublasers, and that once all 'eight pieces' are gathered, Brin can 'go home', which in terms of the Death Star, might not be necessarily a good thing. Further supported in that Jyn depicts Brin as looking similar to Galen.
- Bittersweet Ending: Believe it or not, closer to the sweet side. The Ersos are on the run, with Krennic determined to find them. But they've delayed his research, and have escaped unharmed. They already have a destination for their possible new home. However, we know they're only going to be able to hide for so long, and by the time of Rogue One, Galen will have been a captive for over a decade, and Jyn on the run for just as long.
- Beard of Sorrow: A variation. Galen grows a beard during his imprisonment, since the warden won't give him a razor.
- Call-Back: Poggle the Lesser's imprisonment is mentioned, harking back to his capture earlier in the war. In fact, it is assumed that the Death Star plans were originally obtained during the subsequent battle.
- Call-Forward: The ending of the novel gives clues as to how Tarkin comes to gain control of the Death Star project over Krennic.
- Canon Immigrant: To be expected from Luceno. The Battle of Hypori from Clone Wars mentioned, being pulled over from a Legends work.
- Determinator: Tarkin, notably enough. He refuses to back down from a war he is engaged in, no matter how many casualties he takes.
- Doomed Homeworld: Downplayed. Galen's homeworld of Grange is under siege by the CIS thanks to its resources and strategic position, though the Republic is doing its best to free the planet. It's failing.
- Dramatically Missing the Point: When Krennic mentions that Obit is Neutral No Longer, Obit responds that Krennic is "leaving out some very important details" — namely, that he is essentially Krennic's prisoner. The point is lost on Galen, as pointed out by the narrator.
- Expy: Krennic seems to be a pastiche of two prominent Star Wars villains: he has Thrawn's planning abilities and Tarkin's ruthlessness. Fittingly enough, the book is written by James Luceno, who also wrote the Tarkin novel. It should be noted, however, that we don't yet know if Krennic's characterization will be the same in the film itself. He isn't; he's a Smug Snake at most.
- False Friend: Krennic to the Ersos, though apparently it might not have always been this way, considering the summary says that he's been friends with Galen for sometime prior to the events of the book.
- Faux Affably Evil: Krennic feigns politeness. It doesn't hide his true colours in the slightest.
- Foreshadowing: Comes with the territory.
- Early on, the early plans for the Death Star are obtained by the Republic, and discussed by several people, including Mas Amedda.
- Later, Krennic and Amedda have a conversation that leads to the weaponization of kyber crystals.
- At one point, Saw Garrera joins a group of smugglers planning to help the Empire legitimize its expansion.
- In an effort to convince Galen to continue his studies into kyber crystals, ostensibly to harness their energy for beneficial ends, Krennic tells him that the Emperor wants to use his work "to make an example of one world in the hopes that that world will serve as a kind of beacon and usher in a new age". We all know what happens to the lucky world that gets to be that example.
- Hey, You!: Krennic almost never refers to Jyn by her name, instead calling her "the child." On the one occasion he does use Jyn's name, it's as part of a thinly veiled threat to Lyra.
- Kick the Dog: Much to Lyra Erso's horror, Director Krennic decides to destroy a Separatist-aligned city just because they were on the wrong side.
- Light Is Not Good/Man in White: Krennic wears white, and isn't even a member of the Empire yet (since it hasn't formed, obviously).
- Manipulative Bastard: Krennic is a social climber with the intent of getting on Palpatine's good side. He proves extremely adept at achieving this goal. It overlaps with Awesomeness by Analysis, as the novel reveals.
- Meaningful Name: The name of the planet the Ersos are on early in the novel is Valt — a fitting name for the planet which serves as Galen's prison.
- My Hovercraft Is Full of Eels: Krennic tries to speak Geonosian to Archduke Poggle, but says something that translates to "I greet the knees of your hive and extend my best choices for your willingness."
- Mythology Gag: At one point, we see Hypori, and there's a crashed Acclamator-class ship there left from the Clone Wars, which mentions of a Jedi ambush taken place there. This is what happened in Tartakovsky's Clone Wars, which is now Legends.
- Operation: [Blank]: Galen is assigned to Project Celestial Power, a research initiative to harness the power of Kyber crystals to provide sustainable energy to impoverished worlds. Or so he's told. The project's true purpose is to develop an energy source for the Death Star's superlaser. Other project names are mentioned, all of them also cover names for various Death Star subsystems.
- Out-Gambitted: Happen to Krennic twice, once by Poggle The Lesser, and the other time was with how the Ersos made their escape.
- Purple Prose: During his imprisonment early in the novel, Galen writes Lyra a letter. His writing shows off his impressive vocabulary.
- Savvy Guy, Energetic Girl: Galen and Lyra.
- Say My Name: Krennic, after Galen escapes.Krennic: Galen!
- She Cleans Up Nicely:"When Krennic imagined [Lyra], he saw her in rugged boots and hiking shorts and carrying an unwieldy pack on her back; seeing her now in a fashionable skirt and high heels was something of a revelation."
- Socially Awkward Hero: Galen is socially awkward, yet a brilliant scientist. Lyra notes that their conversations can be awkward, but she has a great respect for his knowledge.
- Sufficiently Analyzed Magic: Galen studies kyber crystals, has figured an equation to change their internal structure, and seeks to learn more about the way they channel energy. The magical qualities still exist, as Galen wonders if the crystals are changing him to get their message across, since he feels the need to complete the research and his brain is working in new, novel ways he's not used to.
- Skyward Scream: Krennic screams Galen's name to the heavens at the end.
- Terms of Endangerment: Krennic almost never uses Jyn's name. On the one occasion he does, he's making a thinly veiled threat to Lyra.
- Villains Never Lie: Version in which everything the villain says is actually true. Krennic has a conversation with Mas Amedda, telling him about the importance of kyber crystals and Galen's imprisonment.
- Wham Line:Mas Amedda: My understanding is that kyber crystals are exceedingly uncommon.Krennic: They are. Especially large ones.
Poggle the Lesser: Why would the Republic care [about my boredomnote ]?Krennic: Because...we want you to build the battle station for us.
- Workaholic: Galen's desperation to find the answer to the kyber crystals makes him work day and night, even recording his dreams in the hope of getting closer, and leads him to alienate Lyra and Jyn.
- You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Part of what raises the Ersos' suspicions are the disappearances of two of Galen's former colleagues - heavily implied to the reader to have been eliminated on Krennic's orders. In one case, the scientist in question vanishes after an experiment based on Galen's research goes catastrophically wrong, in the second, the scientist disappears after a successful test firing of a prototype superlaser. Both may also double as examples of He Knows Too Much, as both characters are depicted asking Krennic pointed questions shortly before they vanish from the narrative - the first about Galen Erso's involvement with the project, the second about the ultimate application of their research.