It’s a unique time in the life of Catalyst: A Rogue One Novel. The book is, as the name indicates, a direct tie-in to Rogue One, a movie which is not even out in theaters for another few weeks. We still do not know the extent of how the two works will tie in together, what from one will show up in the other or how much one work may lean on the other for support in character development or story. Thus, this will be an examination of the book on its own merits rather than as a tie-in.
Let’s start with overall impressions before we get into what might be considered spoiler territory. Catalyst is written by James Luceno in the grand tradition of Luceno Star Wars novels, in that it ties to the larger events of a film or other project while still telling its own story. Catalyst is very much a prequel, but it tells its own tale well enough to not need the help of the film to support it. It does, however, give context to larger events by taking us behind the scenes, as it were. In this case, we go behind the scenes of the creation of the Empire’s first superweapon.
Through the novel we follow three characters, Galen Erso and his wife Lyra, along with their “friend” and greatest supporter Orson Krennic. The relationship between the three is complicated and ever-evolving as the galaxy spins, events unfold and everything changes around them. We follow our dysfunctional trio from the midst of the Clone Wars through the end of the war to the midst of the Galactic Empire, but the true strength of the book isn’t in the myriad of references or hints at things yet to come; its strength is the leads and the choices they make, the characters themselves bearing the weight of the story.
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It’s been a long time since we had one of these, so let’s recap exactly what we aim to accomplish. Character Autopsy as a term means a deeper look into how a character is portrayed, digging into their subtext and motivations and trying to figure out what makes them tick. Thus far, the articles in this series have focused on characters from The Clone Wars and were focused on their portrayal within the show’s context to form a basis for how they could be portrayed in future media.
So let’s talk about Saw Gerrera. Saw appeared in four episodes of TCW, through one extended season five arc that took place on the classic Expanded Universe world of Onderon. It was just announced that he would be making the jump from the small screen to the big one as portrayed in Rogue One by the esteemed Forest Whitaker. But who is he? What makes him tick? And why would he stumble out of the shadows asking prospective rebel agents about what they will become if they continue to fight the Empire?
We first see Saw as the self-appointed leader of the resistance against the Separatists on his world, along with his sister Steela and Lux Bonteri, the recurring-not-love-interest to Ahsoka Tano. Saw is a reckless and straightforward sort of person, focused on fighting the enemy and relying on Bonteri and his sister to be the diplomat and voice of reason respectively. He has the infectious enthusiasm to lead, but lacks the tact to soften the blows he strikes for the cause. » Read more..
You know how many people with the benefit of hindsight like to rag on Kevin J. Anderson’s work? A lot, including myself. But that’s hindsight; in his time he was an extremely influential (and prolific) author throughout most of the Bantam Expanded Universe, and regardless of the critics a lot of his works are still beloved by fans. Because of his proliferation, his work was often among the first stories that thousands of burgeoning young fans read. That includes me. My first “adult” EU book was the anthology Tales of the Bounty Hunters, where, I’ll be honest, I loved KJA’s IG-88-centric story “Therefore I Am” second most out of all of them. (What was the first? “The Last Man Standing”, of course.)
Once I had moved from the short story collections and into full-fledged novels, I was given a number of Bantam-era novels from a used bookstore for a birthday. It was a mixture of them, no complete sets, meaning I owned a third of the Crispin Han Solo trilogy, a third of the Bounty Hunter trilogy, and so on. One of the books was the KJA scribed Darksaber, a lesser book of his, not as high-profile as the Jedi Academy Trilogy or as landmark as Tales of the Jedi. The book blew my mind in a lot of ways, I recall reading it through several times, and going back over my favorite chapters more often than that.
Here’s the thing. I enjoyed so much of Darksaber, and it made such an impression on me that scenes are still stuck in my mind today. That’s more than I can say for most of the other books I had in that era (Slave Ship anyone?). When I think of the Bantam era, I think of the X-Wing series first, and then Darksaber, even before Heir to the Empire. It so perfectly exemplifies the era of Star Wars publishing for me. The story, the characters, the plot(s), the twists, everything is just so pulp, so Flash Gordon or Buck Rogers. » Read more..
The Force has become a rather divisive topic for Star Wars fans. Because of its nebulous nature that’s cribbed and sampled from a number of different mystic and religious beliefs, interpretations of its limits and abilities range across a wide spectrum. It’s especially difficult because of the different ways the Force was handled between the trilogies, with The Phantom Menace introducing midi-chlorians and their symbiotic relationship with cells into the mix while The Empire Strikes Back speaks solely of an omnipresent energy field.
We’re not going to go into all of that, of course. We could write several weeks’ worth of articles about the Force and its ins-and-outs across all of the films, The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels. What we are going to do is zero in on the most recent film in the saga and the source for the fantastic quote that gave this article its title. The Force Awakens is very much a throwback film, taking the Star Wars franchise back to its roots, and its portrayal of the Force is no different.
The Force Awakens gives us a back-to-basics look at the Force, with the few practitioners of it being shrouded in mystery and myth, and the extent and even nature of their abilities left open to interpretation. One of the first characters we see on screen, Lor San Tekka, is a member of what supplementary materials call the Church of the Force, an organization that, aside from the name, we know almost nothing about except that they are devoted to keeping the ideals of the Jedi alive even when the Order has been scattered and largely destroyed. It’s an interesting thought and idea, that even those not sensitive to the Force still seek to serve it. » Read more..
The Effects Wizards
The wonders of modern visual effects have brought some terrifically imaginative and amazingly realistic things to the screen in the past couple of decades. Ever since Jurassic Park and Terminator 2 let the computer genie out of the bottle, the limits to what can be portrayed on screen have shortened more and more each year. Since the turn of the millennium, technology has advanced to such a point where just about any world, creature or event can be created or re-created in lifelike detail, no matter how outrageous it is. It’s certainly hard to see how a good number of the modern blockbuster films most of us see each summer might have been made just twenty years earlier. They might have been made, certainly, but they would have looked a lot different.
As amazing as this has been for those who love movies, it has also had an unfortunate retroactive effect on films done before this time. » Read more..