Stealing the plans for the Death Star may be the Rebels' main mission in the upcoming movie Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, but the new Star Wars novel Rogue One: Catalyst puts a human face on the Empire’s super-weapon of mass destruction.

Out Nov. 15, author James Luceno’s Catalyst (Del Rey) acts as a leadup to the Rogue One film (in theaters Dec. 16) by focusing on two characters who play important roles in the construction of the Death Star, talented scientist Galen Erso (played in Rogue One by Mads Mikkelsen) and ambitious Imperial officer Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn). Also receiving an introduction: Felicity Jones’ new Star Wars heroine Jyn Erso.

Pablo Hidalgo, a creative executive in Lucasfilm’s Star Wars Story Group, promises that the book will answer some of the questions about the history of the moon-sized Death Star, which annihilated the planet Alderaan — and later was blown up by Luke Skywalker — in 1977’s original Star Wars film.

“Everyone knows about the Death Star as this way-larger-than-life concept,” Hidalgo says. “It’s hard to wrap your head around this weapon that’s so powerful. But this is the idea of understanding who were some of its architects and what were they thinking?

“It’s no accident that we’ve taken a look at the Manhattan project and what was happening at Los Alamos laboratories during the tail end of World War II. Being able to look at that kind of thing through history and then apply the Star Wars filter to it is really fascinating.”

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