Tom Raines is annoying, but he is that kind of annoying that grows on a person. CATALYST shows one of the most interesting character development of Tom Raines, and it definitely doesn't hide how much Tom is affected by torture. (And I mean, extreme torture. Psychological torture that one doesn't walk unscathed away from.) He learns so much from his experience, and he reaches out to people. It's a big change from who he was in the beginning of INSIGNIA, and I'm so glad he isn't that teenage boy from VORTEX.
Blackburn has a few great moment, but there is a quote that comes to mind. I don't remember the exact quote, but he highlights one of Tom's most annoying yet also influential talents. He can create crazy disaster in even the most "benign" problems. Blackburn is amazing, and even though he is slightly similar to Professor Snape, he does come for our heroes in the very end. It's a very bittersweet ending for him, but I think Blackburn wouldn't have it any other way.
The plot is seriously unstoppable. It starts off with a mystery, several murders, a nasty problem, and strange occurrences. Though the action is mixed with light-hearted and tender moments between friends, I honestly can't but hope for more friendship moments. (But the lack of sweet moments most definitely serves a purpose.) Tom's character arc remains one of the strongest parts of the book, and he learns and learns and learns. He matures. Though he does has his James Bond-like moments. (63 kills in a stimulation. A freaking one-man army.)
The ending of CATALYST is great, and I can't think of any other way to end it. (After all, in this genre, there is always someone dying.) CATALYST, as the last installment in this series, is wonderful, and it proves to be a strong sequel to VORTEX.
Overall, CATALYST ends the trilogy cleanly without any large complications. The adventure of Tom and his friends is left open for more stories. This book is definitely for those who would love a Sci-Fi version of Hogwarts.
Rating: Four out of Five