Splinter of the Mind's Eye

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Title: Splinter of the Mind's Eye
Creator: Alan Dean Foster
Date(s): February 1978
Medium: print
Fandom: Star Wars
Language: English
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Splinter of the Mind's Eye is the first Star Wars Tie-in novel. It is by Alan Dean Foster.

Many fans regard it with puzzlement and frustration due to its characterization and deviance from even the most rudimentary Star Wars canon. Most fans disregard it. Elements such as the invention of the word "Replonza" are mocked.

The book was originally written to be filmed as a low-budget sequel to Star Wars if the original film was not a success. [1]

Many fans consider the book poorly written and full of plot holes and terrible characterizations. Official Star Wars canon spokespersons have since downgraded the book to "secondary canon" due to its content and state of being jossed by numerous things, including a romantic relationship between Luke and Leia.

See more canon at Wookieepedia.

Publisher's Summary

Stranded on a jungle planet, Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia found themselves desperately racing Imperial Stormtroopers to claim a gem that had mysterious powers over the Force.

Luke Skywalker expected trouble when he volunteered to follow Princess Leia on her mission to Circarpous to enlist their Rebel underground in the battle against the Empire. But the farm boy from Tatooine hadn't counted on an unscheduled landing in the swamplands of Mimban…hadn't counted on any of the things they would find on that strange planet.

Hidden on this planet was the Kaiburr crystal, a mysterious gem that would give the one who possessed it such powers over the Force that he would be all but invincible. In the wrong hands, the crystal could be deadly. So Luke had to find this treasure and find it fast.

Accompanied by Artoo-Detoo and See-Threepio—his two faithful droids—Luke and the Princess set out for the Temple of Pomojema…and a confrontation deep beneath the surface of an alien world with the most fearsome villain in the galaxy!

Reactions and Reviews

April 1978

[from a fan's review the month the book was published]:

By now most STAR WARS fans have read Alan Dean Foster's sequel, Splinter of the Mind's Eye. It was late in coming and anxiously awaited. Now we know its finest feature is the McQuarrie cover. Though a creative adventure tale, it falls down most drastically in its develpment of relationships between the characters.

We are presented at the outset with a Luke Skywalker in love. Unfortunately, the Princess takes no notice of him as other than a friend. Luke's character ie less like the boy we first met in the movie and in the course of the book he faces many perils, each time proving his worth. At the conclusion he is revealed to be the chosen one of the Force, and elected to wield its power against the malevolent Darth Vader.

He succeeds (by a deus ex machina, in this case a black pit Vader tumbles into) and has proven himself worthy — for what it is made unclear. The book ends rather suddenly. He may be a man now, but he is still a boy in an important sense. He only gets to put his arm around the Princess as a reward.

Princess Leia takes on a chameleon appearance as she changes from the cold diplomat at the start into a friendly and often frightened female in the middle of the book. Her scream for no reason on the lake was a little much. It's a wonder Luke didn't overturn the boat and let her sink. At the end, Leia has become the revegeful killer, making an attempt on Vader's life with blood curdling joy. She is as cold as stone, seeing the slaughter of the surviving storratroopers as notnmg to feel for, presumably because she had witnessed the destruction of her home planet. Not a drop of compassion in this girl — Luke's fight to the death with the Coway champion was only for the Rebellion, so she could escape the planet and continue her diplomatic rel ations, totally disregarding any social ones.

This diplomatic business, it seems, should have composed the hulk of the hook. As it was, Luke and leia never got off the planet of Circarpous IV where they'd been stranded. Unfortunate, for the Rebellion's cause remained at a stalemate, with the exception of a Darth Vader with only one arm.

Other minor problems are the length of time with the Imperial Supervisor (one and a half chapters), the silly old woman with the powers of a witch, the description of both Vader's and Luke's sabres as blue-white, and the statement by Vader that he discovered Luke had blasted his ship over the Death Star (two-way laser gun fire, possibly?). The greatest flaw of all was the absence of Han Solo [2] and his trusty companion Chewbacca.

The Force, also, becomes the thing of sorcerers, and how a power that is made up of all living things can be centered in a stone is questionable. Luke's power, or so we are led to believe in the film, comes from his own soul, with only assistance from an outside guide.

Perhaps the harshness dealt the book is forgoing the knowledge that much possible relationship development, furtherance of the Rebellion, and Han's future involvement, is due to what Foster was told he could not write about. Perhaps he was stifled as was the STAR WARS comic book. Such results leads one to wonder whether this type of "sequel" should be written at all, or whether STAR WARS should be left well enough alone. [3]

SPLINTER OF THE MIND'S EYE (or DARTH VADER TAKES A DIVE) Del Rey Books — $1.95

Well, the sequel to STAR WARS is out. The action takes place on a primitive planet where the Empire is involved in mining activities without the knowledge of the officials of the planet. Luke, Leia, R2D2, and C3P0 crash on this planet and become embroiled in the local politics and are involved in a search for a glowing gemstone that concentrates The Force. The action progresses well until the author remembers that he was supposed to involve Darth Vader in the action and brings it to an unsatisfactory conclusion.

All in all, C3P0 has too few lines; Darth Vader has a bit part, and Han Solo and Chewbacca are nowhere to be found. Oh, well, perhaps the movie will be better than the book.

Alan Dean Foster, author of this opus minimus, has been known to do better, and if the same crew is available for filming the sequel, it will probably turn into a respectable movie. [4]

May 1978

I'm writing principally because of the review in the last issue of "Solinter of the Mind's Fye". The reviewer seems under the impression that this is the script for the second movie, now oettinn underway -- it is not. Mr. Foster's story is his own material and bears no more relationship to the second movie than "Spock Must Die" does to the new Star Trek movie. George Lucas is the author of the basic story for the new movie, and it will be taken from his outline for several future movies "The Adventures of Luke Skywalker". I quite agree with the reviewer, also, that the Dean story is unsatisfactory. Part of it may be Mr. Dean's belief, publically declared in talking about his Star Trek Log series, that he believes that instead of just converting a script to prose, an author should try to put his own individual stamp on it (which may be fine for Mr. Dean's career, but somewhat nonplusses fans who buy the paperbacks supposing them to be original Star Trek material. I remember that Mr. Dean has married Scotty off, given Uhura some dark reason for personally hating Klingons, and other strange departures from the series.) [5]

The popularity - or, as I have heard some put it, the magic - of Star Wars has "been greatly in evidence lately. Besides the commercial products such as toys, dolls, and model kits, there has been a preponderance of Star Wars fan activity. Stories set both before and after the events of the movie have appeared in fanzines, panels discussing various aspects of Star Wars are held at conventions, and related artwork is always a big item.

In the professional science fiction world, Star Vars has now reached the next stage in its development: the publication of a book "based on the characters and situations created by George Lucas." The author, Alan Dean Foster, is known to Star Trek fans as the author of the STLog series, doing for the animated episodes what the late James Blish did for the regular episodes. He is also the author of several "regular" science fiction 'works; to my mind he is one of the better of the current crop of new sf writers, so I was looking forward to what I was sure would be a well-written and interesting book.

Nor was I disappointed in this. Splinter of the Mind's Eye is a continuation of the adventures of Luke Skywalker, with much of the flavor of Star Wars combined with Foster's own style of storytelling. The characterizations, often a problem when an author is writing about someone else's creations, are very good. The plot is straightforward without being obvious, and Foster's use of the background given by Lucas follows logically and there are no apparent inconsistencies.

The main characters are Luke and Princess Leia; the story opens with them en route to recruiting additional members for the Rebel Alliance. As might be expected, complications set in and both of them get a little more than they bargained for, including the arrival of Darth Vader. Leia is still every inch a princess, as sharp-tongued and independent as ever, but in this case it seems to get her in trouble more than it helps. Luke is a little less the overeager, naive farmboy he was in the movie; although he is still led into his adventures by chance and the confidence of youth, he does take a larger part in the direction of his actions. The byplay between Luke and Leia is most entertaining; while Luke's love for her is always apparent, he is not above giving her a piece of his mind on occasion. He has more confidence in his own opinions, and seems to have matured a bit.

The presence of Ben Kenobi's guidance is another factor which affects his actions. At times, Luke "becomes almost possessed "by the spirit of his old teacher - each time, however, we see his ability to use the Force develop further. Several times the Luke/Leia relationship seems about to be explored more fully - at one point Leia reveals momentarily that his feelings toward her, to which she has seemed totally oblivious, may not be in vain - but each time they are interrupted and the moment is lost.

Some comic-relief is provided by R2-D2 and C-3P0, but they are not as involved in the story as I would wish them to be. The confrontation between Luke and Darth Vader is charged with action and contains several surprises. Unfortunately the ending of the duel seems a bit contrived, as if Foster had written himself into a corner and decided not to bother rewriting that section.

It is obvious that Foster is a Luke Skywalker fan, judging from the way the character is handled. While this is not the best of his works, it certainly is not far below the quality of the others. The concept of a young man who gets involved in adventures almost without actively searching for them is one Foster handles well, as anyone familiar with his Flinx stories knows. Any fan of Heinlein's juvenile fiction will also note the similarities in both story line and style. Even if I were totally unfamiliar with Star Wars this would still be a good book, which to my mind is a point in its favor.

In general, I would recommend this book to anyone who doesn't demand complex stories or "message' stories. While not destined to go down as a classic in sf history, it is still good reading and difficult to put down once you've started. [6]

Summer/Fall 1978

You wanted comments on the new SW novel. All I can really say is that it's a fiasco. I've been a SF fan for a long time and always had high respect for Allan Dean Foster's writing before, but his book is little more than a mish-mash of old SF cliches that retains nothing of the wonder and magic of the original movie. It made me wonder if he'd whipped it up over the weekend in as little time as possible — and did he even see the movie? the characterizations are weak and the ending is so contrived it hurts. [7]
I thought Splinter of the Mind's Eye was fair, but it lacked humor and a real sense of adventure. Also, I thought Princess Leia's character was inconsistent. [8]

I rushed out to the store as soon as I heard that they had the SW novel in, delighted by the eye catching cover and title, thrilled with the hope of seeing what happens next to Luke and Leia. I was in for one massive let-down after another.

Leia was now an utter fool (which she isn't by any sense of the word), Luke was out of character, the 'droids were passable, Han and Chewie were were names passing in the breeze, and Kenobi a thought here and there to support a staggering plot. The novel reached a disappointingly low plateau and hovered, the reader left wallowing through the treacle of hope. Suddenly, right out of the blue Darth Vader appears and you stop, back-track, but find no true reason for his abrupt appearance. Then the battle, first between Darth and Leia, Luke being pinned down by a rock, then between Luke and Darth, the Princess dying on the floor. Luke is severely injured, is losing the battle, and ... Darth falls down a hole. That, to my mind, is the cop-out of the century. Not since the Perils of Pauline have I seen such ineptitude. It's worse than the old cliches'... with a bound he was free... endings. Even worse, with both Luke and Leia near death, the miraculous gem stone, the splinter of the mind's eye, resurrects them both. It was then I was tempted to throw the paperback across the room... and very nearly did. We can pray and hope the SW Corp. never makes a film of this... how shall I put it... I don't think I had better. I"ll leave it up to you fans. I've a feeling that those of you who have read "Splinter..." agree with me. For those of you fortunate enough not to have read it, just one word of advice. DON'T! [9]

May 1979

I'll start with a brief summary of the plot for those of you who haven't read it. Luke and Princess Leia, flying from a rebel outpost at the edge of a large system to an underground meeting on the inner planet of Circarpous, crash land on neighboring Mimban. Here they meet a rather weird old woman, Halla, lAo has a piece of crystal which magnifies the Force for those "sensitive" to said Force. She says it's part of a much larger piece, a huge gem in an ancient hidden temple (shades of the old Saturday matinees!) and talks them into helping her find the gem. It's a matter of self-defence, really, because the Empire would love to get hold of it, too. The rest of the book it taken up with the search for the gem. Along the way they meet some other odd characters and have strange experiences. And yes, Darth Vader puts in a very sinister appearance.

The plot is bls old as adventure stories, complete with wreck, danger of discovery, mysterious powerful gem (in an idol, no less:), alien races, battles, apparent defeat at the moment of victory, coincidences, and a happy ending. Like Star Wars. Splinter of the Mind's Eye is fantasy rather than sf, maybe even more fantasy than the original. But it's still a good read.

HOWEVER....

It's nitpicking time again, folks, and frankly, some of the nits are pretty damned big.

The worst one is the characterization of Luke and Leia — especially Leia. Sometimes she's every bit the intelligent, sensible, courageous young woman we know from Star Wars. But too often Foster has her acting an a most un-Leia-ish manner. For example, I can't imagine the Leia of Star Wars being fussy about stealing clothes, mussing up her hair and dirtying her face as disguise when it's obviously necessary. Nor can I see her panicking in the restaurant, forcing Luke to slap her and yell at her pretending she's his servant — they've already attracted attention and her move to leave can only make things worse. Later she trips him into a mud-filled ditch in revenge; when he retaliates (rather childishly also) by pulling her in with him, she throws mud at him and they start brawling. This attracts some drunken miners, it becomes a free-for-all, and everyone is arrested.

The arrest and jail business are necessary to the plot, granted (and give Foster a chance to describe a rather spectacular breakout, every bit as good as the Death Star rescue and escape if not better — it would be great on film if done properly.

But surely he could have used some other situation to get them arrested, rather than having Leia acting like a childish, cowardly idiot. Luke's response to Leia's actions I think are understandable and acceptable in terms of his character from Star Wars, but I just can't see Leia acting that way in the first place. She's just too sensible and practical, as originally presented. Foster also has her subject to entirely too many screaming fits, and even a faint at one point. These lapses are really disturbing because so much of the time she's still the heroine she was in Star Wars: courageous, practical, an able fighter. At one point she tries to shoot Vader and grazes his armor, then cusses herself out for not doing better because she was overeager. Later she borrows Luke's light saber when Luke is incapacitated and does a very creditable job of battling Vader before his superior experience, strength and skill prevail. Why all the crap to mess up this image?

Luke's characterization is reasonably good. However» Foster sometimes has him talking more like a college professor than a young ex-farmer and rocket jockey. He's not stupid, of course, and if he was eligible to apply to the Academy he must be fairly well educated, but his speech too often clashes with his character as presented in the movie and original book. And I wonder about his apparent ease of maneuvering in deep water and ability to handle a makeshift boat, after spending most of his life on a desert world. He's a fast learner, but this is ridiculous!

Aside from the presentation of the two main characters, there are three glaring errors of "fact". First, Leia explains her involvement in the rebellion as stemming from boredom with court life and the deadliness of Imperial culture. How could Foster write such a thing when in the movie and first book it's made very clear that her father was up to his ears in the rebellion, and obviously she joined through his influence. The other two are even worse, because they contradict things that were explicitly shown in the movie.

Early in the book and repeated later, Leia is said to have been interrogated, with the torture robot, by Vader and Tarkin. In the movie we see Vader and a guard in the cell to question her. She doesn't even meet Tarkin till afterwards, and then he uses psychological pressure only.

The last is a real beaut — Vader tells Luke he's found out that Luke disabled his TIE fighter!1 Arrgh! Not only does Luke not correct him (understandable, perhaps) but he doesn't even think about the statement being an error. Foster, you goofed but good!

R2 and C3P0 are rather pallid imitations of their movie/book selves, and have very little to do.

Halla, the old woman, is a rather interesting character, but a little too much like Mother Mastiff of the Flinx books. She's basically a stereotype, but so's the whole plot, so she fits in well. Unfortunately Foster sometimes has her talking in too educated a manner also.

The two Yuzzem, Hin and Kee, are basically Wookie substitutes. They seem to be built more like gorillas with snouts, but they're super strong, very hairy, easily annoyed, deadly to enemies, loyal to friends — and their language is an animal sort of noise-making. Fortunately, Luke just happens to have studied their culture and language (among others) back on the farm, so he can communicate with them. A vital coincidence, as it turns out.

Altogether, it's not the best book Foster has ever written, but not his worst, either. And for us Star Wars addicts who need our fixes, it's better than nothing while we wait for Star Wars 2. Now if Lucas or somebody would just put out a novelization of the second movie.

Ralph McQueirrie's nicely dramatic cover painting is far better on the paperback edition than on the jacket of the SF Book Club hardcover. The paperback cover is clear and sharp, in both color and detail. The jacket is slightly blurred, and the colors seem a touch muddy by comparison.

[A year later, this fan adds this addendum]: Several people have told me I was too kind in my review of Foster's Splinter of the Mind's Eye in JJ #1. (Compared with some of the fan reviews I've read since, I certainly was! ) So I reread the book with a more critical eye, and decided on my own, yes, I was too easy on it. (Though I still think the jailbreak would make a great movie scene.!) Brian Daley's 1st book (haven't seen the 2nd yet) was a lot better, despite the idiotic title. And I've read e humongous pile of fanfic since I wrote the review, which puts Foster in better perspective. A few of the fan stories are superb, definitely more professional than Foster (or Daley). A lot of them are so-so, on a fairly wide band, making some better than others within that category. And a few are so bad — well, they'd make even Foster's most vociferous critics admit he's better by comparison. Putting Foster up against the fan writers, I'd say he comes out at the mid-to-lower end of the so-so band (Daley comes out nearer the top of it, thanks to characterization.)
By the way, I've heard from a couple of sources that Splinter supposedly was written and approved by Lucas before the Star Wars script was really developed, hence the problems with characterization. Not that that excuses Foster, who should have rewritten, unless it was already sold and completely out of his hands (Could he have gotten it back to rewrite? I know zilch about such things.) but it does at least explain how he went so far off. [10]

References

  1. Jason Fry "Alan Dean Foster: Author of the Mind's Eye". Star Wars Insider (July-August 2000)
  2. Harrison Ford was not signed for the sequel as of the writing of the book, which is why Han Solo does not appear in it.
  3. "Beyond 'Wars' Lacks Development (and Han)" by Tracy Duncan, editor of one of the first Star Wars zines, Against the Sith, published in the first issue of that zine in April 1978. Tracy Duncan was fan who was outspoken in her dislike of the character Leia Organa.
  4. review by Robert Osman in The Alpha Centura Communicator v. 3 n. 4
  5. Mary Louise Dodge in a letter to The Alpha Centura Communicator v. 3 n. 5, refers to a review by Robert Osman in the previous issue of this zine, see above
  6. from Fleet #22
  7. from a letter of comment in Hyper Space #5/6"
  8. from a letter of comment in Hyper Space #5/6"
  9. from a review by Cary Bucar in Hyper Space #5/6"
  10. original comments from The Jedi Journal #1, addendum from "The Jedi Journal" #2 in May 1980