Splinter of the Mind’s Eye by Alan Dean Foster

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Splinter of the Mind’s Eye (1978) is the first Star Wars Expanded Novel and was apparently written as a potential story for a movie sequel if Star Wars hadn’t been a smash hit but only a small one. Naturally, there are many curiosities and continuity errors here in retrospect. Unfortunately, the book is a mixed bag regardless.

Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia crashland on the misty planet Mimban en route to a secret Rebellion mission. Mimban is shrouded in mystery, as well, being unaccounted for in records and apparently uninhabited. Skywalker and Leia discover that apparently isn’t so apparent and wind up involved in a quest to find a mystic Force object in a race against time and Darth Vader.

The early sections of the book are quite good. Foster has excellent prose, line by line, so very evocative descriptions and style. His dialogue is very much like the movies – in the manner of speech, unlike some other Expanded Universe books that have our heroes speaking in way too modern forms. The swampy journey after the dual crashes and the mining town they discover are excellent sequences. Halla the Jedi witch is a great character, as well, and the quest for the crystal is a fine plot.

Then the trouble begins. Luke and Leia get arrested for having a ridiculous mud fight outside. They are taken in for questioning by the imperial leader Grammel, who is actually quite a good villain – brutal, a bit dim, and self-serving. But by now the flaws are out in force and they bubble down to one thing: characterizations.

Princess Leia is far too much of a damsel in distress here. She should be the cool and collected one and in Splinter that role is played by Luke. Of course, Leia would have been traumatized by the torture she endures in Star Wars but Foster makes her nearly faint about it every time she thinks about it.

Luke is far too good at deception and lying and general fighting ability here: it’s like he not only leveled up in power since Star Wars but went to acting school and actually read a book about aliens. That does not jibe with the Luke we see in Empire Strikes Back. He’s supposed to be Goku good and honest, at least so far.

In addition, there’s a lot of silly human colonialism here, too. A bit of an unfortunate Native American analogy seems to be at play. A lot of Edgar Rice Burroughs, which isn’t a bad thing in general but these are the more boring lessons from John Carter in action.

I realize I’m being hard on this book – probably more than it deserves. But the first third was quite good and it got me excited and subsequently let me down. Still, it’s a very interesting relic and mostly entertaining throughout (bar a few sections where entertainment gets way to annoyance).

I just wish this was better.

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