Books, Star Wars

Book Review: Splinter of the Mind’s Eye by Alan Dean Foster

The old Star Wars Expanded Universe wrapped up, now that I think about it, several years ago – being set aside in favor of a new EU which would tie more closely to the new Star Wars films. The Old EU got a lot of crap – some justified (Jedi Academy Trilogy), some maybe less so. Thus, I’ve decided to go through the old EU, in order of publication, to see how things evolved, and whether the good parts hold up, or if the bad parts have any redeeming qualities.

What Will I Be Covering

I will be covering basically all of the Star Wars Novels and comics published in sequence, from Splinter of the Minds Eye on – with two exceptions. I’m not going to be covering the novelizations of the original trilogy (mainly because I don’t feel like it), and I’m not going to be covering the original Marvel comics series because I’m actually almost done reading that series and I don’t necessarily want to start over.

I will be discussing a plot synopsis of the work itself, along with a run-down of characterization and any new world-building, before my thoughts on the work.

So, I’m starting off with:

Star Wars: Splinter of the Mind’s Eye by Alan Dean Foster

Publication Date: 1978

The Plot

Luke, Leia, C-3P0 and R2-D2 are en-route to meet up with a conclave of resistance movements in order to try to get them to join the Rebel Alliance. En Route Leia’s Y-Wing runs into mechanical problems and is forced to set-down on a believed uninhabited planet, Minban, that turns out to be a covert mining colony run by the Empire. I’m not exactly sure why the Empire would need to run a mining colony “covertly”. In the course of trying to find parts or transport, Leia and Luke encounter a strange old woman named Hettie, who has a shard of a crystal called the “Kaiburr Crystal”, which has the ability to focus the perception of the force in those who can perceive it. Luke touches this shard and his perception is heightened, Leia senses nothing. Luke suspects that this “spike” in his awareness in the force could be perceived by other force sensitive people, at some distance, possibly even by The Emperor.

Luke & Leia, when roughhousing playfully (as part of their romantic tension), end up getting the attention of the local garrison and are arrested. Leia has her PTSD (caused by her torture on the Death Star) triggered at the mention of the Imperial Governor, and they’re thrown in a cell with two large furry creatures called Yuzzum, which are basically Wookies – who are currently nursing really terrible hangovers. Hettie helps break out Luke & Leia, with Luke and Hettie pooling their force abilities to levitate a food tray to trigger the motion sensors for the door (not very secure), before they escape. The Yuzzum kill some troopers in very gruesome fashions (up to and including beating troopers to death with their own limbs, and the limbs of their comrades).

After travelling across country, they end up encountering some local wildlife, and end up with some of the natives who haven’t gotten hooked on booze and drugs by the Empire to keep them docile. Luke succeeds in a trial by combat, just in time for some stormtroopers (and Darth Vader – who also triggers Leia’s PTSD), show up and attack. They are pushed back, and our Heroes commandeer an Imperial Transport to reach the temple where the crystal is (with the Yuzzum again literally ripping troopers to shreds). Luke & Leia arrive, but as they’re investigating the temple, Vader shows up at the transport and kills the Yuzzum. He arrives in the chamber with the crystal, right after Luke’s party does. Leia ends up in a lightsaber duel with Vader, which she loses at, but she is not killed. Luke Force Pulls his lightsaber to him, and manages (with some force assistance by Obi-Wan) to knock Vader into a pit. This does not kill Vader, but he won’t be getting out for quite some time – enough time for Leia and Hettie to grab the Kaiburr Crystal and our heroes to escape.

Character Development

Luke Skywalker: Is force sensitive, and has learned a new ability – Force Pull! Is also romantically interested in Princess Leia
Princess Leia Organa: Is not force sensitive. Has really bad PTSD from her time on the Death Star, caused by her torture (not by seeing her home world destroyed), and is triggered by mention of Imperial Governors, and by Darth Vader himself.
C3-P0 & R2-D2: Darth Vader knows the authentication codes to shut them down automatically.
The Emperor: Is Force Sensitive.
Darth Vader: Likes to play with his opponents before killing them – which allows him to be defeated by Luke. Is actively sadistic – gloating about spending a longer time torturing Leia this time. This is the first time we see him kill a subordinate who failed him (he was stopped in A New Hope)

World Building

  • The Empire has rules about the treatment of indigenous populations – rules that are ignored in the case of Minban, the planet in this book.
  • The Rebel Alliance is recruiting various other Resistance groups, particularly following their loss of manpower in the wake of the destruction of the Death Star.
  • Governors are responsible for whole systems, not just planets.
  • The senate being dissolved circa A New Hope has upped the bureaucratic headache of running a system (and the planets therein). Presumably the Death Star would not have included the ability to cut through red tape, so this still would have been a problem.

Other Notes

The book has a foreword by George Lucas saying that he’s at that time writing the story for the second film (which will be Empire Strikes Back, and he’s planned to do 9 films total in the series. Also, both Luke andVader are using Blue lightsabers. I’m assuming that when this book was written, the re-release of the films, with the “Episode IV” in the opening crawl and the re-rotoscoped lightsaber blades hadn’t been released yet.

My Thoughts

As stilted as the dialog is in A New Hope, Splinter of The Mind’s Eye is soooo much worse. Several of the characters have straight up Silver Age Comics levels of verbosity. This isn’t helped by the fact that this, basically, is the second Star Wars work at the time of publication (with the exception of the Marvel comics), so nobody really has anyone else’s voice yet. That said, Vader in particular feels somewhat jarringly out of character. Yes, he has a flair for the dramatic, and he’s certainly evil. However, his sense of cruelty here is so much more vicious. You know those characters in anime and manga who demonstrate their cruelty by licking the blood from the blade of their sword or knife? Vader, in this book, would be that, if he didn’t need his helmet and you could safely lick a lightsaber.

It bears mentioning that this book is also considerably more graphically violent than the films, with considerably more gore. Dismemberments abound, with more than a few people being beaten into unrecognizability as humanoids by the Yuzzum. While Dark Horse did not have to deal with the Comics Code Authority, this still probably would not have flown in much of their books. We’ll see when we get into the comic adaptation of Splinter of the Mind’s Eye later.

Next time: Han Solo at Stars’ End by Brian Daley