Splinter of the Minds Eye by Alan Dean Foster


The Star Wars syndicate has probably received more attention than I could touch on in anything resembling a blog post of the length I’ve been doing in the past 15 months…so I’m not going to try to reinvent the wheel, just write a comparatively brief reaction to a book I read not too long after it originally came out.

For those who haven’t been paying attention to the Star Wars canon literature, the basic synopsis is this: Luke is escorting Leia to the fourth planet of the Circarpous star system, in order to allow Leia to sway the government of that planet to join the Rebel Alliance after said alliance’s success in destroying the Death Star. Leia’s ship is damaged in transit, and the two are forced down on the fifth planet of the system, Mimban, about which little is known by the Rebel Alliance. It proves to be a sparsely populated mining planet, largely swampy, which is controlled (surprise, surprise) by a secret governmental arm of the Empire. Luke, the ‘good’ protagonist in this novel, convinces Leia to follow his lead as he attempts to come up with a cover story on the fly; the best he can do is that he is a miner1 and that she is his servant2.

The two take shelter in a bar, where they are approached by a seemingly demented old woman, Halla, who shows them a splinter of what she claims to be ‘the Kaiburr crystal’, a gem which serves as a focus of the Force. Halla indicates that she knows where the parent stone is, but before they confirm their agreement, Luke and Leia encounter a group of dubious miners, who pick a fight with Luke out in the street outside the bar. The miners and Luke-and-Leia are arrested by stormtroopers for violating local laws, and the two outlanders are interviewed by the (corrupt evil) Captain-Supervisor Grammel, who tosses the two into a high-security cell with two Yazzem, large furry aboriginal creatures which prove friendly after Luke speaks to them in their language.

With Halla’s (and the Yazzem’s) help, Luke and Leia escape from the prison and set off across the swamps of Mimban to the Temple of Pomojema, where the intact Kaiburr Crystal is said to be held. After a number of entirely too damp for comfort adventures, including a ‘wandrella’, a lily pad paddle across an underground lake, hand-to-hand combat with cavedwellers, the group reaches the purported temple…just as Vader, summoned by Grammel’s superior, meets them at it. Luke and Vader duel…and I’ll leave it there. No sense ruining the plot with spoilers for anyone who hasn’t managed to read the book in the 35 years since its publication.

It’s a little odd coming back to read this thirty-five years after its publication,and thirty years after my original reading of the novel. Splinter of the Mind’s Eye was commissioned from Foster before the original movie came out, and was published less than a year after the original Star Wars movie came out; apparently, it was supposed to be a pre-novelization of a potential sequel, but movie #1 turned out to be such a smash hit3 that Lucas decided to splurge on official script writers. I’d have to go back and re-read Foster’s other novels written about that same time before I comment on whether the writing style’s more stilted than his usual oeuvre. However, given all the, er, romantic tension between Luke and Leia, this is clearly long before Lucas’s writers got around to coming up with the dynamic of Luke and Leia coming to grips with their sibling relationship. Now, I’d call it an amusing afternoon’s diversion for people who are mildly interested in the Star Wars universe, but possibly a matter of hot debate for aficionados of the subtleties of Canon Literature. It’s definitely an interesting might-have-been, suggesting rather Lucas’s earlier drafts of the original Star Wars than the later movies and in-universe novels.

Summary from the Star Wars wiki
Sci-Fi About.com description

1not implausible given his farm boy background
2a smidge less convincing given the lack of calluses on her hands and her general attitude–thoroughly appropriate for the princess she is, but quite insubordinate for a servant girl
3slight understatement, yes…

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