40th Anniversary Book Review – ‘Splinter of the Mind’s Eye’

Splinter was published 1st March 1978 as the second and final book as part of Alan Dean Foster’s contract, the first being the Star Wars novel.  Alan was asked to write a sequel to Star Wars with the conditions that the plot had to be cheap to make as a movie in case the first one flopped.

Splinter focuses on Luke, Leia, Darth Vader, C3-PO and R2-D2 only.  Harrison Ford had not signed on for sequels and both Han and Chewbacca are barely mentioned.  The plot takes place on a swamp / forest environment containing a range of different alien species.  Lucas had asked for a dog fight between space ships at the start of the story to be cut, again due to budgetary reasons.

In hindsight it is easy to read Splinter now and complain about errors in the text.  Ben is referred to as a Jedi Knight, Luke clearly has a crush on Leia, Vader fights with a blue lightsabre… but one has to remember that this was in development very early on in the Star Wars time period.

The Plot

The tale begins with Luke and Leia flying to a meeting to recruit some new planets to the Rebellion.  As they arrive their ships are affected by a mysterious energy field which forces their ships to crash land on the wrong planet.  I find it interesting that Leia is piloting a Y-Wing as it’s not the most obvious ship you’d expect a Princess to fly.

The pair decide to follow the signal from a tracking beacon they discovered on their descent with the hope of finding help.  In the forest Leia is incredibly feisty which is reminiscent of her mannerisms aboard the Death Star.  When they arrive at the source of the beacon they discover it is none other than a secret Imperial Outpost.

They soon discover that the Empire is mining so they steal some clothes to disguise themselves.  They head to a bar where a force user known as Halla senses Luke’s ability.  She informs Luke that she has discovered a force enhancing crystal known as the Kaiburr crystal which intrigues Luke.  She has a shard on her which convinces Luke to help Halla find the crystal if she helps them find a ship to get to their pre-arranged meeting.

The local troopers are suspicious of Luke and Leia and do not recognise them.  Luke informs them that Leia is in fact a servant and slaps her to stress this.  Although this satisfies the Imperials Leia confronts Luke outside and the two of them fight.  This draws unnecessary attention from group of locals and then the Empire.  Luke and Leia are arrested and taken to Imperial Captain Grammel.

Luke has no choice but to reveal the shard to Grammel in the hope that he releases Luke and Leia as petty thieves but this plan doesn’t work.  Grammel contacts his superior who in turn informs Darth Vader, although this is not known until nearer the end.  It is possible that Leia has been recognised as Princess Leia Organa from Alderaan but the Imperials are not sure.  I also find it interesting that we hear “Long live The Emperor!” in conversations between Imperials since at this point very little is known of him.

With the help of Halla and a few alien inmates, Luke and Leia escape from the prison and continue their journey to the temple.  They meet various alien life forms on the way, some wanting to attack them.  One such encounter sends Luke and Leia underground whereby they meet a whole species known as the Coway.  In order to proceed Luke must defeat their champion in unarmed combat, which he does thanks to a subconscious use of the Force to hit the alien in the head with a rock.  There is a surprising amount of violence in this encounter as both Luke and Leia kill and maim several of the Coways where it is probably it all could have been avoided.

During the celebration feast afterwards Luke senses Vader’s presence.  Leia reveals some of what has been hinted throughout the book, the terrifying torture ordeal on The Death Star from the hands of Vader.  This is a fascinating insight into how the fiery Princess has been badly affected.

The Empire arrives and the Coways join the fight to defeat The Stormtroopers using primitive objects such as nets.  I wonder if this idea was reused in Return of the Jedi?  Darth Vader arrives and recognises both Luke and Leia.  However, Leia shoots Vader who flees when he sees that they are losing the battle.  The shot does little more than melt his armour and put a hole in his cape.

It is at this point that Vader senses the crystal and both parties attempt to locate it.  Luke finds it first and has to deal with another monster who brings the roof of the temple down pinning Luke to the ground when it dies.  Vader arrives and duels Leia who receives multiple injuries and burns.  With the help of an alien, Luke is freed, retrieves his sabre from Leia and saves her from certain death.  He cuts Vader’s arm off before using the Force to hurl Vader down a shaft.  As in Star Wars, it is clear this is not the end of Lord Vader.

Luke retrieves the crystal and uses its healing powers to heal Leia’s injuries.  The story ends with Luke and Leia heading to their rendezvous and the meeting with the potential rebels.

Verdict

I’ve been asked a lot of times about whether Splinter of a Mind’s Eye is worth reading.  Does it have any impact on the Star Wars mythology?  Apart from the introduction of the crystal we now know as Kyber, no.  Are any new characters added who play an important role later?  No.  But Splinter is a short and fun story which is important from its historical ‘what if’ perspective if nothing else.  If Star Wars had not been a hit – this is the movie we would have likely seen soon after in theatres.

It’s also worth noting that this was our first ever ‘look’ at Mimban (Circarpous V), a place that we’ll actually see on screen in under 90 days as part of Solo: A Star Wars Story. If nothing else, Splinter does give us Mimban and it’s great to see the Story Group at Lucasfilm giving a nod to this novel by including it in Solo.