Splinter of the Mind’s Eye

April 11, 2018 at 5:00 pm (Reads) (, , )

splinterSplinter of the Mind’s Eye by Alan Dean Foster


So. Here it is. The first book in what would become the Expanded Universe. I don’t think I saw this book when it came out (I would have been six), but man, once I knew about it, it was almost all I could think about. I never got around to reading it, but man, back when this was one of only a few books set in the Star Wars universe, it was huge.

Reading it now, I have to force myself to think about it in terms of its original context. As Foster tells it, the novel is made up of a bare-bones idea Lucas had, which would have been a sequel to the first movie had it bombed, so a lot of the ideas don’t mesh with anything that would come later. Plus, in reading it, I had to remind myself that anyone reading it at the time of its release wouldn’t know if Luke and Leia would survive the story. It was a weird experience overall, but I tried to keep all that in mind as I read it.

The thing is, it’s still not that great a book. Foster didn’t have much to work with, but he still seems to have a gross misunderstanding of the characters of Luke and Leia. Luke is more of a pushover than he was in Star Wars, and Leia goes from being a capable, headstrong woman to a self-involved shrew with no patience. It doesn’t help that Foster includes some misogyny in the way the male characters treat Leia, but that’s not a misunderstanding of character as much as it is just a poor thing to include in the story, even in 1978.

The story centers on Luke and Leia, on their way to a planet to convince them to become part of the Alliance, crash-landing on another planet and getting caught up in a quest for a mysterious, Force-sensitive jewel. It’s fairly standard stuff for the EU, but it feels insubstantial in a lot of ways. I felt that way about The Approaching Storm, too (and if I’m being honest, Splinter doesn’t feel as insubstantial as that novel), but it seems Foster spends a lot of time following Luke and Leia about this planet. The action scenes are fine (if somewhat brief in comparison), but there’s more following that anything else. This book also had the same problem of the narrative feeling somewhat stilted, where I was having to read sentences a few times to parse them.

What I did find interesting is some of the ideas of the EU that were laid down here. Foster makes explicit the Emperor’s xenophobia, which I didn’t think became a thing until Zahn’s Thrawn trilogy. I mean, yes, you can watch the original trilogy and assume Palpatine has a thing against non-humans, but I thought the explicit policy wasn’t stated until then. In fact, between this book and the novelization of Star Wars, I’m surprised with how much of the prequels Lucas had in mind while working on these stories.

In the end, I think Splinter of the Mind’s Eye is better read as a curiosity than as a formal entry into the EU. I also think it’s important to keep its context and era in mind when reading it, and expecting it not to match all that we come to know about the Skywalkers and their place in the universe. Afterward, I’d recommend checking out the entry for the book at the Wookiepedia to see how fans have shoehorned the consistency issues back into the canon. At the very least, it’s an entertaining read.

Started: January 15, 2018
Finished: January 17, 2018

1 Comment

  1. nawfalaq said,

    Ah. This book. I think for our generation this was such a thing. This and the Brian Daley Han Solo series are some of my earliest memories of science fiction novels. I agree with you; it is a curiosity – but in spite of the flaws, still a major part of SW’s early growth.

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