As I’ve said on here previously, I’m not too much of a Star Wars guy. I get why people love it, and I understand the obsession. I also like it a good amount–I’ve seen all the movies multiple times and own a few of the comics and books–but by and large, it’s just not for me.
But what with the recent news of the Expanded Universe–the vast, interconnected network of Star Wars novels, games and comics–being declared noncanon by Disney and the need for me to ingest something else besides Star Trek this summer, I’ve gotten interested. Plus, I’ve rewatched this very entertaining video about the EU by Internet personality Nash about 5 times and it’s piqued my curiosity enough that I’m intrigued about the EU again (Video slightly NSFW).
With that in mind, I decided to check out from my library the first ever EU novel, Splinter of the Mind’s Eye. Written by SF legend Alan Dean Foster, it’s a gripping treasure hunt story that offers a fascinating glimpse into what the Star Wars universe was like in its early years, for good and for ill.
Set 2 years after the events of A New Hope, the story opens with Luke, Leia, R2-D2 and C-3PO on their way to the planet of Circarpous IV to secretly convince the inhabitants–and hopefully the inhabitants of another system–to join the Rebellion. Unfortunately, as they pass Circarpous V, Leia’s ship begins malfunctioning and she’s forced to make an emergency landing. Luke follows and they both crash in separate areas of the thick swampy jungle of the planet (which is called Mimban by its inhabitants).
Making their way towards each other and realizing that they’re on a mining planet, they begin to follow a beacon thinking it’ll lead them to an outpost station that they can call for help from, they instead come across a mining town. After stealing clothes to blend in, they enter an inn where an old woman named Halla approaches them. She quickly susses out who they are and forces them to, in exchange for getting off the planet, team up with her to find something called the Kaiburr crystal (the “Splinter of the Mind’s Eye”), a legendary gem hidden in a temple that is said to increase one’s Force power to 100 times its max. She shows them a small sliver of it she acquired. Luke realizes it’s the real deal and they agree to help.
However, Luke had earlier slapped Leia in the presence of natives as part of a ruse that she was his slave. Outside, they begin play fighting, which leads to a very real brawl with some miners. They’re arrested by Imperial troops, who take them to the noxious Captain-Supervisor Grammel. Grammel doesn’t buy the story about them being rogue thieves from Circarpous IV and proceeds to jail them. But not before he confiscates the crystal and contacts the Imperial Governor, who in turn contacts a certain Dark Lord…
It’s plenty odd to read this novel for a lot of reasons. For one thing, Imperial stormtroopers are described as being “both men and women.” which makes sense in context. But it’s mostly odd when one considers that, according to the prequels, all stormtroopers are clones. And male clones are that. Furthermore, the way the book ends is WILDLY contradictory to the way the rest of the original trilogy plays out.
But the big, awkward, banjo-playing elephant in the room is the sexual tension between Luke and Leia. On the one hand, it’s a natural growth of Luke’s feelings towards Leia in the first film and we get a more nuanced look at how both parties feel towards each other. But on the other hand, it’s REALLY awkward considering we learn the two are siblings by the end of Return of the Jedi.
That unpleasantness aside, this book is still a solid adventure story and is true to these characters and this mythos, at least in its nascent form circa 1978. As the Nash video explains (and seriously, you really should watch it; it’s pretty great), Splinter was commissioned by George Lucas to serve as the basis for a lower-budget sequel in case the first film didn’t succeed. If you’re willing to overlook some awkward elements in order to read a fun adventure story about characters you know and love, it’s worth a look.