Splinter of the Minds Eye
What is it ? : This is the first "Expanded Universe" Novel for Star Wars, even though the term itself wouldn't be used until many years after this novel came out. But before I tell the story in the book, I'll tell the story behind the book.
Before streaming video, before home rental DVD's, before even home rental VHS, when you wanted to relive the experience of a movie, you could either go to the movies and pay out to see it again, or you could buy the novelisation. When Star Wars came out (not yet Episode IV, not even A New Hope, just plain Star Wars) the Novelisation was released with George Lucas as the Author, however it was really ghost written by Alan Dean Foster, a Science Fiction author of some repute.
While they discussed the movie and Foster was writing it, they also talked about a sequel they could do if Star Wars was a moderate success. This sequel would be done somewhat on the cheap, there would be no space battles, most of the story is in caves or extremely misty forest, Han Solo wouldn't feature (as Harrison Ford was already too expensive) However, as history shows, Star Wars was successful on an epic magnitude, so they could spend all the money they wanted on it, and The Empire Strikes Back was made and the rest is history.
However, as Empire was still in early planning stages, Alan Dean Foster went on to write the cheaper sequel to Star Wars, and Splinter of the Minds Eye was published in 1978.
Splinter of the Minds eye begins with Luke and R2 in his X-Wing, and Leia and C-3PO in a Y-Wing trying to sneak into the Circarporous System, they have a meeting with the leaders of the resistance in that system, about bringing them into the Rebel Alliance.
To avoid sensor scans they swing past the uninhabited swamp planet of Mimban and are caught in a massive electric discharge which scrambles their controls, causing them to crash into the Swamps.
Even though they're separated, R2 locates the Y-Wing, and also locates a signal beacon which Leia thinks might be smugglers using the same trick to avoid patrols as they were trying to. However when they reach the beacon they discover an established mining town, being patrolled by Imperial Stormtroopers.
To fit in with the locals they break into a store and steal miners uniforms, and while Luke feels that his build and calloused hands he gained as a farmer will help him fit in as a miner, Leia won't, so he pretends she's his slave. They head into a local bar to get food, and are contacted by Halla, a force sensitive who has sensed Luke, and shows him a shard of a much larger crystal she has, which enhances the wielders force power. Asking their help in heading to a ruined temple on the moon to get the rest of the crystal, to keep it out of the hands of the Empire. They realise that Leias looks are attracting attention of the locals, so they head outside, and Luke attempts to dirty her up by throwing mud at her, so she won't appear so pristine and out of place, but she resists and they get into a mud fight.
Some of the locals intervene, and the tone gets all a little rapey, before Stormtrooper intervene in the altercation, and everyone is arrested.
They are taken in front of the local Mine Supervisor, Captain-Supervisor Grammel, who throws them in jail as he doubts their explanation that their id was lost in the fight, but he recognises Lukes lightsaber, so contacts Darth Vader, who announces they must be kept until he arrives.
In the Jail cell are two Wookiee like aliens, Hin and Kee, who are Yuzzem, a species Luke has encountered before and speaks the language of. Halla comes to the jail cell window, and she and Luke use the force to open the cell. With the Yuzzem rampaging their way through the Stormtroopers, they steal a Swampcrawler and head off into the swamp, following Hallas map to the location of the temple.
After travelling a distance, they are attacked by a massive Swamp Worm,which destroys their vehicle, and Luke and Leia take refuge down a massive pit, which the worm falls into and disappears into the depths. Seeing a side passage, they head into a cave tunnel, informing Halla, Hin, Kee and the droids of the direction they are heading. The tunnel goes on for miles, and eventually they reach an underwater lake and camp on it's shore. The next morning they use a large water lily like pad as a raft to cross the lake and are attacked by a lake monster which luke fights underwater with his lightsaber.
Finishing crossing the lake they find the caves are more tunneled on the far side, and they are captured by a tribe of indigenous cavemen called the Coway.
The Coway have also captured, Halla, Hin, Kee and the droids and are going to eat them all, but Luke challenges the local champion, and although physically outmatched, using the force to lift a rock, he knocks him unconscious so they are all accepted into the tribe.
The celebration of this is interrupted by Coway scouts reporting that "White Shells" are approaching, so they work with the Coway to prepare an ambush deep in the caves where the Imperials cannot bring vehicles.
The Stormtroopers led by Vader march right into the trap, and the Coway drop from concealment in the ceiling and walls, begin pulling Stormtroopers into tunnels under the caves, and dropping stalactites onto the troopers heads causing many deaths and chaos in the imperial ranks. The Stormtroopers are thoroughly defeated, and retreat out of the caves, and in the disruption, Luke, Leia, Halla, Hin, Kee and the droids steal an Imperial vehicle and head onto the temple.
Exploring the temple Luke fights a giant Lizard, but gets his leg trapped in a rock fall, they send the Yuzzem back to the speeder to get the droids and some tools, but they don't return and Darth Vader emerges informing them that he has dealt with them. Leia grabs Lukes Lightsaber and fights Vader but is outmatched, but provides enough of a distraction for HIn, mortally wounded to free Luke's leg from the block it is trapped under.
A nearly dead Leia throws Luke his lightsaber back, who fights Vader, severing his right arm but is exhausted by the effort.
Vader pulls his lightsaber into his left hand, and looks ready to defeat Luke, but he stumbles over his own severed arm, and falls into a crevasse on the ruined temples floor, dropping out of sight.
Having obtained the crystal from the statue in the temple, Halla gives it to Luke, who uses the force to heal Leia, and then in their stolen Swampcrawler Luke, Leia, Halla and the Droids leave, hopefully to reach their meeting on Circarporous.
High Points : I adored this book as a kid, and I still love it now (even though it is flawed), it offered a glimpse into the further expanses of the Star Wars universe, and hearing about the Mining camp, the Coway tunnels, and the savages fighting Stormtroopers really kindled by imagination.
So much of what's in here is reused later, the Ewoks are basically a more cute and cuddly version of the Coway, When Captain Supervisor Grammel speaks out of tone to Vader, he doesn't hesitate in killing officer out of hand, something only hinted at in A New Hope.
The way it fleshed things out really made the universe live for me in a way that the movie itself hadn't done. To use a particularly memorable (to me) quote from the book.
"There was one more thing he had to do. Taking the pistol he had brought with him, he flipped open it's butt end. Switching the terminal control from charge to draw, he attached it to the matching terminals in the haft of his lightsaber.
Leaning back, he regarded the mist silently as his father's ancient weapon sucked power...."
Just that little bit made everything so more real, knowing that lightsabers needed charged, that you could use weapons to charge each other, and the reminder of the lightsaber as "his father's ancient weapon", felt so emotive of Obi-Wan's story about the Jedi.
The book shows Leia's strength early on, with her asking Luke to kill her rather than allow her to be captured and tortured by Vader again, it's Luke (always hopeful) that refuses believing he can defeat Vader.
This was also our first glimpse at the force beyond just lightsaber fights, Luke (with the help of Halla) levitates a plate to help open their jail cell, something we'd not see until Empire Strikes Back, Luke uses the force to heal. These things are now accepted as fact, but at that point this was all new and never seen.
During the fight with Vader, Luke declares at one point "I'm . . . . I'm Ben Kenobi!", Vader tells him he's only Luke Skywalker, a farm boy from Tatooine, but Luke tells him that Ben is with him, the force is with him. And interesting twist on Obi-Wans force ghost (although probably written to avoid an Alec Guinness appearance fee), the declaration does seem to unsettle Vader. But also shows that the Father/Son relationship had yet to be decided or mentioned, as Vader knows Lukes name, but makes no mention of Anakin Skywalker.
And a point that counts against it in some peoples books, but something I really liked, was that it doesn't have everyone in it, although it's short on cast members because getting Harrison Ford, or Alec Guiness back would have been too expensive for the cheap sequel this was planned to be. I personally liked that this was just Luke, Leia and the Droids, they met new people, and we didn't need everyone back.
Low Points : Well, it differs quite a bit from the direction the story went in the movie sequels, and Luke and Leia flirting as they do in this novel is a little disturbing considering we now know they're brother and sister, plus a number of problems like R2 D2 being called an Detoo unit, rather than as already established at that point an Artoo unit. Vader's lightsaber is described as Blue, not red, etc.
But none of these break the story for me, the flirting may just be because they know they're close, but don't realise that their siblings yet, the others are just descriptions which are wrong.
So what do you really think ? : I've loved this book for some 40 years now, I've still got the same copy I was bought in 1978, where I drew a lightsaber on the blank back page, and can only recommend it, not only as a good fun read, but also a little look where Star Wars could have gone if history had just been a little different.
Final Words : A couple of other things I want to mention, the book is copyright "The Star Wars Corporation", along with the original novelisation of A New Hope ("Star Wars: From the Adventures of Luke Skywalker"), and is subtitled in a similar fashion "From the Adventures of Luke Skywalker", which made it sound to the 7 year old me so much more established and epic.
And for a Star Wars (and therefore supposedly kid friendly) book, it's surprisingly adult oriented at times, the miners that find Luke a Leia fighting in the mud outside the bar, have obvious intentions towards Leia (the novel describes how the exposed skin where her outfit is ripped or opened is drawing a lot of attention from them), so rape seems to be on the cards. And Vader kills Hin and Kee outright later in the story, two characters who were fairly important throughout, if you could imagine Chewbacca getting killed offscreen towards the end of A New Hope.
I know the times are different, and A New Hope, rated in the UK as viewable by everyone, does show the still smoudlering skeletons of Owen and Beru Lars, but it still quite surprised me what I read at such a tender age (must be what made me the warped individual I now am).
Score : 9/10
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