“SPLINTER OF THE MIND’S EYE”
by Alan Dean Foster
Returning to this book (in eBook form) was like returning to my childhood! I had the original paperback (since lost) on it’s publication in the UK in the late 70’s, though I had scant memory of it (apart from the cool cover art). As a SF film nut at the time, I read a lot of Alan Dean Foster’s film novelisations, such as The Black Hole, Alien and, of course, Star Wars.
Splinter of the Mind’s Eye was the second Star Wars novel published and was originally developed as a potential script for a low-budget Star Wars sequel, had the first film not been the huge hit it was. It’s easy to see those economical demands in action in this novel: the focus is on a smaller cast (primarily Luke and Leia) and the very basic treasure-hunt story is almost entirely set on one planet (less need for multiple film sets/locations and expensive space-based VFX shots!). As such, this would have made a pretty underwhelming film sequel, though it’s interesting to see the “origins” of ideas that were later used in the movie series (Dagobah and Ewoks, for instance).
Yet, as the first spin-off/extended universe Star Wars story, Splinter is actually a lot of fun, if ultimately flimsy. I enjoyed Foster’s brisk prose and efficient story-telling, and there are nice touches of sardonic humour: he get’s Leia’s spikey-resilience down pat and makes her a very credible action heroine (she even suffers from post Star Wars torture traumatic stress; a modestly realistic touch which gives her a little more depth). Sadly, if you’re a fan of the ‘droid-due of Artoo and Threepio, they’re little more than window-dressing.
The action set-pieces, though fairly small-scale, are still effectively written, particularly the final three-way duel, and there’s a surprisingly brutal/violent edge to moments (people are literally torn limb-from-limb, and there’s even a scene of a transport carrier being “mopped out” of human carrion! Not something you saw in the movies too often!).
This is Star Wars in embryonic form and contradictions abound to later films/stories (the burgeoning romance between Luke and Leia, for instance*). And there’s none of the myth-building that Lucas would employ in his script for Empire. But, considered as a little side-adventure – a journey diversion between the first two films, as it were – then Splinter of the Mind’s Eye is well worth a read and is a fascinating “what-if” time-capsule.
Now, I’m off to find the next published Star Wars novel: Han Solo at Stars’ End!
*I think this re-asserts what I’ve always considered: that George Lucas really didn’t have a “grand-plan” in place when he wrote the first Star Wars: he was making it up as he went along!