Thu
Feb 7 2013 10:00am

The Star Wars Sequel That Never (Quite) Was: Splinter of the Mind’s Eye

The Star Wars Sequel That Never (Quite) Was: Splinter of the Mind's EyeImagine there’s this universe where everyone thought the first Star Wars film was some awful kiddie flick, so a low-budget sequel was released in 1980 starring only Luke and Leia. The decidedly-not-brother-and-sister tried to recruit people to the Rebellion, got stuck on a planet with a mysterious Force-enhancing crystal and… got into a mud fight?

This is the alternate universe we might have lived in. Thankfully, Star Wars broke the box office bank and Alan Dean Foster’s Splinter of the Mind’s Eye was never a film. In fact, looking at it now, it’s only barely reconcilable as canon in the Expanded Universe. (And that’s saying something.)

The plot of Splinter of the Mind’s Eye revolves around the Kaiburr crystal, a shiny red gem that basically amplifies the Force. Luke and Leia, whilst heading for a planet that they want to recruit for the Rebel Alliance, crash-land one rock over on Mimban. It turns out that the Empire is using the planet to mine dolovite (this is a retcon within the EU itself—the actual material is never identified in the book). Luke and Leia meet a Force-sensitive older woman named Halla who volunteers to take them to the crystal, but Vader gets alerted to their presence and starts tracking them down. It’s a race to the crystal. Battles ensue with the native population of Mimban and the Imperials. Luke and Vader showdown, and Luke gets the Kaiburr prize. He and Leia and Halla ride off into the foggy sunset.

Certain facts surrounding the creation of this potential sequel make sense of the incongruities; Harrison Ford had not been signed on for any more movies when the book was written, hence his and Chewie’s absence from the book and the downplaying of their importance. Though Lucas has claimed many times that he had the original Star Wars trilogy all plotted out, it’s fairly clear this is not true regarding Luke and Leia sibling status. As a result, there is an obvious romantic subplot between the two, leading to all sorts of strangeness. It is possible that this is the reason for the implied attraction that surfaces in Empire Strikes Back; earlier drafts of that script showed Luke outright declaring his love for Leia, and her rebuttal as she tells him that they cannot afford romance due to their duties to the Rebellion. (This sounds painfully like the exact same conversation their parents ended up having in Episode II, so that’s an extra layer of serendipitous weird.)

The swamp planet of Mimban, where this whole shebang plays out, is likely the inspiration for Dagobah; swampy and foggy and full of strange creatures that are well-equipped to eat or maim you. And in a comical case of influence, it looks as though the god Pomojema (whose temple houses the Kaiburr crystal) is heavily based on Lovecraft’s Cthulhu, at least in appearance. The novel's cover is a gorgeous illustration by Ralph McQuarrie, which only makes me wish he had done more Star Wars book covers. There are also funny little flubs scattered throughout the text, such as Vader’s blue lightsaber, and a suggestion that the Sith Lord knows the code words to shut off C-3PO… what’s crazier is that the retcon provided by Episode I actually makes that plausible.

But there are so many loose ends that Splinter leaves if the adventure is meant to tie into the Star Wars universe that we know now. The Kaiburr crystal is not a problem in and of itself, but it is a problem if Luke has it—why wouldn’t he have used it throughout Episode’s V and VI? The crystal was apparently present in early drafts of the first Star Wars screenplay, but Lucas reportedly removed it because he wanted the Force to be a more ethereal power, making its appearance in the book even more unimpressive. What about Halla? If they had actually found another wizened Force-sensitive buddy along the way, why wouldn’t she have helped to train Luke? Where did she go?

The Star Wars Sequel That Never (Quite) Was: Splinter of the Mind's Eye

And then there’s Luke’s aptitude, which is off the charts in the book, as he manages to fight off Vader and sever the guy’s arm. His sudden drop in skill during their confrontation in Empire is something to marvel at if this tale is indeed canon. Sure, you could chalk it up to the crystal's influence, the fact that Luke sort of channels Obi-Wan’s spirit, but that doesn’t explain his increase in lightsaber technique or the sudden super-active mentoring coming from a guy whose initial help amounted to vague directions like “Trust your feelings” and “Run, Luke, run!”

There’s also some oddly outrageous sexism in the book. When an Imperial officer at a bar begins to get suspicious of Luke and Leia, Luke makes an executive decision that people will calm right down if everyone thinks that Leia is his slave. So he slaps her and scolds her for talking back to him. And it works. That awkwardness is compounded when Leia calls Luke on his behavior once they leave the bar and they proceed to get into a cute mud fight. Yup, this is a wince-inducing bit of sexual tension that happens. As a result of being slapped. Counted outside of canon, it’s hilarious that the scene exists. Counted inside of it, that snippet of wrongness is hard to make peace with.

On the other hand, the book does have Leia pick up Luke’s lightsaber and attempt to fend off Vader herself, which is far more than the films ever allowed her....

It’s easy to imagine how this sequel would have appeared on film—between the setting, the various generalized alien monsters and the mystical magic jewel, the story functions far more like one of the many popular fantasy films that were produced in the 1980s for kids. It has more in common with Labyrinth, Legend, and Willow than it does with Star Wars. Which gives you an idea of what sort of series Star Wars might have become if it hadn’t made the money the studio wanted.

On the other hand, in 1978 it was the only new Star Wars material available for mass consumption. That counts for quite a bit in the long run, and is undoubtedly why this novel has remained popular for over 30 years, mud fights and all.


Emily Asher-Perrin guesses that it makes sense for Luke to assume sexist Imperials when there are clearly no lady Empire officers in the films, but really? You can bug her on Twitter and read more of her work here and elsewhere.

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32 comments
~ Sil in Corea
1. ~ Sil in Corea
I confess that I like some of Alan Dean Foster's books, although it seems to me like he took writing lessons from Zane Grey and Edgar Rice Burroughs. When he develops a character, that one will have some quirks and foibles, but most of his characters are pretty one-dimensional.
~ Sil in Corea
2. RobertX
I loved that book.
Kit Case
3. wiredog
Bought the paperback when it was first released. It eventually fell apart. Since then I've acquired a hardcover. Same cover as the paperback.
jeff hendrix
4. templarsteel
i read the comic adaptation that dark horse put out in 96,i was weird out by the way luke and leia were acting towards each other,cause i'd seen Jedi by that point
~ Sil in Corea
5. Shanna Swendson
I read my copy until it almost fell apart during the seemingly huge gap between Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back. I haven't dared touch it since seeing Return of the Jedi because I suspect it would come across as icky. Still, my 9-10 year-old self kind of liked the budding romance. I may have been the one girl in the world who liked Luke better than Han.
Emily Asher-Perrin
6. EmilyAP
@Shanna Swendson - I liked Luke better than Han! You are not alone! But I saw the whole trilogy before reading this one. So it was definitely icky with the flirting. ;-)
Steven Halter
7. stevenhalter
I read this when it first came out and Luke/Leia was my preference then--before Return threw in its monkey wrench.
I liked Luke quite a lot more than Han.
~ Sil in Corea
8. Megaduck
I like this book because it's a much smaller scale then a lot of the other Star Wars novels. It's a small part of one planet, not the galaxy. Most of the time the action is just with a small handfull of people in a reletivly contrained area.

Mostly importantly though, it gives a great view of Darth Vader when he was still just an enigmatic badass. The memory of Leia hitting him with a sniper rifle and melting part of his armor then him just walking away stayed with me.
Eli Bishop
9. EliBishop
Literally the only thing I remember about Foster's first Star Wars book, the novelization he ghost-wrote for Lucas of the first movie, is his introduction of Vader: "Two meters tall. Bipedal." The "bipedal" was a nice touch, something that the movie sort of implied but wasn't able to show except in the bar scene— that there are so many bizarre aliens everywhere that no one really cares if Vader is human or what, not that anyone could be sure anyway with the armor, so you would just say "He's a two-legged thing about yea high."
Christopher Bennett
10. ChristopherLBennett
I had this book when I was young, and read it multiple times. In those days, SW tie-ins consisted only of the Marvel comic, this book, and Brian Daley's Han Solo trilogy (although there was another trilogy done a little later that I never read).

But even though I've been familiar with this book for three decades, it only just struck me that the cover conveniently avoids showing Luke and Leia's faces so they didn't have to worry about paying for likeness rights. Of course, at the time, all anyone needed to see was the "earmuffs" hairstyle to recognize Princess Leia -- the irony being that she never used that hairstyle again in the sequels.
Jamie Watkins
11. Treesinger
Wow! I actually own this book. It is the only piece of Star Wars memorabilia that I ever bought. I can't believe that anybody else had ever heard of it. I think that I only kept it because it has such an interesting title.
Liz Bourke
12. hawkwing-lb
The last time I read this I think I was fourteen or fifteen. I should read it again, sometime.
~ Sil in Corea
13. Timewalkerauthor
I can't explain Halla's disappearance or any other continuity oddities, but the Kaiburr Crystal's absence is actually explained later. In the New Jedi Order (and I'm sorry, I can't remember the exact book), Luke still has the crystal, but he comments to himself at one point that it had been a disappointment, because it lost its efficacy as it was moved away from Mimban. So apparently it only works on that planet itself. That was something interesting, as well, that I remember thinking about the NJO series as I read it--that its writers seemed to be making a serious effort to do justice to so many plot threads and figures from the past (even as, ironically, they were basically burning the galaxy down). Splinter got its nod, as did the Han Solo and Lando Calrissian adventures (the NJO made references to the corporate sector, and maybe I'm imagining this, but I seem to recall a mention of Vuffi Raa, Lando's not-droid assistant in his solo adventures). Even Boba Fett reappeared, at a time when it wasn't certain within the EU that he had survived the Sarlaac. All of these references, to my way of thinking, collectively constituted a turning point in Star Wars, where the writers essentially said, "here's where we've been, and it was awesome, wasn't it? Now let's point you where we want to go from here." I can't comment on the future that they proceeded to create--haven't read much of it--but of the past they looked back to, I say, it really was awesome.
~ Sil in Corea
14. Stefan Jones
I read this eagerly back in the day. I had already read plenty of ADF books, both his Star Trek adaptations and a few of his own adventures. He seemed like a good person to write further Star Wars novels.

Maybe I'm fantabulating here, but I recall thinking "Hey, I bet this guy wrote the first Star Wars novel!" His style is pretty unmistakable.

I'm pretty sure that at the time that Foster wrote "Splinter," Lucas hadn't made up the Big Picture stuff that he claims he'd planned from the get-go.
~ Sil in Corea
15. Timewalkerauthor
@#14: Actually, I seem to remember that he did write the literal first novel (in addition to "Splinter"), that is, the novelization of "A New Hope". It was credited to George Lucas, so I suppose it's more accurate to say that ADF ghostwrote it.
Christopher Bennett
16. ChristopherLBennett
@15: Yes, it's been an open secret for decades that Foster did ghostwrite the novelization of the original film. There was an earlier Tor.com post about that book.
~ Sil in Corea
17. TomT
I read this when it came out and loved it. I still am very fond of it.
~ Sil in Corea
18. Byron N.
And then there's the universe where it's an awful kiddie-level, fantasy garbage flick, but Earth's populace consists mostly of the crude, tasteless ignorantsia, so that it made a boatload of cash.

That would be our universe.
~ Sil in Corea
19. N.Mayes
Keep this in perspective. Splinter was 1st printed in hardcover in Feb 1978 (that's taken from my 4/1978 pb copy). Given the surprise of the Star Wars craze and typical publishing lead times, it was likely written mid '77 and rushed into print by Del Rey to take advantage of the Star Wars craze. Followed by the Han Solo trilogy ('79/'80) and the Lando Calrissian trilogy ('83) also by Del Rey, it's doubtful that these were ever intended to be canon. Just knock off's in the SW universe. Certainly not real sequels to the movie. Based on what Foster had to work with, Splinter is not a bad story in of itself.

When Timothy Zahn's Heir to the Empire trilogy ('91-93) went to the best seller list, Bantam started pumping out novels (starting in '94) that were 'canon' and made an effort to be internally consistent. Trying to fit Splinter into that canon timeline is a waste of effort. Just read it as a variant universe story and go on.

And Byron N. is living in an elitist kiddie-level fantasy world of his own. Can someone get him his meds and delete his posting?
Christopher Bennett
20. ChristopherLBennett
@19: He's entitled to express his opinion. You're free to disagree with it -- I disagree with it myself -- but shame on you for wanting it to be censored.
Amanda Perez
21. ViciousCircle
Well I read Splinter at 12 in 1978 and loved the story and the relationship between Luke and Leia. I must have read it at least 10 times. Then Empire came out and I was one confused little girl, weren't Luke and Leia a couple? I read the Han trilogy and the Lando trilogy and any and everything Star Wars ever since. I dutifully fell in love with Han, just as Lucas intended. Then Jedi came out and I was seriously freaked out. I've never gotten over how skeevy Lucas allowed me to feel as young girl watching my favorite movies of all time. Seriously not cool.
Alan Brown
22. AlanBrown
From what I hear about plans for new movies, the only thing that is canon is what has appeared on screen. Hmm, come to think of it, maybe not everything on screen. Perhaps the Ewok adventure movies. But perhaps not Boba Fett's appearance in the Star Wars Christmas Special.
Alan Brown
23. AlanBrown
~ Sil in Corea
24. N.Mayes
@20 Byron N. is certainly free to 'express his opinion'. He is certainly free to dislike the Star Wars universe. I do not disagree with that. But insulting the large number of those who do as 'crude, tasteless ignorantsia' because they do not share his opinion merely shows that he is a self righteous oaf only out to insult/injure others.

Shame on you for not recognizing the difference. Shame on you for defending him.
Christopher Bennett
25. ChristopherLBennett
@24: Free speech is about defending the expression of not only the points of view we like, but of those we hate as well. We should respond to harmful speech with constructive speech, not with attempts to silence it. Let the truth win out fairly in the marketplace of ideas.
~ Sil in Corea
26. N.Mayes
@25: Free Speech is also about protecting it from abuse. That's why there are laws regarding slander, libel, defamation, etc. That's why boards such as this one usually have rules regarding insults such as Byron N.'s. And in such a forum as this, the only responses available by the owners are to ban the author and/or delete his comments.

Unfortunately, constructive speech is often ineffective and misdirected and the marketplace of ideas unfair and subject to being drowned in lies, prejudice and hate. That's why we have laws and a court system.

But since you believe otherwise, why haven't you directed your 'constructive speech' to Byron N.'s comments?
Christopher Bennett
27. ChristopherLBennett
@26: Because I dind't think they were worth responding to. People say things like that to try to provoke a reaction. It's generally best not to give it to them. I think there's plenty of constructive speech in this discussion already -- or rather, there was before we unfortunately dragged it off-topic. Maybe we should all just take a deep breath and let it go.
j p
28. sps49
I don't know where my copy went, and I remember very little- Halla's declaring herself "a mere charlatan of the Force" is one bit- but in the world where there was Star Wars and this, it was pretty good.

The book is also Exhibit 1 in my Why I Lost So Much Respect for that Lying For No Good Reason George Lucas. Statements can be made after the fact for what is and is not "canon", but c'mon, George!!
~ Sil in Corea
29. Hammerlock
Actually, what bugged me about this book was that Vader was reduced to an even less-interesting bad guy, who solves all his problems via lightsaber.

There's even a scene where he's sitting in the back of a speeder or something with some other dude, other dude has some bad info or fails in some way, and Vader lightsabers him in the car. Now, I can buy Vader rewarding failure with death--certainly a character virtue of his--but using a lightsaber in the back seat of an enclosed moving vehicle? That's just all kinds of awkward and messy.
~ Sil in Corea
30. Allen2Saint
I thought it was great. It was before everything had to be this immense production where we throw the kitchen sink in every story. Just the two of them and the droids battling it out on this small planet. As a continuation, I frankly think it makes more sense.
~ Sil in Corea
31. Michael D'Auben
That book turned me off to Star Wars novels for years! A totally horrible movie tie in that failed as both a SF novel and as a Star Wars novel. :-(
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
32. Lisamarie
I read this awhile back, but after I'd already read much of the EU - mainly just because I knew it was one of the original pieces of EU so I wanted to see it for myself. I had about the same reaction. A fun romp and look at what might have been.

I totally forgot about Vader knowing C-3PO's shut down code, and that IS quite hilarious. Obviously, Lucas had it all planned out from the start ;)

Actually, I'm reading the Making of Empire Strikes back right now, and while Vader's paternity does make it into second or third script, and there is definitely some early brainstorming about Luke's sister, it doesn't seem like the identity of that sister had been established yet. I'll have to wait for the Making of Return of the Jedi to see when that comes in!

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