Friday, January 15, 2010

Book review: 'Splinter of the Mind's Eye', by Alan Dean Foster

2 / 5 Stars

It was the striking cover illustration by Ralph McQuarrie that drew my attention to the paperback edition of 'Splinter of the Mind's Eye' sitting on the shelf at the Binghamton Public Library in the late Spring of 1978.

I was 17, and while not a Star Wars fanboy, I did enjoy the film, and the prospect of reading about some new adventures of Luke, The Force, and Darth Vader was appealing. I can't recall if I was impressed with the novel after finishing it, so I thought I might give it another go after the span of more than 30 years.

The plot is simple enough: Luke and Leia crash-land on the remote planet Mimban, and discover that it has been colonized by the Empire. In a shabby mining town tavern, they learn of a mysterious gemstone, the Kaiburr Crystal, that can confer invincibility upon a Force wielder. In short order Luke and Leia embark on a journey to Mimban's dangerous interior, a monster-filled wilderness of swamps and underground caverns, to discover the lost Temple of Pomojema that holds the Crystal.

But things take a turn for the worse when they learn that Darth Vader himself is seeking the Crystal for his own nefarious purposes. Can Luke and Leia beat the Sith Lord to the Crystal ? Or will Vader get to the Crystal first and render himself unbeatable ?

'Splinter' is something of a mediocre read. Foster, a veteran of working with licensed properties, obviously had to work within some confines of a story suitable for a wide audience of both younger and older fans. He does manage to interject some (rather graphic) combat into the storyline every now and then. But, by delaying the confrontation with Vader till the last few pages of the novel, Foster is left with trying to keep the narrative going by putting Luke and Leia through some unimaginative, standard-issue perils.

It doesn't help matters that Foster's prose is often corny and insipid. For example, in one passage Leia speaks in the voice of a 'steel kitten'; elsewhere we are told she is '...a she-falcon flying for her prey-perch.' When Luke wields his light saber it is for a 'demonic' attack.

For Star Wars fanboys, the book's biggest illicit thrill is Luke's frequent lusting (!) after Leia, who is more than a little flirty in return. At the time the novel was written, of course, 'The Empire Strikes Back' had not been released, so the growing romantic affection between the two didn't seem as....disturbing....back in '78, as it would be two years later.

If you're a die-hard Star Wars fan you may want to have 'Splinter' in your library, but readers less interested in the franchise will find the book rather uninspiring.

1 comment:

Will Errickson said...

Funny, I remember seeing this book everywhere when I was a kid but never had any interest in reading it, even though I *was* an obsessive SW fanboy. Around age 11 or so I did, however, write a long story about what happened to all the characters between SW and EMPIRE--wish I still had it!