Star Wars’ impact on the world of cinema is unprecedented. It’s the reason we’re here, the reason I’m so fortunate to be connecting with all of you guys out there through this wonderful fan-site. But as October rolls around, we here at the Reporter wanted to delve into another arena where our beloved franchise has thrown its hat into the ring to capture the imagination of yet more millions. I speak of the world of literature, where indeed, the pen is mightier than the lightsaber…er, well, you get it.
And while I’m tempted to go all the way back to 1976, with the release of the original Star Wars novel, I thought I’d fast forward just a nudge, to a book widely considered as the first major entry into Star Wars EU (Expanded Universe) lore – Splinter of the Mind’s Eye, by Alan Dean Foster.
Released in 1978, my memories of Splinter of the Mind’s Eye go back nearly as far as my recollections of viewing the original Star Wars itself (Yes, I’m that old, but gimme’ a break, I was reeeeal little in 77′!). At the time, I had no idea there was even going to be another Star Wars. The Empire Strikes Back wasn’t on my radar. The Death Star had blown up and, well, we won. That was it, my little self supposed. I had no idea what was in store.
Allow me to indulge in a little reminiscing. (It does pertain to the subject at hand, I promise.)
Star Wars had so utterly captivated the world, it was re-released in the summer of 78′, a year after its premier. I can’t recall how extensive the release was…but that’s what Google is for, my friends. To my good fortune, it was released in a theater near me (in Sayville, on Long Island, New York), and, of course, my folks had no choice but to take little Jason to see it numerous times…again. Their young son was flat out nuts for this Star Wars thing. (They really liked it, too, by the way.) Star Wars was instantly the best thing ever.
At one of these 78′ showings, the theater ran a contest – dress up like a character, get in for free, and the top three costumes would win a prize. And wouldn’t ya’ know it, my sister and I came in 2nd and 3rd place: me as little Han Solo; her as Princess Leia. Deb won a poster of Darth Vader! (Aw, man! I want that!) And I won a newly published copy of Splinter of the Mind’s Eye.
Kinda cool, huh?
Now, I was a bit young to absorb the novel, and the poster of Vader was so awesome. “I want that!” I desperately cried out. I whined. I lost. No Vader. Ah, but as the fates would have it, a couple years down the road, my sister bestowed upon me the holy poster, and I was literate enough to appreciate the book. Ironically, I read it mere months before Empire was released, understanding that Splinter was just “another take” on where the story was going. What I didn’t know until many years later was that Splinter was purposefully written to be on a smaller scale than A New Hope. Foster had been hired to ghost write the original book, and a sequel.
The plan was – if Star Wars failed to be a hit at the box office, there’d at least be the opportunity to do a low budget sequel with Splinter. A consolation prize for George, I suppose? Alan Dean Foster purposefully set up the story in allowance for it to be filmed with minimal resources, in settings that could easily and cheaply be made to look otherworldly. Pretty neat.
In hindsight, the book does have an almost t.v. movie sort of feel to it. Now I don’t say that insultingly, or to diminish its impact or effect. It’s an entertaining story, but it clearly doesn’t have the scope of an epic feature film, and many key characters from the original movie are missing. (There is one biggie though! I’ll get to him…)
Without giving major spoilers away, the basic gist is this – Luke and Leia crash land on the remote, Dagobah-ish world of Mimban while on their way to another world as emissaries for the Rebellion. They get mixed up with some locals, and they’re surprised to find an Imperial presence controlling a town. A woman named Halla recognizes that Luke is strong with the force, and claims to know the location of the Kaiburr Crystal. The crystal, which is hidden in a distant temple, allegedly amplifies the power of the force. Halla strikes a bargain with Luke and Leia that if they help her find the crystal, she’ll help them off the planet.
After a few misadventures and mishaps with the Imperials and locals, our heroes, along with Halla and a couple of natives, Hin and Kee, who are a species called the Yuzzem, set off to find the crystal. The tone is fairly dark, and made even darker by the presence of…cue the Imperial March…Darth Vader.
One of the things that always stuck with me, and this to Foster’s credit, was Splinter’s absolutely terrifying portrayal of Darth Vader. He was written with all the mystery and horror of the undead. Star Wars already had the masses debating on just what lay beneath that armor, but in Splinter, he was nothing short of a powerful specter. At least that’s how I perceived him in my young mind. The book’s cover really does a great job of conveying the fright Vader exuded, and capturing the essence of a key confrontation.
Now of course there’s piles of books that cover thousands of years, many contemporary novels on the Sith, The Old Republic, Tarkin, Palpatine, Han and Leia’a jedi twins, etc. etc…. The list goes on and on and on, and I’m sure my loyal, wonderful, force-wielding friends here at the Reporter will write about some of their favorites. I was strongly compelled to share my experience of Splinter of the Mind’s Eye, for it left such a huge imprint on my earliest memories of Star Wars. That cover pictured above forever impacted my view of Darth Vader.
It’s not the greatest book in the universe, and not even the greatest Star Wars book, but it’s definitely a worthy read, and a great trip back into early Star Wars lore. Oh, I almost forgot to mention – Dark Horse did a graphic novel adaption in 1996. I don’t own it, but I’ve thumbed through it. It incorporates a few more well-known characters than the novel. It’s fun.
Whether the graphic or straight novel version, give it a go! It sparked my imagination back then, and helped fuel a creative fire that eventually led to the inception, creation, and publication of my own novel, which I’ll shamelessly plug here. It’s called Phate: The Cosmic Fairytale, and you can find its link just to the right of this column.
Without Star Wars, without a lifetime love affair of books, my own story never would have materialized.
Read, my friends. Despite the inundation and intrusiveness of today’s gadgetry, it’s still arguably the greatest form of escape (blasphemy, you say?!) When one reads a book, the story becomes one’s own; for who else sees things just as you do? With a book, it’s just you and your imagination.
So read on, and may the force be with you. Perhaps one day, some of you will have your own tales to tell. I’d love to read about them….