Sunday, October 30, 2011

Splinter of the Mind's Eye: The Review

Splinter of the Mind's Eye was the first ever EU book, coming out only a year after the first movie came out. This book came out before I was even born and this was the first time I'd read it. This means I have been avoiding reading this book for my entire life until Push made me after she thought up this EU book club idea and said we weren't allowed to skip this one.

Interesting bit of trivia I found while researching this: this book was written originally as a possible low-budget sequel if Star Wars wasn't successful. That is why Han isn't in it - Harrison Ford never signed a contract for multiple movies - and why it all takes place on one stupid planet with pretty limited action or big-budget elements. Other unfortunate fact: Obviously this occurs before anyone had any idea that Luke and Leia were siblings, so expect ickiness throughout.

I first discovered the existence of Star Wars books when I was sixteen, and there were plenty of EU novels already out there to choose from. But the ones I read all took place after the movies. If I didn't buy them myself I'd borrow them from my cousin who already had the ones that had come out, mostly nice, fat hard covers. Then one day I noticed a small little paperback with Luke, Leia and Vader on the cover. "Is this book any good? When does it happen?" "Oh, that one is after the first movie. It's... kind of weird." "Is Han Solo in it?" "No." "Okay, I don't care, then."

So, a synopsis. Luke and Leia are flying near Mimban and wind up crash landing. They are both in separate vessels, Leia with Threepio and Luke with Artoo (just about the only thing that actually makes sense or resembles what Star Wars usually is). They wind up wandering around until they find a mining town and steal some clothes to look like miners. Some creepiness ensues right away with changing clothes in front of each other, or at least pretending to look away.

They have to spend a night in the woods which requires the building of a fire and... wait, I threw up a little in my mouth... sleeping in each other's arms. Luke has lots of un-brotherly thoughts about the sister he doesn't yet know about.

They wind up in a bar to get some food and an Imperial comes and starts asking them some questions. Luke tells him that Leia is his servant. At some point during this exchange for some reason Luke finds it necessary to slap Leia across the face. Yep, he hits her. I still can't figure out exactly what he was hoping to accomplish there and it just comes out of nowhere. Eventually the Imperials leave them alone and this old woman, Halla, comes over and starts talking to them when she senses that Luke is a Force-user. She takes out the Kaiburr crystal which magnifies and focuses the Force. She only has a small piece of it and it is agreed that if Luke and Leia help her find the rest she will help them get off planet. Apparently they don't have Han's number on the Falcon to call him so he can come pick them up.

Upon exiting the bar, Leia kicks Luke in the shins to make up for his slapping her - which I don't think at all makes them even. And then she just quickly goes, "No hard feelings?" Oh, yeah, sure, that makes it okay to slap a woman. It doesn't end there though, as for some reason they start fighting in the mud. Now they're eleven I guess or something, being brother and sister fighting in the mud. Because, you know, that will never draw unwanted attention. Oh, but wait, that backfired because they are noticed and arrested by Imperials.

Once they are in jail they get questioned some more and Leia takes another beating from the supervisor. She gets kicked around some and then he threatens to punch her before Luke finally admits that she means something to him and he doesn't want to see her get hurt. There is talk of an Imperial governor and Leia starts to have Vader and Tarkin interrogation flashbacks and is so overwhelmed that she.... faints. That sounds like the Leia you know, right? The crystal is confiscated and they are thrown in jail with some big, hairy aliens that might have killed them if Luke didn't communicate with them. One of these guys is named Hin. Maybe so we sort of feel like Han is in the book.

Halla helps them all escape and they get into a stolen vehicle to go where Halla believes the rest of the crystal is and they drive for literally days. They get attacked by some weird creature and all scatter, leaving Luke and Leia to escape by some floating thing in a lake, and they paddle and paddle and stay on the stupid thing for so long that they sleep... for twelve hours. When they finally go to get off the boat, Leia freaks out and Luke carries her like some damsel in distress with her eyes shut tight and she tells him she can't swim and is afraid of water. Yes, most princesses with privileged childhoods don't know how to swim. But the farm boy who grows up on the planet that is so dry that they have to farm water apparently has no problem with it.

Luke has to fight some Coway - think the weird South American guys by the City of Gold in Indy IV - in a sort of gladiator-esque match once they meet up again with Halla and the droids. Of course he wins (that's why we got a second movie) and then the Coway become their allies, much like the 180 with the Ewoks in Jedi from wanting to eat them to welcoming them to the tribe and helping them defeat the Empire.

Luke eventually senses Vader arriving, and he shows up with some other Imperials but the Coway help make the battle a bit tougher than anticipated and Vader winds up retreating. Yeah, that sounds normal, too. They make it to the temple where they think the crystal is. Rubble falls from the ceiling and hurts Luke and Vader shows up. So what now? Leia grabs his lightsaber and steps up. Somehow, randomly, she apparently knows how to spar well enough against a Sith as powerful as Vader and avoids getting her arm and/or head sliced off.

She does not, however, do well enough to prevent Vader from getting a few hits in, mostly slicing away portions of her clothes. This definitely reminded me of one of the few things I recall about Episode II - the part where Padme's shirt is gratuitously ripped perfectly at the bottom to expose her midriff. As if I needed another reason to lose complete respect for the prequels.

Leia is fairly badly injured and Luke finally steps up and takes over, somehow not only holding his own but cutting off Vader's arm. What is it with Jedi and arm severing? Vader falls into a pit and Luke has to use the crystal to heal a badly wounded - and dangerously overexposed - Leia and of course they make it out alive.

There is.... so much wrong with this book. It's hard to even know where to begin. For starters, the two main characters? They're not Luke and Leia. You'll never convince me that they are, and for so many reasons. Leia goes back and forth between acting all high and mighty to acting like a helpless little girl, needing the big strong man to keep her warm at night and carry her over the water because she's so scared. She flips out at the memories of her torture on the Death Star and she cries a whole bunch even though seeing her own home planet destroyed in the movies didn't seem to give her cause to shed tears.

And the swimming thing. You know, in some form of EU it is implied that each one of these characters can't swim, except they are all contradictory as to which one. Here, Leia can't swim but Luke can. In the Han Solo Trilogy, Han can't swim until she-who-must-not-be-named teaches him. In the Marvel comics it's Luke who can't swim and Han and Leia have no problem with it. Of all the characters it makes the most sense to me that Luke wouldn't be able to swim. I mean, aside from the fact that there is no water on Tatooine, I also doubt Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru were taking him to the Y for swim lessons. I'm sorry, but a princess growing up in a well-to-do family would know how to swim.

Luke is all self assured and confident and just nowhere near the insecure farmboy we knew in ANH. He's running the show and Leia is following along. Maybe Leia wouldn't completely lead the mission in something like this, but I'd think they'd at least operate as equals. And for gods' sakes, Luke, stop thinking about your sister like that! Our only consolation is that they do not kiss. He gawks at her in her sleep and gets disappointed when she doesn't change clothes in front of him, apparently. None of his thoughts or dialogue really sound like Luke to me. Plus, I'm sorry, I really don't think that Luke would ever slap Leia, even if they were supposedly playing these little roles. Just... no.

The book is generally written well - as in the author knows how to nicely string together sentences and paragraphs - but other than that, it has pretty much no redeeming qualities. There was not a single moment that made me smile or made me think I was seeing an example of a good moment for these characters I usually enjoy so much. The characterizations are scary bad. They don't speak or act anything like the people I know from the movies. The story itself is just plain boring. It's probably the shortest complete book in the entire EU and it moves slow. The beginning takes forever with Luke basically just wondering where Leia is after she crashed. Then it is another eternity of camping for no other reason than making sure that they have to sleep together (in the literal sense, not like sleep together) and Luke can think about how she isn't hesitating when touching him or wrapping her arms around him.

Then they're in the bar forever. Then they fight in the mud for no reason and go to jail where Leia can get kicked around some more. Then they drive for days. I think we can all be eternally grateful that Star Wars was the success that it was and this atrocity was not made into a cheap sequel.

Another obvious, glaring problem? No Han! I'll admit it is not 100% required for Han to be in a book in order for me to like it, as evidenced by Shadows of the Empire (which we will read in a few weeks). But if you're leaving him out, you better write a damn good book for me to be interested. And this is definitely not it. Han is mentioned literally once when Luke thinks about how he and Han were the ones who rescued her. Other than that, neither one ever thinks or speaks of him. Apparently in this book he really did high-tail it out of there after the award ceremony to pay off Jabba and go back to smuggling and sleeping around.

Luke and Leia, without much or any lightsaber training, don't have much trouble facing Vader in a duel. Sure. Let's leave out the fact that by now Vader would've known that those two were his kids, but it also gets distracting when they keep referring to Luke's lightsaber as "his father's lightsaber." It just makes you see again why this book should be burned and we should pretend it doesn't exist in much the same way the powers that be pretend there was never any Star Wars Holiday Special.

And maybe it was just because my reading comprehension was low on this one due to being in denial at just how bad it was but I didn't care about the story in the slightest. There was a crystal and they were trapped and they went to jail for some reason and then Vader showed up out of nowhere but first lots of random alien creatures attacked them... it just had no cohesive narrative. Or none that I picked up.

I've read most of the EU books. There are a few that I've strongly disliked and one or two that I hated. But even in those books I've never been able to bring myself to deny that there might have been one or two things in there that I liked. Maybe one little kiss between Han and Leia or even one lousy little sentence about one or both of them that I liked. This book has no redeeming qualities. It's not even in the "so bad it's good" category. To foreshadow a bit, I really, really didn't like The Crystal Star. The book takes place much later, after they have the kids and they're kidnapped and weird stuff happens.

I promised myself I'd never have to read that book again (but Push is making me) but if someone I knew decided they wanted to read the EU books I'd still tell them they should read it just to understand what it was about and why it was so weird. And there are probably a few little things in it I enjoyed, although I can't remember. Wait, I think at one point Han at least goes to great lengths to try and save Leia. There is nothing in this book that I could say, "Yeah, you should at least read it for that." You should do yourself a favor and not bother.

So, this makes rating the book pretty easy. I'm seriously giving it a zero. I mean, on the Han and Leia scale, the woman in it is not Leia and even if she was she seems to have completely forgotten that Han existed and you can't blame her since the book treats him like he doesn't exist. Any and all incestuous sexual tension happens between Luke and Leia, or at least the fake Luke and Leia in this book. I guess the only good thing I can say about this book is that it was short!


  1. Okay, so there's this thing I do when I read these EU books, Zyra knows about it. I put little post-it note tabbies on the pages that I like that have something nice (usually all Han/Leia but there have been other 'tabby worthy' scenes/dialogue). This way at a quick glance I can tell if I liked alot about that particular book. So anyway, this book garnered 38 tabbies but only 5 were for things that I somewhat liked and that's even a stretch. Thirty-three tabbies for each horrific thing I found in this book. But really, as Zyra stated, the entire book is one gigantic icky tabby.

    Leia is written so out of character, Luke, too but Leia bothers me much more. She acts like a spoiled brat and is very unprofessional. At one point she tells this to Luke" “…That’s what originally drew me to the Alliance, not politics. Politically, I was probably almost as naïve as you.” Um, what? You were a're father was a Senator before you. How could you be naive in politics?

    What made this book worse is that timeline-wise it follows Choices of One, where Leia was acting so much like, well, Leia. The story line is non-existent and yes, I have to agree with Zyra, that you should just really skip it and you won't miss anything.

    The worse thing, I think, besides the author's obsession with telling us how often Luke liked to think about Leia inappropriately, is how often he had Leia hit or beaten up. The slap from Luke came out of nowhere. It was before they even started their "servant girl" cover. Leia was just standing up to leave the bar because she felt uncomfortable and this ensued: “I said I’m leaving, Luke.” Nervous, she started to turn and leave.
    Without realizing what he was doing, he reached out, slapped her hard across the face, and as heads turned in their direction said loudly, “No favors for you until I’m finished eating!”

    I can't. I just can't fit all that I hated about this book in these comments. I guess that's enough for now, but I reserve the right to rant more if I feel the need.

    Han/Leia factor: ZERO.

  2. Rant more! Let it have it! I know you have more than that.

    I'm actually most curious to hear what you could've possibly liked about this book.

  3. Ok, this would explain every time I look at this book, I just can't bring myself to read it. I read it a long time ago of course.

    One giant, icky tabby, Push? That's funny. I like to tab books as well. Reminders of phrases and writing that I liked.

  4. I had seen a couple of frames from a comic version where they were sleeping next to each other or something and Luke said something creepy. After flipping through the actual book, I decided against spending any money on it, and I'm glad I didn't. It sounds like an awful mess of...awful.

    And lol, I can't imagine Luke slapping anyone, let alone Leia.

  5. I think Splinter's interesting, as a piece of SW history. I don't love the story, the whole idea of Luke dueling Vader and actually winning even BEFORE Yoda is a joke, and yes, everyone's OOC. But I'm glad Lucas hasn't completely erased it from existance, just because it's a part of the formation of the EU...however much of a WEIRD one, and it's interesting to see how the galaxy has changed!

  6. Okay, here are the few things that I liked:

    This from Luke about Leia: To his knowledge, being embarrassed was not something she was subject to.

    This from Leia, sad, but I liked it. So few authors allow her to remember Alderaan: “I saw my whole world, several million people, destroyed,” she responded with chilling matter-of-factness. “Nothing mankind does surprises me anymore, except that anyone could still be surprised by it.”

    And these two quips from Leia directed at the Supervisor/Captain that captured she and Luke: “Your manners are probably matched only by your incompetence,” the Princess told him. -AND- “That’s funny,” noted the Princess, “because you strike me as having a particularly limited capacity for learning.”

    This from Leia to two Imperial Guards that are bragging about the Empire's ability to cut corners: “The Empire is smart enough to save where it is able,” he concluded with pride.
    “That probably extends to your pay and retirement benefits,” the Princess ventured maliciously.

    This again, Leia having haunted memories of Alderaan: She turned memory-haunted eyes on him. “Maybe I’ll tell you someday, Luke. Not now. I’m not…I haven’t forgotten enough. If I told you I might remember too much.”

    That was it. I'll rant some more tonight! I do have a few particular things that I want to point out. :-)

  7. OK since I actually read this from the library when it first came out, and bought it when I could afford to, and still own that 30+ year old paperback, I feel I have to locate something redeeming in this book. aside from the whole, "there was no EU back then so this was the best I could get" thing.

    Aside from the bit where she gets kicked around, and faints; I sort of enjoyed Leia mouthing off to the Supervisor, that was the closest to the real Leia that I saw in this book.

    And I have to admit I found the Yuzzum really fun to have around. Way less annoying than, say, JarJar Binks. Actually looking back I suppose they were substitutes for having Chewie around.

    Um... there's a cute bit where Artoo hot wires a crawler. And... um... that's about it.

    OK, ok. it sucks. I definitely recall being mad that there was no Han in it, even back then. I always did think Luke was a whiner. And I thought it made no sense whatsoever for Luke, from the desert planet, to know how to swim when Leia didn't. and can I just mention that the ameoba thing that tries to eat them on the lake is about the most useless monster ever?

    OK, my turn to rant is over now. :-)

    Oooo, oooo. Here's a little bit of trivia for you: I can't remember at the moment where I read this, but somewhere in the vast EU someone thought to account for the whole Luke and Leia beating up on Vader thing. The official explanation is that it wasn't actually the real Vader. Seems like the Emperor secretly made a few Vader clones to see what would happen and this one went rogue.

    See, it totally all makes sense now.

  8. I haven't read this book, but it sounds really awful. I can't believe you made it through the whole thing. Truthfully, there's a lot of the EU that probably fits that category! I thank you for doing all this leg work to get the "good parts" out of so many, many books.

  9. You have pointed out some "feisty Leia" moments that I guess didn't register, but I do agree that they at least sound like the Leia we all know and love. Historyland, you're welcome that we saved you from bothering to read this! It is probably good that we are taking the time to go through and find the good Han and Leia parts in these books. It was high time someone did it, and it's tough to be the ones to do all the work, but someone had to!

    Emperor made Vader clones? That is just about the only reasonable explanation aside from the book just being entirely a dream Luke had.

  10. It's going to bug the daylights out of me now till I figure out where I read it. I think it's one of the Fate of the Jedi books because I read most of them on the nook using the "get bored with all the Grand Master Jedi/Evil Sith Gang/Annoying Ben Skywalker stuff and use that convenient search button to locate the next time "Leia" appears and start reading again" method. and it was something like, "yes, Leia and I encountered one of those clones on Mimban many years ago" as if Luke knew this all along.

  11. Oh, Julz, that sounds really, really familiar! I guess we'll find it as we continue on our journey, but I think you're right - I def think I read something like that along the way somewhere.

    Okay, more ranting. So, how big/small is this universe when the Captain/Supervisor calls his Imperial Governor and says he has a male and female human in custody and the Imperial Governor asks: “…Would she be dark-haired, fiery-tempered, perhaps a touch sarcastic?” ... AND .... BOOM! He identified Leia Organa. Really? That was ... was ... a little too easy. Right?

    This book was also pretty violent. There was one part where the captain supervisor literally gouges one of the miners eyes out and the author mentions bloody pulp or something and it's pretty gross. I mean, there's violence in all of these books, but I thought this one had a good share of it in a different way.

    This wasn't described particularly gory, but I know how Zyra loves how many people lose their hands in Star Wars so, here it is: Off came a hand, cut and cauterized neatly at the wrist, to land in the mud and lie there smoking slightly.

    Then the Captain/Supervisor (after gouging that guys eyes out) asks Leia this: “How would you like your pretty tongue burnt out with a low-power blaster?” and you totally believe that he would.

    Even Leia seems a little violent when she says this about getting a shot at Vader: “Just give me one clear shot at Vader,” the Princess snarled, her hands tightening on the rifle stock. The hatred that flamed in those eyes belonged on a much less fragile face. “Save that one chance, I ask nothing of life.” Really? She wants NOTHING in life but to shoot Vader down in cold blood? Doesn't sound like the humanitarian from peaceful Alderaan. I think she wants to bring Vader down, but I just don't see her saying this and bringing Vader down isn't the ONLY thing she wants.

    And then later, while she and Luke are witnessing the barbaric killing of the wounded Imperials, Luke expresses his horror at the sight and Leia says this: “I’m sorry, Luke,” she told him gently, “but there’s very little in this universe that rises above the mean and petty. Maybe the stars themselves. Come,” she urged him with a cheering smile, “let’s find Hin and Kee and Halla and the ‘droids and celebrate.” Now, I can see that Leia has seen a lot and it might not be a shock to her, but I don't think she would be THIS jaded. IDK. Just the "let's go celebrate" was a bit much for me.

    And then, this actually weirds me out when I read this threat from Darth Vader: “Yes,” Vader observed, perverse amusement in his voice, “I can see that you do. I am truly sorry I have nothing as elaborate to treat you to at this time. However,” he added, swinging his weapon lightly, “one can do some interesting things with a saber, you know. I’ll do my best to show you all of them if you’ll cooperate by not passing out.” What kind of "interesting things" is he talking about here? I feel like I took a wrong turn into one of 'those kinds' of fanfics. You know? ::SHIVER::

    Okay. I still have all the inappropriate Luke/Leia moments to point out. That'll be next. Is it wrong to dedicate this much time to a book that sucked so badly???

  12. Oh, and I forgot. The 'kill me if we don't get out of this' request from Leia to Luke: “Promise me that out of any feeling you have for the Rebellion, out of any feeling you might have for me, that you’ll put that saber at your hip to my throat.”

    And this actually made me laugh. Luke is about to go fight to his death and Leia says this: “You must win, Luke,” the Princess said. “If I don’t attend that meeting of the underground on Circarpous eventually, our absence is likely to keep them from ever considering joining the Alliance.” Luke: "Gee, thanks for worrying about me, Leia. See ya on the other side..."

    And then this when Luke wants to steal clothes so they won't stick out: “Steal?” the Princess objected, drawing herself up. “From a possibly honest shopkeeper? If you think for a minute that a former Princess of the royal house of Alderaan, a Senator, is going to resort to-” So, later in the book she wants to murder Vader in cold blood and the mutilation of wounded Imperials doesn't bother her, but she won't steal an outfit? Okay.... as long as she has her priorities straight.

    Okay. I've got to stop for now.

  13. Nah, nothing wrong with that, Push. Lol, on the fanfic comment.Looking forward to the Leia/Luke rant myself.

  14. I feel like I've beaten up this book enough, but I did promise the icky Luke parts. Here are a few:

    …whenever he looked at her, the other caused emotions to boil within him like soup too long on the fire…

    Luke treasured those moments when she forgot her station and titles. He dreamed of a time when she might forget them forever. (Not awful really and it's surprising (or maybe it isn't) how many of these I wouldn't mind hearing from Han's POV! This is def one of those.)

    Even when bothered, to him that voice was as naturally sweet and pleasing as sugar-laden fruit.

    As he unlatched her seat he became conscious of the confined space they were working in. Awkwardly pressed up against him, the Princess seemed to take no notice of their proximity. In the dampness, though, her body heat was near palpable to Luke and he had to force himself to keep his attention on what he was doing. (Icky)

    Luke stealing admiring glances at her when she wasn’t looking. Disheveled and caked with mud from the waist down, she was still beautiful.

    Moistly parted in sleep, her lips seemed to beckon to him. (Oh, please no)

    Shortly, Luke was able to turn and study her approvingly. Her simple, worn suit was a bit snug, but otherwise looked quite natural on her.

    Luke felt the warmth of the body next to him, lowered his gaze. Framed in the faint light from above, the Princess looked more radiant, more beautiful than ever. “Leia,” he began, “I…” (I really wonder what he planned on saying here, I mean I don't want to know, but then I do.....)

    At the same time, the Princess grew aware of how tightly she was clinging to him. Their proximity engendered a wash of confused emotion. It would be proper to disengage, to more away a little. Proper, but not nearly so satisfying. (Blech)

    For a moment they lay like that, suspended in time. Then their eyes met with a gaze that could have penetrated light-years. (Seriously, have you had enough?)

    Slowly Leia’s mouth moved, formed a name. But no sound issued from between those perfect lips.

    Okay, seriously, that's enough. Wow. I'm sure there are more, but even reading those all lumped together like that is a bit disturbing. I'm so glad to be reading ESB now.

  15. Ugh. Nothing like a little ickiness to start the day.