Let’s all step into the Wayback Machine for a second, dear readers. We’re going back to 1976, when Alan Dean Foster, king of the movie novelization, was hired to ghost-write the novelization of an upcoming science fiction movie called Star Wars. Now, Foster actually had a big leg up in getting this novel out on time: he had access to George Lucas, he had access to early drafts of scripts and he knew where the movie was going. The novel (originally titled Star Wars: From the Adventures of Luke Skywalker and with a really smashing cover by RalphMcQuarrie) came out in November of 1976 and was actually very successful, selling out print runs several times long before the movie comes out in May of 1977. So, Alan Dean Foster gets another assignment: write us another novel for a potential sequel to Star Wars, in case the movie also does well. (Pause for hilarious, in retrospect, “if the movie does well.”) And that is where the beginning of the Expanded Universe comes in with Fosters’ Splinter of the Mind’s Eye.
Now, just to catch up some folks who don’t know this part of the Star Wars fictional universe, aside from the six movies (we’re only talking the prequels and the original trilogy, which is important in a second) there was a whole raft of comics and novels telling different stories set in the Star Wars universe for almost forty years. You had Timothy Zahn’s excellent series of post-Return of the Jedi novels with Luke and the Republic fighting against the remnants of the Empire, there were many stories in novels and comics about the backstory of the Republic or the long-ago wars against the Sith and so forth and so on. All of this was essentially made non-canon when the current series began with The Force Awakens, which is kind of a shame because there’s a lot of fun work in it. But Splinter, ah, this this where it all begins.
They obviously never made a movie out of Splinter, but you can see what direction Star Wars and the Expanded Universe was going to go. Foster, having been so immersed in this already, seems to have found it pretty easy to conjure another story of Luke and Leia and Vader set after the events of Star Wars (remember, no Empire Strikes Back yet). He builds on the events of that film for a rather charming little tale, even if later stories in the movies passed it by.
The tale, in short since it’s a pretty breezy adventure, is that Luke and Leia, after the events of the Battle of Yavin, are visiting a planet that’s still nominally part of the Empire but considering joining the rebellion. On the way there, they encounter mechanical problems, have to crash land on a supposedly uninhabited planet, discover an Imperial mining base, escape with the help of a woman named Halla who is apparently force-sensitive and tells them about a gem that focuses Force powers, they go off to find it, tussle with and befriend the natives, get into a battle with Imperials and ends in Luke battling Vader one on one and barely surviving.
While the story itself isn’t the greatest of shakes, what makes this novel really interesting is how it’s still in the “things are getting shaped” era of Star Wars. And there, oh my, we get into the one issue of this novel. There is a lot of Luke mooning over Leia and having romantic thoughts about her here. Possibly too much even if they hadn’t gone on to be revealed as brother and sister. Check this out:
The Princess pressed close against Luke. He tried to comfort her without appearing anxious, but as the darkness closed to a stygian blackness around them and the night sounds turned to sepulchral moans and hootings, his arm instinctively went around her shoulders. She didn’t object. It made him feel good to sit there like that, leaning against her and trying to ignore the damp ground beneath.
Something called out with an abyssal shrillness, startling Luke from his sleep.
Nothing moved beyond the dying fire. With his free hand he tossed several shards of wood onto the embers, watched the fire blaze again.
Then he happened to glance down at his companion’s face. It was not the face of a Princess and a Senator or a leader of the Rebel Alliance, but instead that of a chilled child. Moistly parted in sleep, her lips seemed to beckon to him. He leaned closer, seeking refuge from the damp green and brown of the swamp in that
He hesitated, pulled back. She was an aristocrat and Rebel leader. For all he’d accomplished above Yavin, he was still only a pilot and, before that, a farmer’s nephew. Peasant and Princess, he mused disgustedly.
His assignment was to protect her. He wouldn’t abuse that trust, no matter his own hopeless hopes. He would defend against anything that leapt out of the darkness,
crawled from the slime, dropped from the gnarled branches they walked under. He would do it out of respect and admiration and possibly out of the most powerful of
emotions, unrequited love.
He would even defend her from himself, he determined tiredly. In five minutes he was fast asleep…
That’s some Great Bird Of The Galaxy level stuff, folks. Try and read this one without leering, I swear.
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 move away a little. Proper, but not nearly so satisfying.
But hey, it’s 1978 and things are still being nailed down (it’s almost infamous now how much the names for R2-D2 and C-3PO varied when written down in the early
stories). Overall, this is a fun side-story for Luke and Leia. It’s certainly not canon anymore (thank goodness, because there’s some goofy Force stuff in here that’s not as bad as midichlorians, but it’s close) but it’s pretty damn enjoyable.