Monday, May 23, 2005

Splinter of the Mind's Eye - Alan Dean Foster

...I was about to put a spoiler warning here, but given this is set in the Star Wars universe, you all know how it turns out anyway.

Being something of a squealy fangirl, seeing Revenge of the Sith pushed all the fangirl buttons and sent me on another little Star Wars tizzy. I say 'little' because I'm not exactly swimming in Star Wars paraphenalia. Have the videos of the first remake of the original three (Han shot first!), Knights of the Old Republic on Xbox, and two books. I couldn't read Sean William's book, because it's the first of three. That left me with this one.


The crapitude factor contained within this book is astronomically high, and what makes it all the more worse is that it's that special sort of crap that I just couldn't put down.

Set between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back (you know for years I thought it was The Emperor's Striped Back) it follows Luke and Leia as they crash on a supposedly uninhabited planet, only to find it crawling with Imperial guards (surprise). An absolutely cookie-cutter plot device character called Halla finds them out, and pulls them off to find the Kaiburr crystal, which has special Force properties.

This was before the entirety of the Skywalker family tree was revealed, and so Luke spends a ridiculous amount of time lusting after Leia. At the most ridiculous moments. For instance, they've just been chased by a 'wandrella' the size of a train, and have jumped down a bottomless well to escape it. They're standing on a narrow ledge and the beastie has its head stuck down the well, sniffing around.

Luke felt the warmth of the body next to him and lowered his gaze. Framed in the faint light from above, the Princess looked more radient, more beautiful than ever. "Leia," he began, "I..."

And then you have moments like this:

Now Luke rolled clear and came to a panting stopon her chest. For a long moment they lay like that, suspended in time. Then their eyes met with a gaze that could have penetrated light-years.

Like a missile launcher sighting on its prey, his eyes contacted hers. There was a brief, silent explosion before she looked hurriedly away.

I wasn't expecting the most wonderous prose in the world, but I laughed out loud a lot more than I should have, and at all the wrong moments.

The characterisation for Leia was entirely off. She went from a strong leader to a petulant, brattish, whining little, well, princess. Somewhere, she learned how to do fly kicks, and despite feeling so strongly about the Rebellion, about the evil of the Empire and how Vader needs to be STOPPED, she says "Oh, darn," when she fails to snipe the Dark Lord himself.

Ah yes, Darth Vader. I think this book might have been salvagable if he hadn't shown up. It isn't fair to judge this one story within the entire context of the Star Wars universe, but I am. Luke and Darth's first meeting should have been on Cloud City, and only Cloud City. Having them meet, dual, and Luke actually win, on Mimban, is not good story telling. I mean, hell, if Luke beat him once, he can do it again, right? He even chopped Vader's arm off! By doing so, Darth Vader loses all his credibility. He's no longer the unstoppable force of evil, the great villian that he needs to be.

Ludicrously amusing metaphors, jumping point of view, total lack of any depth to the one original character, a whole lot of random encounters with ugly beasties, and Darth Vader gets his buttocks kicked. It's horrible, and yet so very good.

Verdict: You should all go and read this book. Now. Go on, it'll make you laugh.


  1. Anonymous23/5/05 04:34

    Was this even meant to be in the official SW continuity, though? I always thought it was meant to be a sort of alternative sequel to "Empire", written in isolation from the story arc Lucas was developing, so I've always regarded it as just an interesting little experimental aside to the main series, like Marvel's various what-ifs and parallel continuities. I remember reading an article that Foster wrote on Return of the Jedi that seemed to reinforce that impression.

    I know what you mean about some of the writing and the storyline - it reads like Foster came up with a generic sci-fi adventure and shoehorned a few Star Wars references into it.

    (In fact, if they'd taken out Luke, Leia, Vader and the droids out, and written it as a story about two newly-introduced Rebel officers on a new mission of their own, it would still have worked at the time and be a lot more readable now.)

    I have to say that for all the dodginess in it, though, there are some images that stay with me: the alien being made to lick the miner's boot clean, Grammel gouging out the prisoner's eye, the Yuzzem...


  2. Anonymous23/5/05 04:43

    Biggest moment of dodginess, for me? Vader getting ready to torture Leia in the ruined temple. There's a moment where he's walking forward, playfully slicing at bits of stonework with his sabre, and saying something to Leia like "I'm sorry I don't have the equipment I had when we last met, but you can do some very interesting things with a sabre, you know, if you'll oblige me by not fainting". That is NOT Vader talking. Even with just the first film to go on, he was focused and businesslike: even with lines like "I find your lack of faith disturbing" he was working to cow the other person, not amuse himself. He wasn't gleeful.

    On the other hand, something that Lucas should have paid attention to: the Coway. The scene where the Coway, whose tech is about on a level with the Ewoks', ambush and trash an Imperial taskforce, works where the Ewoks just don't, because Foster has convincingly built up the Coway as capable fighters. They may only have stone axes and sticks, but they're fighting on their own turf and they're tough as fucking nails. They scared me, and I was only reading about them. The Coway were what the Ewoks should have been.

  3. I only did the one read up on the history of the book, and it didn't tell me much, other than that mild excuse for all the not-quite-believable URST between Luke and Leia. For me, I'm going to pretend that the book has nothing to do with the actual Star Wars universe, because the universe is better off without it.

    And I agree about Vader's portrayal. Did you see the Star Wars fan films at Conflux? They got Vader wrong as well. He doesn't gloat, or threaten, or go on about how kick arse he is, because he doesn't need to. Vader, as a bad guy, has a fair amount of dignity when standing over his enemies.

    You're right about the Coway and Ewoks. I never believed the Ewok's victory, especially when it came to the rock throwing. The stormtroopers were wearing helmets, after all.

    They never did say exactly how they were going to get off Mimban either...

    Still, for all that I tear it apart, I did have fun with the book. May I be forgiven for my sins. :P

  4. Anonymous23/5/05 06:35

    I know the crap you're talking about. A little birdie told me it was called "The DaVinci Code". All that I could tell myself reading the book was, "I hate this book, I can't stand it, why am I still reading it at 3 pages a minute?"

  5. Da Vinci Code. I'm a Templar historian, don't even GET me started on that piece of unmitigated naff.

    As for the other. I'm sorry, but all I have to say is: "Ewwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww." *shudders*

    I don't care when it was set. Still.... "Ewwwwwwwwwwwww."

    See this is why you should never separate twins at birth. There's just too many ewky possibilities there.

  6. PS Matthew, I still have your stuff. Don't worry, I haven't stolen them, nor have I forgotten them. Email me your snail address, I lost it, sorry! :-)