As today is Star Wars Day, I thought it the perfect time to take a look back at one of my favourite Star Wars tales – Splinter of the Mind’s Eye.

For those unfamiliar with this story, Splinter of the Mind’s Eye is an original novel (later adapted into a comic) set shortly after the events of the original Star Wars movie. Written by Alan Dean Foster and released in 1978 (less than a year after Star Wars) Splinter of the Mind’s Eye was at the time of publication, and for all intents and purposes, the first sequel to Star Wars.

Running across 300 pages, Splinter of the Mind’s Eye features Luke, Leia, C-3PO and R2-D2 (no Han or Chewie) and told as a self-contained story, is largely restricted to one location. The initial idea behind the book was to create a sequel that could effectively be turned into a budget-friendly film, should George Lucas take the Star Wars series beyond one movie.

Or at least, that was the plan.

By the time Splinter of the Mind’s Eye was published Star Wars was a huge hit and an official movie sequel was already given the go-ahead, giving the book just two years to capture readers’ imagination before The Empire Strikes Back arrived and effectively erased the book from continuity. However, in those two years Splinter of the Mind’s Eye built up quite a fan base, while introducing new characters along the way.

Once Empire hit cinema screens, the sheen of Splinter of the Mind’s Eye started to wear off and over time, as more movie sequels arrived, the book found itself downgraded somewhat. Today, some fans forget about it completely and others don’t really care for it at all.

The main problem?

It has a few pesky continuity errors that only surfaced once the Star Wars movie universe was expanded with sequels. However, that has not stopped it from retaining a special place in the hearts of some Star Wars fans – myself included.

The Expanded Universe – now known as Star Wars Legends – owe such a huge debt to this book and that’s something that should never be forgotten. Commenting on its legacy in the introduction to Splinter of the Mind’s Eye (2006 edition), Star Wars creator George Lucas, said:

“After Star Wars was released it became apparent that my story – however many films it took to tell – was only one of thousands that could be told about the characters who inhabit its galaxy. But these were not stories that I was destined to tell. Instead they would spring from the imagination of other writers, inspired by the glimpse of a galaxy that Star Wars provided. Today it is an amazing, if unexpected, legacy of Star Wars that so many gifted writers are contributing new stories to the saga. This legacy began with Splinter of the Mind’s Eye.”

Personally, I like Splinter of the Mind’s Eye because of its ‘what if?’ potential. As noted above, the book was originally written as a sort-of placeholder for a sequel – not necessarily a sequel that would be filmed, but a sequel nonetheless, so for me it offers a fork in the road where an alternate Star Wars universe could have easily been developed.

Most of the key ingredients are included (the hero, the princess, the villain) and those that aren’t (Han & Chewie) are surprisingly not missed. Yeah, I know that sounds like sacrilege, but hear me out.

Star Wars was very much Luke’s story and while Han and Chewbacca are of course great in the movie, and I love them in the sequels, back in ’77 it was entirely possible that they could be a one-time inclusion in the saga.

Again, going back to the ‘what if?’ potential of the book, it would be interesting to see a universe in which Han and Chewie moved on with their lives, separate to Luke and Leia. Then, at some point in the future their paths could intersect again.

No? Just me then.

What’s very interesting about Alan Dean Foster’s book is the influence it had on the Star Wars Saga. The main location, the swamp-like planet of Mimban is very similar to Yoda’s home, the Dagobah System, whilst Vader’s knowledge of how to temporarily deactivate the droids fits in with the Anakin/Threepio connection established in The Phantom Menace.

Of course, there is one big problem with the book and that is the burgeoning romance between Luke and Leia, who are later revealed in the movie sequels to be siblings. As noted, this book was written before the movie series introduced this idea, but this does now present a problem for this particular story.

Maybe just ignore this problem.

Splinter of the Mind’s Eye is not a sprawling epic and it does feel as if it is over before it has really begun, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t feel like a Star Wars story. New characters, such as Hin and Kee, the Yuzzem and the ruthless Imperial Officer, Captain-Supervisor Grammel fit neatly into the Star Wars world and the book provides an interesting side tale for fans.

If you pick up the book armed with the knowledge that this story has continuity issues, and you can accept them, then Splinter of the Mind’s Eye provides an interesting snapshot of the past, as well as a window into what could have been. Ultimately, Splinter of the Mind’s Eye offers a simple adventure that asks little of you but gives you plenty back in return – and isn’t that the foundations of what Star Wars was built on?

May the Fourth be with you. Always.