Splinter of the Mind's Eye is a classic Star Wars novel written by prolific novelist Alan Dean Foster. In addition to his own fiction, Foster wrote or adapted several Star Wars books, including The Approaching Storm and the novelization of The Force Awakens, as well as several Star Trek stories and other novelizations.
Splinter of the Mind's Eye takes place between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. Outside of the Marvel Comics adaptation and continuation of the events of the first film, it was the first original full-length expanded universe work and was published shortly after the release of the original movie in February of 1978.
Set two years after the events of the film that was, by now, subtitled, A New Hope, the plot features only Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, and Darth Vader as they jostle on the planet Mimban to find the Kaiburr crystal, a device that allows the user to greatly increase their Force powers.
The book was commissioned by George Lucas to be the basis for a potential sequel to Star Wars. Alan Dean Foster had ghostwritten the novelization of Star Wars: From the Adventures of Luke Skywalker, and just continued several of the characters' stories in Splinter of the Mind's Eye. He was simply instructed by Lucas to write the book based on some ideas that George threw at him at the time.
In light of this novel being intended as serving as the basis for a movie sequel to Star Wars, Foster made the decision to place his story on a misty jungle planet – intended to reduce set and background costs for a film adaptation. At the time, Lucas was simply hoping to break even on his space opera and get to do a low-budget follow-up. That's also why Han and Chewie don't appear. Ford's contract meant he might not be around for future installments and without Han, why would Chewbacca be there? It made budgetary sense to cut them.
Is a misty jungle planet familiar to anyone?
Hits and Misses
According to Foster, Lucas's only request upon inspecting the first draft was the deletion of a space dogfight featuring Luke and Leia before they crash-landed on Mimban, which would have been effects-heavy and expensive to film. The blossoming romance between the two – one day to be revealed as siblings – was not cut, and is more than hinted at in Empire Strikes Back.
All that changed within a few days of Star Wars exploding onto the silver screen. When Star Wars ‘went global' Lucas had a lot more money to spend, so he changed story direction, asking author, screenwriter, and so-called “Queen of the Space Opera” Leigh Bracket to pen the much larger scope sequel. After her unfortunate death from cancer in 1978, Lucas tasked Lawrence Kasdan, who had finished the first draft of Raiders of the Lost Ark, to do rewrites.
In terms of the old canon timeline, The Empire Strikes Back makes no reference to the book's plot. Technically, it could serve as canon and perhaps more so than recent efforts in the expanded Star Wars universe. That said, the ending features Luke cutting off Vader's arm – a scene that is reversed in The Empire Strikes Back. Officially, it is part of the Star Wars Legends canon – books that now form a sort of Elseworlds in the Lucasfilm universe.
With that in mind, it's probably best just to count this story as a good yarn about Star Wars.
In the new Star Wars canon, rebooted by Disney just prior to The Force Awakens, the planet Mimban does pop up in Solo: A Star Wars Story – young Han Solo is stationed there as a Mud Stormtrooper.
Splinter of the Mind's Eye is regarded by many Star Wars fans as a classic story in the franchise and it's still a popular read today. It has been reissued several times over the years and can still be found in paperback. In 1995, it was the basis for a 4-issue comic book series.
You can pick up a copy of the reissued Splinter of the Mind’s Eye from Amazon or your local independent bookstore.