The First Ever 'Star Wars' Book Was A Complete Mess That Almost Ruined The Series

In an alternate universe where the Star Wars series wasn’t the catalyst for the explosion of nerd culture, George Lucas was contracted to have a low-budget sequel prepared to follow A New Hope, in case its returns were disappointing. He wrote a story about two of the original film’s heroes, Luke and Leia, getting stranded on a swamp planet. When Episode IV worked like gangbusters, he took the best pieces of this story and fit them in The Empire Strikes Back.

But Lucas wasn’t finished with his original story. Rather than have it be forgotten to time, he tapped science fiction author Alan Dean Foster to write the book that would kick off the Star Wars Expanded Universe, Splinter of the Mind’s Eye. The first Star Wars book is fascinating, in that it gives the world a glimpse into what could have been. In the original Star Wars novel, characters don’t act like themselves, tech that nerds have spent decades lusting over acts differently than it’s supposed to, and there are entirely new spellings for famous characters. Was Splinter of the Mind's Eye an actual fever dream? It's certainly not the Star Wars you're familiar with. 

In 2015, Lucasfilm took all of their Star Wars Expanded Universe stories and placed them under the banner of Star Wars Legends, as a way to both preserve the canon of the films, and provide an alternate universe that fans both new and old could enjoy. The Star Wars books and Star Wars comics that make up the Legends series might not be the Star Wars you remember; sometimes they’re spectacular pieces of science fiction that involve your favorite characters, and sometimes they’re utterly bananas stories like Splinter of the Mind’s Eye.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY

  • Luke Is A Total Jerk

    Luke Is A Total Jerk
    Photo: Dark Horse

    Luke has always been kind of a wiener. And when you compare him to literally every other main character in the Star Wars universe, you see how big of a baby he is. But, in Splinter of the Mind's Eye, he spends most of the book either acting like a bratty 12-year-old or bossing everyone around. In no particular order, he slaps Leia across the face, makes constant backhanded remarks about a variety of characters, complains about water a lot, and talks about his life on a desert planet like it was some kind of wealthy boy's boarding school. To clarify: he is the hero of this book. 

  • Luke And Leia Have Big Time Feels For Each Other

    Luke And Leia Have Big Time Feels For Each Other
    Photo: Dark Horse

    This is probably the strangest thing in the book, or at least the hardest to reconcile with the rest of the Star Wars canon. By now, you know that Luke and Leia are brother and sister, and while it's not revealed to the audience until Return of the Jedi, George Lucas opens the book with a forward where he brags about having a nine film saga planned out prior to the filming of A New Hope.

    Upon reading Splinter of the Mind's Eye, the reader immediately realizes that Lucas is full of it, or by "planned out" he meant that he figured there were probably nine stories to tell and he would get to them eventually. The fact that Lucas had oversight of Splinter and didn't tell the author Luke and Leia couldn't be a thing because of they were brother and sister, means Lucas was mostly making things up as he went along. 

    Just to really push this point home, there are multiple instances throughout the book where Luke and Leia have inner monologues about all their downstairs feels for each other. But there's really no better way to sell how Luke feels about Leia than this passage from the 2015 Legends paperback edition: "Even when bothered, to [Luke] that voice was as naturally sweet and pleasing as sugar-laden fruit." Gross, bro. 

  • Who's Got The Herb On Mimban?

    Who's Got The Herb On Mimban?
    Photo: Lucasfilm

    Before you guys draw conclusions about how big of a square Alan Dean Foster is, he wants the readers to know that he's a groovy '70s guy who has totally smoked a joint once or twice in his life. Pages 52 and 53 contain this very telling scenario that was definitely not written by a narc. See, upon entering a bar on Mimban, Luke can't breathe in the air as it's thick with a curious odor. "The princess chuckled, 'Too much for you fighter pilot?' ... 'Basically, I'm a country boy, Leia. I haven't had too much exposure to sophisticated entertainments.' She sniffed the air appraisingly. 'I wouldn't call these scents sophisticated.'" This Alan Dean Foster guy is a regular Cheech and/or Chong. 

  • Wait, Is Splinter Of The Mind's Eye All About Being Straight Edge?

    Wait, Is Splinter Of The Mind's Eye All About Being Straight Edge?
    Photo: Lucasfilm

    To add to the confusion as to where Alan Dean Foster stands on the issue of you being super cool if you use mind-altering substances, there's an alien race on Mimban referred to as "the  Greenies" who debase themselves for a simple taste of alcohol. Halla, the witch that guides Luke through most of the book, mentions that Greenies do whatever they're told for a drink. The scene the audience is treated to features a Greenie licking mud off of a miner's boot, so they're kind of the Charles Bukowski of alien races. 

  • Who The Eff Are "Artoo" And "Threepio"?

    Who The Eff Are "Artoo" And "Threepio"?
    Photo: Lucasfilm

    Admittedly, this is a minor quibble, but it's really weird and incredibly frustrating that Alan Dean Foster (the book's author) refuses to refer to R2-D2 and C-3P0 by the names they're credited with in A New Hope, and instead tries to phonetically spell out their names. What's up with that? Wasn't there a canonical decision on how their names would be spelled in 1978? Even if George Lucas didn't have a say in how their names were spelled (which he definitely did because he created them), isn't it easier to type R2 and 3P0 rather than "Artoo" and "Threepio?" Please, Star Wars, just give us a modicum of consistency.

  • Apparently, You Can Do Whatever You Want With A Lightsaber

    Apparently, You Can Do Whatever You Want With A Lightsaber
    Photo: Lucasfilm

    As unfortunate as it may be, lightsabers are a fictional technology that will never really exist. So, yeah, people who live in the fictional world where this fake light sword exists should be able to do whatever they want with them. But still, all the audience has ever seen a lightsaber do is be a sword.

    In Splinter, Alan Dean Foster explores all of the ridiculous (and kind of silly) possibilities of lightsabers when he has Luke pick a lock with the help of special setting on his saber, and in Chapter 7 Luke charges his antique weapon by connecting it to a modern Imperial blaster. There are definitely bigger sticking points in this book than the fake science backing up lightsabers, but you have to admit that it would have been nice if any of the stuff that happens in the book would have made it to at least one feature film.