Splinter Of The Mind's Eye (Alan Dean Foster)
Splinter Of The Mind's Eye concerns Leia and Luke's relationship post New Hope. After crash landing on the jungle world of Circarpous V, they must search for the Kaiburr crystal in order to keep it out of Vader's hands. This aspect of the plot is simple but effective, adding Darth Vader to anything is usually a good idea, and at least they aren't trying to stop yet another super weapon or something. The author uses the all new setting to introduce new creatures to threaten our heroes with. The creatures are mostly interesting, however the encounters with the wildlife of Circarpous got somewhat old by the end, probably around the time when a tribe of Ewok-esque warriors defeat the Empire in ridiculous fashion. The author also introduces some very awkward sexual tension between Luke and Leia. Although it wasn't seen as such when the novel was published (after A New Hope but before Empire Strikes Back), in retrospect these scenes are very weird and hurt the novel's credibility, at times reading more like ambitious fan fiction as opposed to a licensed story. There is also a duel between Vader and Luke at the end of the novel. The action itself is well written, if HIGHLY implausible once you consider the outcome when Luke and Vader duel in Episode V. Luke manages to defeat Vader somewhat easily, which is a sharp contrast to the events of Episode V, where Luke is soundly beaten by Vader. Other inconsistencies like Halla, the force sensitive hermit, being unable to sense any force sensitivity in Leia (not the fault of the author), and Vader claiming that Luke was the one that shot down his fighter in the battle of Yavin IV (author's error) further hurt the novel's entertainment value.
Luke and Leia suffer greatly from the misguided sexual tension that colors the novel. They are also portrayed as being somewhat stupid, the way they are imprisoned by the Imperials is absolutely unbelievable and completely out of line with what we would expect of them even after the first movie (spoiler alert: they randomly mud wrestle outside of a bar, directing attention to themselves and subsequently getting arrested by the Imperials). The author took these characters in a much different direction then what Lucas would ultimately choose, and the inconsistencies of these characters when compared to their actions in Episodes V and VI, and the other novels, are inconsolable. Vader is also given somewhat of a weird character, mostly due to some very odd sounding dialogue during the climactic battle. Two of the strangest lines are "Come girl-woman...amuse me." and "I am truly sorry I have nothing elaborate to treat you to at this time However, one can do some interesting things with a lightsaber, you know. I'll do my best to show you all of them if you'll cooperate by not passing out." Lines like the above are more in line with a villain in a children's movie, and do not even begin to sound right when imagined in Vader's iconic voice. Among the new characters, Halla is probably the standout. A force sensitive hermit (but lacking the power and training of an Obi-Wan Kenobi) Halla serves as Luke's mentor during the course of this novel. Halla is an adequate character for this role, although her passive behavior during the final conflict left me wanting, she played virtually no role in repelling Vader and that was somewhat disappointing. Hin and Kee, two Yuzzem being held captive by the Empire, don't anything to the story, the only thing we really know about them are that they are alien and very strong. Grammel, the Imperial ruler of Circarpous V, enters the story very powerfully, but, after a rather dramatic entrance, falls flat as he is manipulated by Luke, and reduced to easy subservience beneath Vader and an Imperial governor.
Dialogue and descriptive phrases are littered with sci-fi stock terms that aren't really appropriate in the Star Wars universe. They don't necessarily make the novel harder to read, it just seems out of place in a universe that now has so many modified or invented terms to itself. Strange descriptions of Vader's suit and lightsaber power functions are the worst results of this re imagining of the Star Wars universe, but at several points it just doesn't feel like Star Wars. This language is still effective at explaining settings and the like. One thing I didn't care for, was the fact that the author writes in several large passages of times to make the world of Circarpous V feel more expansive. Instead, it just makes the novel feel incomplete. It left me wanting to know what happened during the days that were completely excluded, considering Hin and Kee were grossly underdeveloped, a scene or two during these days could've easily been devoted to fleshing out their characters, without really breaking up the pacing of the novel.
Splinter Of The Mind's Eye has aged very poorly, and inconsistent characterization, events that don't fit into Star Wars canon, and awkward dialogue give the novel entertainment value more so as a "what could have been" than as a worthwhile novel in its own right.