Lit The 181st Imperial Discussion Group: Splinter of the Mind's Eye!

Discussion in 'Literature' started by Grey1, Mar 1, 2013.

  1. Grey1 Host: 181st Imperial Discussion Group

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    This month, we continue our Alan Dean Foster extravaganza with the first spin-off novel ever using the Star Wars branding. Wizard!

    So, Splinter of the Mind's Eye is pretty curious little book. It's one of the first elements of EU ever created, but at the same time it's some kind of pre-EU creation, as well. Even a pre-saga creation, since it's doing its own thing and might look a bit superfluos next to The Empire Strikes Back.

    I'd like to start with a few general questions and ask for details later on:

    - Honestly, how does this hold up as a sort-of sequel to a blockbuster movie as huge as Star Wars? How much of the SW formula was kept? If the book doesn't stick to the formula enough, where do you see the fault - on Foster's side, who didn't "get" SW? Or do you think that there were too many limitations?

    - As for the characters, it's about Luke and Leia. Vader infamously returns, as well. Han and Chewie don't. Did this have anything to do with the Han backstory books that came out around the same time? If so, who invented the rule that you have to divide franchise characters between books (see the CW books that go out of their way to create a solo Obi-Wan adventure and a solo Anakin adventure)?

    - Historically, I think this book was a bit apocryphical (because of some elements colliding a bit with Empire and later developments) until Zahn conjured the SW tie-in revival. After spending some time in continuity, there was a pretty heavy retcon (Obi-Wan posessing Luke during the duel). What do you think about that? How do you enjoy revisiting an old source when your canon-focused mind knows that it's kind of outdated and "wrong" about what it shows?

    - And a bonus question for the first batch of starters... If you know the earliest comic books that were released right after the ANH adaptation, do you see any parallels in how the further adventures of Luke Skywalker were envisioned? Do you prefer one version over the other? If so, why?
  2. JediAlly Force Ghost

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    I remember reading this once. I think overall, I rate it as an acceptable novel. It's nowhere near Zahn's work like the Thrawn Trilogy, but then again, it's better than The Crystal Star in my opinion. [Waru fanatics - [face_talk_hand]]

    Wish I could say more, though.
  3. Gorefiend Chosen One

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    Ah the book that has some of the most fun implications about the galaxy that surprisingly did stick around, though always somewhat as a niece
    Female Stormtroopers, Imperials that really are just in it for the pay, regular Human Slavery in the Empire (by the Empire and private), an Empire that actually has to sort of justify itself to its member worlds and is mentioned as being deeply Anti Alien.


    Also it without doubt has one of the best dialogs in a SW novel ever.

    Luke: "You'd think the Imperial government could have invested some credit in modern quarters.”
    Imp: "Why, when the primitives of this world left us such useful structures?"
    Leia: "A temple, a place of worship, and it's been turned into offices and a prison.”
    Imp: "The Empire does what is necessary. I am told this mining is an expensive venture. The Empire is smart enough to save where it is able.”
    Leia: "That probably extends to your pay and retirement benefits.”

    :p
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  4. Grey1 Host: 181st Imperial Discussion Group

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    I like the bit where Luke and Leia start a good old mud fight. Perfect for being retconned into the subconscious need for some quality sibling time!

    JediAlly, don't you have the copy anymore, or don't you have the time to read it right now? Just curious.

    Speaking of old copies - here's another anecdote from Germany regarding SW literature: The book was originally released under the title of (translated back) "The new adventures of Luke Skywalker", went out of print, and when SW was a valuabe literature license again, they dug it up and release it again, this time titled "Skywalker's return". Wizard, eh? We Germans and our title translations.
  5. JediAlly Force Ghost

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    I have it, and I read it before. Definitely within the past year or two. I might skim it later and add more.
  6. Grey1 Host: 181st Imperial Discussion Group

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    Okay, since no-one's biting, here's one more thought, and it ties in with your observations, Gorefiend:

    - SotME does share some ideas about structure and content with the Lando books, especially Mind Harp. You have a backwater planet with an ancient civilization's remnants and technological/mythical marvels (especially crystals) as well as "harmless helpless natives". You see the working class side of things in the SW universe, but at the same time that troopers and security personnel become "normal people", they also become normal people with gray morality, following structures that SW paints in black and white. Then you have the backwater planet leader that is basically a brutal, greedy (and also fat) authority figure that gives authority a really bad name, and this authority also endorses police brutality. Enter the dark force-/magic-using menace that dwarfs the backwater boss. Where does this trend in early EU come from? Were the Lando books based more on the previous SW books than on the actual movies?
  7. Gorefiend Chosen One

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    Main constraint really is that it was meant as a potential low budget second SW movie and so totally lacks epic sets (though the Mining colony could potential be impressive), with the only one that would likely be hard to make being the underground cavern for the large battle scene. As on the SW formula, it has it as far as I am concerned, the Force is there, a fantasy like tale is also there, plus the element of the undergo fighting against evil.

    Wasn’t it uncertain at the time if Ford would return for another SW movie? So since it is based on a screen play for a second movie I would assume that being the reason he was not in it.
    It kind of makes sense as there really is no reason why Luke should be able to stand up to Vader in a duel without lightsabre training.

    [qoute]How do you enjoy revisiting an old source when your canon-focused mind knows that it's kind of outdated and "wrong" about what it shows?[/quote]

    It’s similar to reading the old Marvel comics when they were collected, some things are awesome, other simply don’t work, though there really was not that much in Mind’s Eye that struck me as unfixable wrong.

    Wasn’t there also a Comic adaptation of Mind’s Eye? Though yes as mentioned above it has a similar vibe to it as reading the old Marvel SW comics.


    Yep, though it seems to have been a popular pulp Sci-Fi theme at the time, although for me it actually works better with Lando because of his humor and cynicism about the whole thing, but that is likely do the characters it stars as, Luke is a heroic farm boy and Leia the princess.


    Yep it also always surprised me that many of the early sources went with the minions of the Empire just doing their job, whilst the movie clearly just had them as faceless (literally) goons. Stars End also has this happen with the Espos.


    I always figured it was a symbol of the time, Nixons reign and Vietnam ending, break down of older social hierarchies in many countries, severe economic crisis, whilst Sci-Fi would be insanely popular with the Moon Landings.

    I always figured that it came from ANH having two villains, Tarkin (who represents the bureaucracy out to suppress using the the terror of technology) and Vader (the Black Knight with magical powers)
  8. Grey1 Host: 181st Imperial Discussion Group

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    Well, look at that - if I'd use Twitter, I'd have known that we started our discussion exactly 35 years after the book's release. What are the chances?
  9. Iron_lord Force Ghost

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    That is one of the better bits, it must be said.

    Vader's taunting of Leia, and the hint that he has a disturbing taste for torture, fits well with the ANH novel, where Tarkin criticises Vader's methods are "rather quaint".
  10. krtmd Jedi Grand Master

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    Isn't that interesting?

    It was also posted on the SW Facebook page. I wonder who does those postings. It certainly seems to contradict the idea that LF doesn't care about the EU.
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  11. Dr. Steve Brule Force Ghost

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    As with the Han absence, wasn't this due to Foster being told he had to keep it all set on a planet to avoid any expensive space scenes if it had to be filmed as a TV movie sequel to Star Wars?

    Actually, what is the deal with that? I remember hearing that story for a long time, only to recently read claims that that wasn't the case at all - which kind of seems like the sort of historical revisionism Lucas is known to dabble in from time to time, IMO.

    And to take it that tangent further, maybe it could be fun to speculate how the saga might have proceeded if this had been the official sequel to Star Wars, rather than ESB? Disregarding the fact that if this had been the sequel, Star Wars would probably be a largely-forgotten one-hit wonder along the lines of THX-1138 or Silent Running - assuming this had been filmed as the official movie continuation of Star Wars, where do you see it going in terms of plot, character, tone of the setting, etc?

    I think that brings up another interesting question: what's the nature of apocrypha vs. canon in a setting with no real established continuity? Because really, prior to the WEG era, the various Star Wars spinoffs all existed in their own world. There's the case of Fondor spanning the daily strips, Han Solo trilogy, and Marvel comics, and the one Marvel issue that drew from the Holiday Special, but other than that that's really it. And even within the various 'properties' there's no real connection - the Han Solo trilogy doesn't reference Splinter, and the Droids series doesn't draw from the main Marvel series, for instance. So given that, does it really matter in that context if Splinter was apocryphal or not?

    And on the subject of Splinter retcons, the Kaiburr crystal has gone through some interesting twists and turns...although maybe I'm misremembering, but wasn't Obi-Wan's spirit possessing Luke in the novel itself?

    Honestly, I think Splinter for all of its technical faults is pretty much in line with the pre-WEG EU, in that it's based a lot more on fantasy and space opera and a 'wide open' universe, rather than the more categorized, standardized, and rationalized setting developed in WEG and continued through Bantam and Del Rey.
  12. Tim Battershell Force Ghost

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    But is SotME properly EU, or is it some form of G-canon?
  13. Iron_lord Force Ghost

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    p284-285:

    His voice held an unaccustomed hint of conviction. "I'm going to kill you, Darth Vader."
    That humorless laugh again. "What a high opinion you hold of yourself, Skywalker."
    "I'm ... I'm Ben Kenobi," Luke whispered in an odd way.
    For just a moment Vader seemed shaken. "Ben Kenobi's dead. I killed him myself. You are simple Luke Skywalker, an ex-farmboy from Tatooine. You are no master of the Force and the equal of Ben Kenobi you will never be."
    "Ben Kenobi is with me, Vader," Luke snarled, gaining confidence every second, "and the Force is with me too."
    "You do have something of the Force about you, boy," Vader admitted. "A master of it you are not, however. That dooms you. Only a master could do ... this."
    The Dark Lord lunged and Luke spun well clear. At the same time, Vader was staring not at Luke, but at the ground. A small fragment of the fallen ceiling rose, shot straight for Luke's head. Seeing it coming, he reacted as Kenobi had taught him ... without thinking.
    A much smaller stone lifted and intersected the path of the charging rock. The two met. Though Vader's missile was by far the large, it was eflected by Luke's rock to send it shooting past his shoulder.
    Panting, he stared challengingly back at Vader. "Good, boy," the Dark Lord confessed, "very good. But my stone was the heavier. My powers are the stronger."
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  14. Blur Force Ghost

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    Great thread. Cool that it began on the same day the the novel was originally published 35 years ago.

    Just some thoughts re: SOTME, which is possibly my favorite SW EU stand-alone novel of all time:

    The novel is almost prophetic of Luke's abilities in ESB; this was originally published in March 1978, less than a year after SW hit theatres & more than two years before ESB came out:

    - Luke is able to use The Force to move a rock out of the water & hit a Mimban warrior who is choking him.

    - Luke is able to sense Vader's presense from a distance away (in the underground caverns).

    It's also interesting that the Kaiburr crystal was actually in one of the draft script treatments of ANH as something that enhanced Luke's force abilities when he was attacking the Death Star in his X-wing fighter at the end (this was mentioned in the superb Making of Star Wars coffee table book, 2007). This was obviously taken out of the final script, however.
  15. Blur Force Ghost

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    1)To respond to the first question above, I think SOTME is excellent, but I would have been dissapointed if this had been the sequel film instead of ESB. Despite the duel with DV, IMHO the story is smaller in scope than something we fans would expect to see in an epic SW film, i.e. it only takes place on one planet, no large battles involving multiple troops, and the only main Rebel characters involved are Luke, Leia, and the droids. I don't see this as anyone's actual fault, rather just that ADF was probably working with what he had, and I also have a feeling that there were paramaters set for him by Lflm. IIRC ADF did ghost-write the SW novelization, so IMHO he definitely had a great feel for the characters, probably more so than other writers at the time.

    2) Re: the second question, I have 0 problems with the fact that what we saw here seems to be contradicted in the subsequent films. Just as I view the Marvel SW comics, I see Splinter as a product of it's time - i.e., it was written well before the release of ESB so any continuity contradictions are very excusable.

    Also wanted to add to a previous conversation on this thread regarding old copies of this novel. I myself own the small PB copy that was reprinted circa 1994?!, but have always wanted a larger HC copy. Based on what I know, this novel has not been reprinted in HC since it was first released in the late '70's; the one version I've seen was owned by a library, and this was a "sci-fi book club" exclusive. I have no desire to try to track down an older, potentially beat-up copy w/yellowing pages, so, it would be great if this were re-issued as a HC; I wouldn't mind a "special edition" version (as was done with the 20th anniversary of HTTE 2 years ago), but a straight, no frills re-issue would work for me as well.
    Last edited by Blur, Mar 4, 2013
  16. Iron_lord Force Ghost

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    One thing that's just come to mind- Vader's speech pattern in Splinter sometimes seems almost Yoda-ish:

    "Ben Kenobi's equal you will never be."
    "A master of it you are not, however."
  17. Grey1 Host: 181st Imperial Discussion Group

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    Thanks for porinting this out (also to the others who mentioned it), I didn't do any research on the book at first, so this is completely new to me. Interesting! So it's kind of a holiday special, isn't it? ;)

    I agree that it would possibly have been a letdown. The strangest thing is, and I'm sure that this was a POV shared back then, to not have a rich cast of characters, but only two heroes (with Luke carrying the main burden), an old woman that doesn't really fill out Kenobi's shoes, and finally two Chewbacca clones who can't talk. I think the buddy talk and bickering is missing; with Leia, there's too many dimensions of "she's a noble woman","she's the love interest", "she's a strange kind of cynical leader". If Luke and Leia would ever truly relax and let the walls come down, like with the mud fight, it would always be one step away from a kiss.

    That's a very interesting question. My first thought on this is that I never watched More American Graffiti. Would a sequel that is perceived as lesser have any impact at all? Again, this is basically a holiday special kind of situation. We might have gotten more serial adventures, and less family saga. I've read that the John Carter Of Mars books switch to a later generation at some point, so maybe we would still have gotten more adventures with Luke's (and Leia's) children. Because there would have been no real endgame. Just throw the bad guy down a shaft, have him come back next week.

    But I have to wonder how much of Foster's imagination here would have remained intact for the screenplay. I can't see Lucas simply adapting a book without tinkering with it. Just see how many times the actual scripts were revised. So would Foster have put his mark on the SW movie saga? I'm not sure about that.

    And another thought... if the basic ideas really came from Lucas, are these the first signs that Lucas wanted to do something about action archeology? About mystical objects saved from ancient temples with evil soldiers in pursuit? Would he still have pushed Spielberg into the whole Indiana Jones thing if he'd already put enough Mayan temples into Star Wars?

    Well, does any of this matter? ;) But you actually help make my point - pre-WEG, everything was up in the air. Come WEG, we get the idea of a continuity, of a larger SW saga instead of a SW brand - but it's not clear at first if the old stuff should be taken into account. Even if it is taken into account (SOTME was definitely included by the time it was reprinted), can we take it at face value if it's been made under a very different impression of what SW should look like? And even if we have an official stance on that, my point was that every reader and some parts of the EU still might have a somewhat different opinion, just as with Glove of Darth Vader or the Marvel comics.

    This is indeed an interesting scene, but it's not clear what is happening here. If you don't know anything except what ANH showed, there's no reason to think that Kenobi's "more powerful than you can imagine" state includes speaking through Luke. And after Luke is saying this odd phrase, he's back to normal, giving more of an "I'm like Obi-Wan" impression. So even if it was intended from the beginning, Foster does an excellent job at not hinting it at the reader. He could have added that Luke himself wondered what had happened, that it was indeed strange, if it was meant to be a mystery built upon only later. As it stands, it's bad phrasing on Luke's behalf. Therefore it's no wonder that any explanation was largely seen as a retcon, even if it may have been the intention. It feels as if Lucas was writing through Foster, and therefore Foster didn't understand what he was doing.

    Could it have been Lucas' idea to have Ben as Luke's metphysical helper? Indeed it could. Just think of the ROTJ drafts that seriously included stuff like Ben coming back in the flesh, or Ben and Yoda appearing as ghosts in a shield between Luke and the Emperor's lightning. It also works with the way Foster writes the Death Star destruction - Luke doesn't just trust the Force and Ben, he goes unconscious while his body blows up the station. Obviously very different in the film, and in Empire, Obi-Wan decidedly can't help Luke. But since metaphysical tinkering was one of the ideas Lucas had in store for Obi-Wan's spirit, it's not implausible that Foster was asked to include it here.
    Last edited by Grey1, Mar 6, 2013
  18. Grey1 Host: 181st Imperial Discussion Group

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    I'd say it's properly EU because, well, EU has adopted about every source. As for G-canon - I don't think that Lucas went into Empire thinking, well, that low-budget concept also happened. Stuff like Ord Mantell "happened", or like Han proving himself a good man to Rieekan (although those would only be seen in EU later on, right?). Essentially, Empire salvaged parts like the swamp environment (including the X-Wing crash) and the Vader-Luke duel (Empire doesn't feel like a rematch), and the primitive Mimban warriors are obviously a recycling of the original Wookiee battle from ANH, but as we all know that was later "officially" recycled with the Ewoks (and finally reconstructed in ROTS, even if the "primitives" never got to fly the starfighters). Then the Luke/Leia relationship is a problem, because no matter the retcon, we all know that Leia wasn't the sister back then, and so all feelings weren't meant as misunderstood sibling feelings.

    The thing that does work surprisingly well is Luke learning telekinesis here. When he uses it in the Wampa cave, or when Vader throws stuff at him at Cloud City, it's something Obi-Wan hasn't taught us about the Force yet. So while Ben potentially did a lot of offscreen training with Luke, it's just as probable that he learned it later on.

    But anyway, my take on the book is that it doesn't really factor into Lucas' big "plan".

    Interesting... I guess that's Foster trying to cope with Vader's pronounciation in a way that translates on to a page. You know, having him talk more like a "black knight" than just a normal guy who happens to be evil.

    I'd never say that LFL don't care about EU - after all, the company earns money with it. Directly through book sales, indirectly through "SW awareness" created through a constant stream of news posts on all kinds of things. And there are probably some people working there who like EU stuff, maybe some who only sought a job there because EU made SW bigger for them than just those three movies back then. These posts don't mean, though, that a creative team working on one project, e. g. the new movies, is interested in or bound to EU. But honestly, there's been EU authors who didn't seem all that interested in other EU.

    Welcome to the 181st!
    Last edited by Grey1, Mar 6, 2013
  19. Iron_lord Force Ghost

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    The Rise And Fall of Darth Vader (by Ryder Windham)- one of his four character-centric books (one for Obi-Wan, one for Luke, one for Vader, and recently, one for Maul)- seems to focus on Splinter more than almost any other EU book. Specifically, the fight between Luke and Vader. Most of the book focuses on events from the films.

    It also explains why Vader seems so keen to kill rather than capture at this point- the crystal, enhancing the force, is enhancing the dark side in Vader, clouding his mind and making him overaggressive.

    In that, he originally wanted to capture Luke, so he could find out exactly what Luke's connection to him was- he's got a lot of circumstantial evidence of some connection- but doesn't know what- and has at this point dismissed the possibility that Padme gave birth before she died.
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  20. Bale Force Ghost

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    Splinter of the Mind's Eye at least showed us how dangerous potholes can be.
  21. krtmd Jedi Grand Master

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    Fixed.
    Last edited by krtmd, Mar 8, 2013
  22. Bale Force Ghost

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    LOL. The book had a great title. They should've stopped there.
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  23. Grey1 Host: 181st Imperial Discussion Group

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    First of all, I'd like to remember everyone that we're going to discuss I, Jedi in April.

    Next, let's go for another spin of SotME...

    - What about this thesis? I claim that this book, predating DN/LOTF/FOTJ by decades, fits really well into what is commonly called "the Denningverse".

    - For example: Leia's characterization. Foster is not only giving Leia a weak streak that we haven't really seen in the movie - in ANH, we have next to no reaction to the torture and only a brief Alderaan destruction moment. No, Leia is also far less idealistic/moralistic than most EU has read into her. While Luke has principles of helping hurt enemies, Leia condones the Mimban slaughter of the surviving troopers and the huge celebration. Partly because she doesn't want to go against the Mimban's customs, but with no shred of empathy either. How does this fit with later EU, with the general concept of Leia Organa, rebel hero and champion of morality, and especially with Denning's later portrayal of Leia in a time when "her" government has failed (twice) and her sons have died, one of them corrupted?

    - Then, the brutality. Someone compared Denning's interpretation of EU with his D&D work, a much harsher and more brutal fictional universe. EU has arguably been infused with a lot more gory stuff as of late (not only in Denning's work, of course; and not only SW, either, lots of fiction has turned "dark and gritty", if nor all out gory). The movies don't have that, and neither have the initial "modern EU" works like TTT or DE. The Lando books were also pretty tame, except for the occasional police brutality beating and Gepta's injuries. Foster, on the other hand, goes all-out eye-poking, body-gutting, Leia-torturing, trooper-shredding - with Leia and Luke having to turn around when the Yuzzem clean up their carnage. Jeez, if the heroes can't watch it, don't write it into the treatment of a potential family movie! But then again, I guess Temple of Doom shows that Lucas was more than okay with telling darker stories to kids, and I haven't figured out if there actually is an age group that the entirety of TCW would be suitable for.

    - All in all, where would you place SotME in the context of EU and the movies? Is this the first example of EU having a very different approach to SW's characters and tone than the movies establish? Or is it simply a glimpse at a facet of Lucas' storytelling which sometimes doesn't shy away from using exploitative material like what you find in the "cinema of attractions", or 'dark yet moral' stuff that points towards the tradition of old fairytales actually being pretty brutal?
    Last edited by Grey1, Mar 18, 2013
  24. Iron_lord Force Ghost

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    Maybe Foster thought that both of those were implausible- you don't have that happen to you without post-traumatic stress- which Leia suppresses, but which comes out later.
  25. Grey1 Host: 181st Imperial Discussion Group

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    Hm. First of all, Foster should have known that Star Wars was an implausible fairy tale with arch type characters, not a realistic movie with a focus on elaborately constructed characters like, say, Annie Hall.

    But more importantly, Leia still isn't much more elaborate in SotME just because her reaction to past elements gives her a new behaviour, or new convictions. If he wrote it as a character study (or, of course, wrote Leia in this adventure like a character that gets studied a bit more, see Shatterpoint for loose reference) or even as a simple character journey (a Dark Journey, if you will), we would understand where her disregard for human life in form of stormtroopers comes from. We could work with it. We could ask ourselves questions about "the little man" working for evil organizations, or about general thoughts of redemption as they were brought up by Vader's and later on the Vong's redemption. Or maybe he could explain through Leia a point of view that he as an author might or might not share, that it's fair game to slaughter your enemies because they are, after all, your enemies.

    But what we do get is a book in which Luke is still firmly the focus, and in which Luke and Leia obviously clash about these thoughts. And for all intent of making Luke the young idealistic farmer that will eventually win the hand of the beautiful princess, Luke and Leia are clearly living in far more different worlds here. Leia says "you can't change the world, there's evil in it, deal with it", and Luke says "I'll always believe in good and that the world can be a better place" (which is of course what he'll believe in many important movie and EU moments later on, bar parts of the Denningverse). And neither do the events convince Luke of a dog-eat-dog seventies exploitation movie world around him that can never be changed for the better, nor does Leia show that she learns to embrace a nobler path, following Luke's example. There's just nothing there.
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