Book Review: Splinter of the Mind’s Eye

220px-Splinter_of_the_Minds_EyeI try to change genres often when I read, and having just completed Dragons of the Hourglass Mage, the last book in the Dragonlance Lost Chronicles, I was due for some science fiction. I’d had my eye (pun!) on this book for a while, so I took the plunge.

Back in 1978, people were starved for Star Wars. I suppose in some sense, people still are starved for it, but back then it was different. There was the Marvel comic series (with the infamous green space rabbit, Jaxxon), and that was about it. No movie series, cartoon spinoffs, video games, or any of that. This was the year that the Star Wars Holiday Special came out, which tells you all you need to know about how folks wanted ANYTHING Star Wars.

And so, Alan Dean Foster served up the first novel with new Star Wars content. And fans everywhere rejoiced. Or so I suppose they did, I was only four years old at the time. Looking back on it forty years later, Splinter of the Mind’s Eye is more interesting as a historical relic than as a good Star Wars story.

Luke and Leia are on their way to recruit some rebels when they crash land on the jungle planet Mimban. They come across a secret Imperial mining operation and meet a force-sensitive old woman named Halla. Halla has a piece of the titular Kaiburr crystal, and even this small piece is enough to greatly magnify Force powers. Luke and Leia get captured, then meet a couple Yuzzem, Wookie-like creatures, and Luke conveniently speaks their language. With Halla’s help, the heroes bust out of jail and head off in search of the crystal. Naturally, a certain tall, dark bad guy shows up with a bunch of stormtroopers.


The story is as generic as it gets. It doesn’t really feel like a Star Wars story. Of course, when it was written, there was only one real Star Wars story, and much of the mythology hadn’t been introduced yet. Take out the thin veneer of Star Wars elements and John Carter or Buck Rogers would be right at home. Given the pulp influences of the franchise, this isn’t a big problem. But Splinter is small in scale and fairly boring when compared to the first movie. Foster has stated that the story was intended as a potential low-budget sequel if Star Wars didn’t take off. That’s the likely explanation for the lack of anything epic.

There are a host of story elements that feel distinctly out of place given what followed. The elephant in the room is the romantic tension between Luke and Leia. Luke just barely manages to restrain himself from planting a big ol’ kiss on Leia more than once. Knowing they are siblings after, this is REALLY AWKWARD. Still, it was a natural direction for the series to go at the time it was written. Also out of place are Luke using power packs to charge his lightsaber and his puzzlement at whether the saber will work underwater. Vader has a blue lightsaber, too. Weird, right?

Splinter of the Mind’s Eye got some things right, though: for the first time, we see a Force-sensitive person using telekinesis. (If you don’t count Vader force choking Motti, that is.) Halla moves a salt shaker, and it’s heavily implied that Luke subconsciously moves a large rock to dispatch a foe. In Empire, Luke and Vader both use telekinesis, and it’s common from then on. Unfortunately, Vader never uses the awesome Street Fighter-style force ball attack he uses in Splinter. Kit Fisto did, though, in an excellent Clone Wars animated short, which you should track down in you haven’t.


The Kaiburr crystal is the Maguffin of the story, allowing Luke to channel its power to become a far more effective combatant than he otherwise would. I won’t spoil the ending, but the battle between Luke and Vader at the end goes much differently than the modern reader would expect. The Kaiburr crystal concept was mostly abandoned, but the idea was more or less translated into kyber crystals, which are now a big part of Star Wars lore.

While Splinter of the Mind’s Eye didn’t absolutely blow me away, it was an interesting read. The story itself is vanilla, to be sure. But reading it is almost like a puzzle. It’s fun to pick out what shouldn’t be there, but the most enjoyable part to me was seeing things that turned up later in the saga. I may go back and read the early Marvel comics soon, for the same reason. The Star Wars galaxy is incredibly rich and dense now, so dense that I can’t hope to keep up with everything. Looking back to a time when that galaxy far away was much smaller is very comforting.



The Thing from the Drive-in – Coming This Summer!

Marc_layout_2My latest book is nearing completion! The Thing from the Drive-in is almost finished. I’m aiming for a release on Kindle in late June or early July, with print versions available a few weeks later. Excited doesn’t even begin to describe how I feel about releasing this, my third book.

This book has been a challenge. My first two books were both memoirs, and so I already “knew what was going to happen”, if you will. The Thing from the Drive-in has been totally different. Beyond coming up with interesting characters, a compelling storyline, and vivid descriptions, I’ve also had to do a considerable amount of research! After all, it wouldn’t do if my tale of a giant radioactive dinosaur stepping out of a drive-in theater screen was unrealistic in any way…

Christopher Tupa, artist extraordinaire and my podcasting buddy, has absolutely knocked it out of the park for this cover! He had a wonderful cover completed, and then got inspired to change up the color scheme. I already loved the cover, but the new look is stunning, don’t you agree?

I’ll be sure to post here when The Thing from the Drive-in is published. If you want to be the first to know, just click on the “Contact” tab above, and sign up for my mailing list.


New Short Story Available on Kindle!

peripheryI know, I know… where’s the NaNoWriMo book, Marc? Well, I was making really great progress with the second revisions. Then I reached a spot where I had sort of written myself into a corner. It was a boring part to write, and I am certain it would have been boring to read, too. So, I decided to make a significant change to the middle third of the story. That meant a major rewrite of about 8,000 words or so. I was kinda bummed by this and it got very, very easy to put it off.

However, I just finished reading Stephen King’s “On Writing”, and one suggestion he has for getting stuck is to stop and work on something totally different. The Thing from the Drive-in is a funny, fast paced sci-fi adventure. What sort of writing would be  a good palette cleanser?

How about a tense, eerie story about a man who keeps seeing bugs in his peripheral vision?

“Periphery” was an absolute joy to write. I had to flex a totally different set of muscles, for sure. It’s just under 5,000 words, and is available for 99 cents on Amazon for Kindle and most reading devices. Check it out and let me know what you think!


Clone Catcher, Or, A Faded Memory Restored

goodreads-logo-1024x576-7abf5bd8d98b9d10I am constantly amazed by the power of the internet. I know that sounds cliche. But I’m not talking about smart thermostats that let me control my heating and air from my phone. Nor am I talking about the wealth of tutorials and how-to videos that have saved me money on repairing my car and even my clothes dryer. I’m not even talking about the convenience of the cloud. A recent event in my life reminded me, once again, of the power that the internet has to bring together people who share a common bond.

In June of 2011, at the urging of a friend or two, I joined Goodreads. It’s a database of books, and has a very active community. My two basic uses for it are to keep track of books I have read, and to use the recommendations tools to find the next great book I want to read. I love tools like this, and use them across many parts of my life, like boardgamegeek.com for tabletop games, and IMDB for tracking movies I’ve watched.

I am not an active participant in the Goodreads community, but I learned about a group called “What’s the Name of That Book?” and immediately took an interest in it. As I get older, two things are happening to me. First, I’m more interested in nostalgia for my past. Second, my memory of said past gets worse and worse all the time. I pride myself on my ability to recall things, but I just can’t remember everything. And when I can’t, it drives me nuts.

I posted the following request to the group just over four years ago, on November 20, 2012:

Hello all. I am looking for a book I read while in grade school in the mid 80s. I suspect the book was published the the 70s. The protagonist of the book is a young man, who I believe was named Danny. Danny grew up with other kids in a compound.


As the story progresses, it turns out that there are other Dannys, some younger, some older, being raised in other compounds. Danny was actually Danny 13. At the climax, a much older Danny arrives and inspires the group to revolt. All of the kids in the story were clones of rich people, in various ages, who were being raised for their organs to extend the lifespan of the original.

Any help would be greatly appreciated!

Six people responded fairly quickly, but none of the books they suggested rang a bell. I began to think this memory was based on a TV show or movie I had seen instead. Memory is strange, after all. I devoured plenty of sci-fi stuff back in the day, maybe I took something from Column A, a bit from Column B, and mashed it up into something that never really existed.

Then, last month, a Goodreads user named Toff posted this:

Sounds familiar, like something I might have read between 1979 and 1985 or so. I was thinking possibly one of Alfred Slote’s books, maybe Clone Catcher (main character named Dunn; clones made of rich people for organ harvesting)…

photo-dec-10-3-55-46-pmThat sounded vaguely familiar. I googled Clone Catcher, it took me to an Amazon link with a generic cover. $6.32 including shipping sent the book on my way. I was skeptical that this was actually going to be the book I remembered. Ten days later, having forgotten about the book and the order, I was surprised by a package in the mailbox. I opened it up, saw the cover, and immediately it all came flooding back to me. This was, indeed, the book that I had remembered reading, probably more than three decades ago. I read half the book before our Monday game night that evening, and stayed up reading it in bed until I finished. It wasn’t quite what I had remembered.

The protagonist was not Danny 13, but the titular Clone Catcher, whose last name was Dunn. I think I was mixing in my memory of the Danny Dunn books, which I was also fond of. There is a compound of clones, being raised for their organs, and they do revolt. But that’s really not the focus of the book, which is more a mystery with sci-fi elements to it. The cover really spoils the ending, but it’s a pretty good book. It certainly made an impression on me as a kid.

Another fun part of this story is the book itself. This copy is marked as a discard from the Barnwell Junior High Library. The book seller I got it from is based in Columbia, MO, which is about 2.5 hours drive from here. There is a Barnwell Middle School in St. Charles, MO, so it makes sense that this copy of Clone Catcher originally came from there. The book is a first edition, printed in 1982, but it’s in great shape. A small ghost and candle icon on the spine denote that the book was shelved in the “Mystery” section of the Barnwell Junior High Library. Unfortunately, the due date card was removed from the back page. I would have loved to have seen the dates this little book was checked out.

Isn’t it amazing that somewhere out there, someone took the time to post an answer? That simple act brought back a treasure from my past. Thank you, Goodreads user Toff, whoever and wherever you are. I owe you one! Now if I could just remember the title of a book on prehistoric animals, told in “a day in the life” style, that I read long, long, ago, I would be all set…