Lost is a show that tends to wear its influences on its sleeve. It gives its shout-outs using character names (John Locke, CS Lewis, etc.), episode names (Through the Looking Glass, The Shape of Things to Come, etc.), books that are seen being read or on bookshelves (Valis, Our Mutual Friend, etc.), quotations (Ben quotes Of Mice and Men, the Star Wars “I’ve got a bad feeling about this…”, etc.), thematic allusions (Desmond as both Odysseus and Billy Pilgrim, “zombie” Christian Shephard as the White Rabbit, etc.), and easter eggs (Jack trips over a Millennium Falcon, an actual red-shirt-wearing “red-shirt” is killed).
fans, being a generally well-educated lot, are usually quick to identify and disseminate them
. What’s more, I’m firmly convinced that if Lost
fans read every book or author, and watched every movie or TV show referenced in our beloved drama, they would be better human beings for the experience. They might have to give up their day jobs and spend a decade or so to do it, but really…what price self-improvement, right? 😉
But I digress…
The topic of the rather spry dead and imaginary people populating our Island and our living characters’ lives has been much on people’s minds lately, and more and more I found myself wondering why no one (or at least no one in Lost
fandom I’ve been able to find) has mentioned Stanislaw Lem’s brilliant novel (and Andrei Tarkovsky’s critically-adored film), Solaris
Let’s have a look-see shall we? Solaris tells of a living planet (well, technically, a living “ocean” on a distant planet) which communicates with its human visitors by materially manifesting people from their pasts and forces them to confront their own limitations and foibles in the process. Sound familiar?
That the titular Solaris is an incomprehensibly alien sentience not necessarily advancing the best interests of its visitors as it attempts to communicate with them and understand them (while, in turn, the human scientists try to understand Solaris) also holds sounds a lot like Lost’s Island.
As in Solaris, the Island’s interactions with its human visitors and inhabitants cause insanity and death. Also, as in Solaris, the Island seems pretty indifferent to human suffering. It’s been very willing to select the most traumatic possible “visitor” for those to whom it’s manifested (Jack’s father, Eko’s brother, Ben’s mother, Charlie for Hurley, Libby for Michael), has actively inflicted or allowed to occur various ailments (Ben’s tumor, Jack’s appendicitis, Locke’s legs giving out at inopportune moments) and even “demanding sacrifice” (note that one of those inopportune moments for Locke’s legs was what required Locke to send Boone to explore the Beechcraft, killing him).
None of which is to say that the Island is “evil” any more than Solaris was “evil”…they’re both simply alien and have motivations incomprehensible to and arguably uncaring for humans. Or, to use Ben’s colorful description from “Cabin Fever”, they’re (to human eyes) fickle bitches.
Another interesting aspect of the “revived” dead people in Solaris is that they were all imperfect copies, limited by the fact that they were constructed based on the memories of them held by the living characters rather than on the actual dead person. One could say something is similarly wrong with the Island manifestations we’ve seen speak, but who were never alive on the Island itself–namely Christian and Yemi, the latter of whom had a wrongness that Eko was able to detect upon interacting with him for a comparatively short time. The Island at least got a chance to get to know Charlie, Boone, and Libby before they died.
As usual, I would caution against taking too strong a “one-to-one” correlation. Lost is always, in the end, its own creature even if its genetic code contains DNA from a host of narrative ancestors. But I’ll leave you with this thought: None of the other “mysterious islands” commonly considered antecedents for Lost’s Island–Verne’s The Mysterious Island, the island of Shakespeare’s The Tempest (and the Forbidden Planet of film), Lemuria, Mu, Atlantis, and so on–were alive in and of themselves like Lost’s Island and Solaris are.
PS: I’d also highly recommend everyone read more Lem
. No less an authority on all things sci-fi than Theodore Sturgeon once called Lem the most widely read science-fiction writer in the world…and with very good reason! In particular, I found Memoirs Found in a Bathtub
and The Futurological Congress
to be utterly brain-fryingly good. Happy reading, everyone!