Tuesday, July 04, 2006

"Bad Twin" Book Report

Worry not Blog Readers, I’m still alive! I know, I know, what about my “Bad Twin” review that I promised, and you have been patiently waiting for? Weeks have passed without any update. What’s the holdup? Could it be that Brian, although capable of writing volumes of information, actually can only read at a second grade level? No – but that would be ironic, wouldn’t it?

Actually, the past few weeks have been surprisingly busy. I’ve been out of town for the better part of the month of June, leaving me little time to write about “Bad Twin”, even though I finished it a while back. But now that I’m finally back in the land of milk and honey that is Cincinnati, Ohio - I’ll save you the two hours and $12.00 it would take to read this book yourself and give you all the information you need to know about “Bad Twin”…

PS – if you don’t want to be spoiled about what happens in the book, and plan on reading it yourself, now would be a good time to stop reading…

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Review: Before I get into the Lost tie-ins and symbolism, let me review the book from a purely literary perspective - as if you were reading the book without knowing anything about this television program “Lost” you’ve been hearing so much about.

In a word: mediocre. There’s nothing really wrong with “Bad Twin” – but there’s nothing really great about it either. The really ironic thing is that for a show as complex and heady as Lost, the book is written at a sixth grade level, and is surprisingly simple. It’s a typical “detective book” with cookie-cutter characters and storylines, where the main character (Paul Artisan) hops from location to location; meeting characters that help him solve the mystery of a missing person (Alexander Widmore). Along the way he picks up a token love interest (Prudence Cunningham), meets a cast of characters, people die, and in the end the mystery is solved.

But here’s what bothered me about the book. It’s all far too simple. There are never any dead-ends. One character neatly leads to another character who neatly leads to another one, etc., etc. Even worse, after all the “mystery” surrounding the disappearance of Zander, the explanation of it all is told in a rushed monologue by the Paul in the final five pages of the book, rather than slowly revealed in a logical fashion through the storytelling of the novel. In my eyes, that’s a product of sloppy writing.

Maybe I’m being too hard on the book. I mean, in the end, it’s fairly quick, mindless entertainment. Plus, if you’re a hardcore fan of Lost, there are definitely passages and references that will make you smile and feel like you’re in on a secret hidden in the words of the novel. In the end, I’d recommend any obsessive Losties pick it up, but all others can take a pass… and just read the rest of this Blog post.

Lostness: So here’s the meat and potatoes – these are those little “Lost Easter Eggs” inside the novel that made me smile and do a happy whimper on the inside.

On the surface, there are a few choice passages that link directly to Lost. Nothing earth shattering, nothing that stands out enough to make the average reader of the book question what in the world they are talking about, but clear, direct references to the world of Lost. But if you read between the lines (not literally, because that’s impossible – come on, it’s just white space!) there are some interesting things that may be answering some of the fundamental questions of the series thus far.

Why the uncertainty? I’m still not sold on how much involvement there was between the Lost creators and the author of this book (allegedly Laurence Shames, writing under the pen name of “Gary Troup” – which of course, is an anagram for PURGATORY). Am I reading too much into some of the themes and references in the book? Or are these intentional plants from the masterminds of Lost? I’ll err on the side of over-analyzing (big surprise) and keep my wishful thinking that this was all a carefully planned and written book, not a hastily written novel which then had a few brief references to Lost thrown in at the end in an attempt to quickly cash in on the Lost cash cow.

So let’s get to the over-analyzing.

Widmores. First and foremost, we are introduced to a slew of Widmores in this book:

There’s Arthur Widmore (the aging patriarch of the Widmore clan) and Vivian Widmore (the trophy third marriage wife of Arthur, clearly in it for the money and fame that comes with the Widmore family name). Then we have Cliff and Alexander (the twin sons of Arthur). Cliff is the “good son” who is following in Arthur’s footsteps in the family business, whereas Zander is the “bad son” who is a pot smoking hippie who thinks the family fortune is a curse.

Sadly, there is no mention of Charles or Penelope Widmore, of Lost second season finale fame. Even more curious is that a major plot of the novel surrounds who Arthur is going to leave in charge of the multi-billion dollar Widmore Empire, which makes it sound like they are the last surviving Widmores. Seems to me that Charles would make a much more likely candidate to take over the empire, but I digress.

We don’t garner any new insights to the Widmores that we didn’t already infer from Charles’ appearance in the Season Two Finale – they’re rich, they’re powerful, they’re Scottish. But it does confirm one very big theory - the Widmore / Hanso connection…

Hanso Foundation. Early on in the book, Paul makes a trip to the Widmore Building and gives us a brief rundown on the Widmore / Hanso connection.

The Widmore Empire consists of mid-town real estate, arcane construction and engineering projects, investments in a wide array of scientific enterprises, both mainstream and fringe. There are rumors of involvement in offshore ventures that would be illegal in the United States. Widmore was involved in a joint venture with the Hanso Foundation where they were studying techniques for reinforcing concrete (Hatch, anyone?). In fact, there are even floors in the Widmore building occupied by the Hanso Foundation (floor 42, of course). Here’s the paraphrased descriptions in the book:

“…they were wearing lab coats. Some of the lab coats were white, some were mint green. Men and women both had neat short hair.”

“…the plaque mounted on the wall said: The Hanso Foundation stands at the vanguard of social and scientific research for the advancement of the human race. For forty years, the foundation has offered grants to worthy experiments designed to further the evolution of the human race and provide technological solutions to the most pressing problems of our time. The Hanso Foundation: a commitment to encouraging excellence in science and technology and furthering the cause of human development.”

“…the people were entirely pleasant yet somewhat robotic.”

Again, not a lot new there. It strengthens my notions that the Hanso followers are closer to religious brainwashed cult than scientific brain trust and explains where all the funding for the Dharma Initiative came from. It also confirms what we’re currently learning in the Lost Experience about Hanso being a part of some shady dealings and experiments that aren’t exactly “legal”.

The concrete part is quite intriguing. If we assume that the weird “electromagnetic properties” inside the Hatch are unique to the Island, it stands to reason that there would have to be some specially designed concrete to keep those properties in check.

Aside from that, the most interesting part of the Hanso Foundation references are the references to the Big Dog, Alvar Hanso himself…

Hanso. Throughout the book, there are subtle references between the similarities between Alvar Hanso and Arthur Widmore. The reader gets the impression that they are both honest businessmen with good intentions at heart. However, both are getting older, and being forced out by younger, more aggressive counterparts. In the case of Widmore, it’s his “good son” Cliff, who is actually a bit malicious in his intentions and dealings. In the case of Hanso, it’s none other than Mittelwerk. Again, here’s the passage of note between Arthur and Cliff:

Arthur: “And that new fellow from Hanso – Mudworm or whatever his name is… I don’t trust him. I think he’s sneaky. I much preferred having Alvar on the board. Alvar is a gentleman.”

Cliff: “What makes Alvar a gentleman? The fact that you made a ton of money together? If that’s the definition, I think Mittelwerk is a gentleman. He’s got ideas, ambition…”

Arthur: “Everything but morals. Everything except a conscience.”

Cliff: “And who’s Alvar? Jiminy Cricket?”

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Mittelwerk is also described by Board Members of Widmore later in the novel as “dangerous...ambitious and brilliantly two-faced, a man acting out an agenda all his own."

Tie this in to some of the clues from the Lost Experience and I think the Hanso story is starting to take shape.

Alvar founded the organization with the best of intentions (helping mankind) but was forced out. He might have been an eccentric kook, but he wasn’t evil. In the Lost Experience, we come to learn that Hanso hasn’t been seen or heard from in years. That leaves me to come to one of two potential explanations:

  1. Mittelwerk somehow arranged for Hanso to be sent him to the Island, knowing full well that he would never be able to get off. In the Season Three Premiere of Lost, we will find that the “Him” the Others referred to is actually Alvar Hanso, and the Others are the good guys who are trying to help Alvar overtake the now evil Hanso Foundation.
  2. Mittelwerk had Hanso killed.

Either way, it seems that Mittelwerk and the Board of the Hanso Foundation are doing their best to keep up appearances and make people think that Alvar is still alive and well. Also, Mittelwerk seems to be emerging as “the bad guy” in this whole thing.

Cindy. Just to wrap up the “characters” portion of the analysis, I have to make mention of Cindy (and Gary Troup himself). Here’s where it gets confusing. I’ve seen other people talk about how she is the only character from the show who appears in the book. Not true. Here’s where reality and fiction get blurry in the world of Lost.

We are supposed to believe that everything that is happening on Lost is real. “Bad Twin” is just a story – but it happened to be written by a real life person (Gary Troup) who died on Oceanic Flight 815. Cindy is both a character in the book “Bad Twin” (fiction) and a character on the show (real).

In “Bad Twin”, she is the flight attendant who serves Paul and Pru drinks (and attempts to play a bit of matchmaker) on a flight from L.A. to Australia. We infer that this “character” in the book was inspired by the “real life” Cindy on Lost (who mysteriously vanished from the Tailers early in Season Two). At the front of “Bad Twin” is a dedication to this Cindy, “my highest flying angel”.

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Head spinning? Yeah, the problem is that in reality, it’s all fiction. The bottom line is that there isn’t any insight we can gain from the character of Cindy.

Okay. With all the characters out of the way, let’s get into some of the deeper themes of the book…

Islands. Something quite ironic is that everything in the book “Bad Twin” takes place on an Island of some sort. From Manhattan to Peconiquot to Key West to Australia, it’s a nice homage to the Island nature of Lost. Feel free to read into this what you will about “no man is an Island” or something like that…

Magnets. One of the “non-traditional” Islands in the book is a place called Luna, a hippie community and nudist colony in California. The intriguing part of Luna is that it’s said to have “special powers”, much like our Island on Lost…

“Decades before the New Age crowd started searching for energy vortices or electromagnetic nodes or vantages from which the planets lined up in a certain way, Luna and its gorgeous valley were perceived, or imagined to have special properties. Some thought that the original local Indians, the Chumash, had left behind some vestiges of shamanistic magic when they’d vanished. Others believed there were curative powers in the mineral rich waters that mysteriously spouted from the springs in the stony hills.”

Whoa. “Energy Vortices”, as in “Vile Vortices”? Electromagnetic Nodes? Healing powers? Jackpot.

So now we have been introduced to Luna California, Ayers Rock Australia, and our Island as being places where there are “special powers” tied to magnetism – obviously a theme that is being established for a reason, seemingly to tell us “hey, everything that is happening on the Island could actually happen – look at all these other places where the same thing is going on!”

In Luna, Paul meets another character (Elio) who spouts off an interesting speech about none other than John Locke.

John Locke.

Elio: “John Locke was a fascinating guy. Seventeenth century Brit, amazingly advanced. Huge influence on Thomas Jefferson. Locke argued that the highest goal of our intelligence is the careful and constant pursuit of true and solid happiness. Think about that! He’s not talking about religion or science. He’s not talking about rules or authority. He’s saying that the best use of our reason is in learning to be happy.”

It’s interesting for two points: first, obviously, because we have a character named John Locke on the show who you could argue will never leave the Island because he found “true happiness”, at least for him – being able to walk, being a leader, etc.

The other thing I found intriguing is that this philosophy seems to stand in direct opposition to the ideals of Hanso (remember all that “further the human race through science” talk?). Assuming that our Survivors are somehow “fighting” or at odds with Hanso on the Island, from an ideological point of view this makes perfect sense. Our Survivors represent tortured souls who want to find happiness (whether that be on or off the Island) whereas Hanso is interested in using them for experiments that could help further the human species as a whole. It’ll be interesting to see how this theme plays out on the show.

Books. One character in the book that I haven’t mentioned is Paul’s mentor Manny. He is a friend of Paul that serves as the sounding board for the case, but he also dishes up countless literary references that seem to be chock full of clues. Here’s a sampling of the highlights:

Beowulf – the story of a hero who faces a monster on whom people projected their deepest fears. Hmmm – sound a bit like Smokey on the Island, doesn’t it? My question is – who is the hero? Locke or Eko?

A River Runs Through It – per Manny, the point of the book is that “in the end, no one person can save another person.” Deep – plays into the tales of self-redemption that are going on the Island right now.

Hercules – Manny mentions that “everyone is Hercules. It’s just a matter of finding the task that brings it out.” Again with the symbolism to our Island where each character has the chance to be a hero when the situation presents itself.

Confessions of Saint Augustine – the story of a bad guy, whose past experiences set the stage for his redemption. Take your pick. This could be a reference to literally each and every Survivor.

Trent’s Last Case – the most referenced book in “Bad Twin”. It’s called “better than “Turn of the Screw””, which was featured briefly inside the Hatch last season. Per Manny, in the book “You’re hurtling toward the solution – and you realize you’ve still got half the book to go. Turns out, the thing is solved with airtight reasoning – but the solution happens to be wrong. The deductions are sound – they just don’t happen to match reality. Turns out there are other inferences, other deductions, that are equally correct. So the second half of the book undoes the first half, puts the pieces back together, and solves the crime even more brilliantly.”

Let that sink in for a second. This really reminds me of lines we’ve heard from Damon and Co. throughout the past two years about the viewers seeing things, but not understanding them yet. It’s almost as if the “hints” that they are throwing out are intentionally misleading us to one conclusion – and at some point, they’re going to pull the rug out from under us and we’re going to suddenly see everything in a different light.

One could argue that we’ve already had this happen – or at least, if you buy into my reasoning that the Others are actually good. They were setup for the two seasons as being the “bad guys”, and logical reasoning about everything we knew about them seemed to confirm it. However, once we learn their motives, their actions suddenly make sense and we view the first two seasons in an entirely different light.

But if that’s not the big twist – what is? They’re not really on an Island? They’re all dead? Funny you should mention that…


Purgatorio – the last book mentioned in “Bad Twin” is Dante’s “Purgatorio”, and it brings up a topic that is discussed a few times in the novel – Purgatory.

Manny says of Purgatory: “that’s where everything is up for grabs. The stakes could not be higher. There’s suffering, but unlike on earth, the suffering isn’t senseless and random. It has meaning and purpose. Destinies balance on a knife edge. No more second chances. Purgatory is the second chance.”

If we believe Manny is right, then it really does seem as though the Island really could be Purgatory. However, if you read what Zander says about Purgatory, it’s much more interesting and plausible for the show:

“There are certain things I believe in – like Good and Evil… the hard part is, you don’t only choose just once… most of us have to keep choosing, day in, day out. Year in, year out. Good or bad, which way am I going to go. What if there is no purgatory… What if there is no heaven? No hell either? No afterlife at all… This is our chance to get it right. First chance, last chance, only chance. But that’s exciting, beautiful, right?… Our work in this life is to choose good over evil. To be fair. To be kind. And there is a payoff, though it doen’t have to do with harps and wings. The payoff is peace of mind. That’s what redemption really is.”

Since the show’s creators have told us point blank that they aren’t all dead and in Purgatory, this seems to be the opinion that makes the most sense. All our our Survivors are making decisions – good and evil – trying to find redemption, which will give them their peace, their payoff.

Shannon and Boone both found their peace and then died. Some thought this proved the Purgatory storyline, since they got their “redemption” and then were taken off the Island. But it makes much more sense to think of it in Zander’s terms. They found their peace of mind, got their redemption (thus making it a “happy ending”) and died. Each character is on the same mission.

So there you have it. All you need to know about “Bad Twin” without ever having to read it. Ironically, if you would have spent the time you just did in reading this post in actually reading the book, you’d probably be about halfway through it. But then you’d be missing all my over-analyzing. In the end, I guess "Bad Twin" just reinforced a lot of the ideas from the show without providing anything truly solid in terms of revelations.

Why do I feel like I just wrote a book report?


Ethan said...

Cartman: For my book report, I read 'The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe'. It was very, very good. Have you read it, Mr. Garrison?

Mr. Garrison: No, I can't say that I have.

Cartman: Oh good! In 'The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe', a bunch of......um, hippies go around and paint stuff. They eat lunch and then they find a magical........camel, which they have to eat to stay alive. And that's pretty much it, I give it a B-.

Mr. Garrison: And I give you an F Eric, now sit down.


(Sorry, I had to slip that in there. Good book report! My wallet feels fatter already.)

Rachel said...

As a current library employee and future librarian, I would like to also suggest that those wishing to avoid spending $12 could visit their friendly neighborhood library.
But I certainly do appreciate your saving me the two hours. :)

Brian said...

Rachel is right - most people are unaware of this, but libraries actually started out renting books out to people - not DVDs or CDs. Crazy!

CeCe said...

Ok, so I think Hugo read the whole "Bad Twin" manuscript, and I think Sawyer read at least part of it, so do you think that one or both of those two will catch on to what's going on with the whole Hanso thing?

Danny Mac said...

On the purgatory thing- Anna Lucia couldn't come to shoot HGI and Libby has 'found love again' after her husband's death, both could have arguably found peace of mind... and then both died. This theory could really run, however you could also argue that the science teacher (Arnst?) and the guy who the other in the Tailies killed didn't find it. But once again, do the writers have us thinking about completely irrelevant theories? (Oh, and Sorry - terrible with names.)

Justin said...

When Bad Twin first came out, didn't Hanso run ads in newspapers declaring the lies in the book? I bring it up for two reasons:
1) That would give creedence to your Middlework is the bad guy trying to clear his name.
2) What if Troup changed all the Widmore's names but left the Hanso people's names the same? That would explain why we can't place any of the Widmore's on the show yet. Just a thoguht.

Heather's Brain said...

Than you Brian, as usual your insights help tremendously...in this case, you helped me to NOT spend the cash!

I had read most of those in a similar post from another brilliant blogger but they missed the tie ins that you found.

My question is THE LOST EXPERIENCE at some point this will all point to the island and it's properties and a few things you said cleared that up for me but I am having the hardest time with the TIMELINE and real life vs. TV life. I know they are trying to get us to think it is real but let's think about it. It is still 2004 on the show!!!

Anyway, thanks for the post...I was wondering where you were! :)

Brian said...

Heather's Brain - sorry for the scare. I should be back in full Blogging force for the next few weeks.

I agree - everything is going to get super muddy really soon on Lost. We're going to need space time continuum diagrams a la Back to the Future to keep everything straight between the Lost Experience, the show, and "Bad Twin" before long.

Heather's Brain said...

Here is one more WIERD thing about all this...the bottom note on the BAD TWIN site says (and I quote)

"Bad Twin is a work of fiction and all names, characters and incidents are used fictitiously; the author himself is a fictional character"

How more freaky can it get? I know this is old news to most, but it just goes right along with what Brian and I and EVERYONE else into this has stated! HOW CAN THIS BE????

Oh well, I ponder while I wait because I am ADDICTED to lost...just not the EXPERIENCE!

James said...

I generally agree with you that it's a mediocre book, but I never read private eye novels so it seemed new. I just posted about the Lost connections (here) today if you're interested. Cheers.

RIP Posts said...

Thanks for the summary!! I love reading your stuff...xoxo

I miss the show ..... Wed just isn't the same without it.....

davis said...

The only problem with the Others actually being good is that we know that they have actually done bad things in the past. They kidnapped Claire and tried to kill Charlie. Alex seems genuinely scared for Claire's well-being and helps her escape. Walt was kidnapped and only released in exchange for Jack, Kate and Sawyer, all of whom were captured by tranquilizer darts. These are not good people, even if they think they are doing what must be done.

Anonymous said...

best regards, nice info » » »