The Lost Book Club: Island

From Aldous Huxley’s Island:

“In those days, Pala was still completely off the map. The idea of turning it into an oasis of freedom and happiness made sense. So long as it remains out of touch with the rest of the world, an ideal society can be a viable society.

[...]

Meanwhile, the outside world has been closing in on this little island of freedom and happiness. Closing in steadily and inexorably, coming nearer and nearer. What was once a viable ideal is now no longer viable.”

Finally, I’ve reached the end of the Lost Book Club, at least until more books crop up in Season 4, which starts tomorrow. The last one was Huxley’s Island, a book that was never seen, but was referenced in the Season 2 episodes “?” and “Live Together, Die Alone.” The reference is in the name of the pier where Jack, Kate, and Sawyer are taken prisoner by the Others. It’s called the Pala Ferry, and Pala is the setting of Island, a book Huxley wrote as a counterpoint to Brave New World.

Island is the story of a journalist named Will Farnaby who is shipwrecked on the island of Pala where an ideal society flourishes. Palan culture is a perfect blend of Eastern spirituality and Western science created through an alliance between a nineteenth century Scottish surgeon who came to the island to save its Raja’s life. The two developed an ideal for living laid out by the old Raja in Notes on What’s What, a book within the book. In short, it is a healthy combination of Buddhism, modern psychiatry, psychedelic drugs, limited industrialization, Enlightenment style reasoning, and free love.

Will arrives on the island as an agent of a major oil concern that wants to take over Pala, industrialize it and exploit its abundant natural resources. The inhabitants of Pala fear this as it will lead to the kind of overpopulation, militarization, and systemic poverty (both material and spiritual) so rampant in the outside world. Over the course of the novel, Will comes to love the island and its inhabitants even as the dictator of a nearby island plans his invasion so he can auction the island’s resources off for cash to fight his wars.

It’s a good and heady read that falls in nicely with certain other “ideal society” books that have shown up on Lost particularly Stranger in a Strange Land.

What most gets me is how it provided a possible framework for thinking about the Others. The Pala Ferry references came at the end of Season 2, a time before we met the others. It would have been fun to have read this one before Season 3 as it contains some clues as to what to expect about the Others.

The Connections:

1. In Island, the secular surgeon, Dr Andrew, is brought to Pala to operate on Pala’s leader, who is suffering from a horrific tumor. This is precisely why Jack was taken in Season 2: to save Ben, the Others’ leader, from a tumor.

2. Pala, like Lost Island, is a place that is essentially hidden and off-limits to the outside world, but as with Pala, there are people who want to come to the island, and the Others, like the Palans, fear this above anything else. They believe it will be the end of their way of life. We won’t know for sure until Season 4 gets underway tomorrow, whether the outsiders on Not Penny’s Boat have good or ill intentions, but the title of the Season 4 opener, “The Beginning of the End,” suggests Ben’s fears may be well founded.

3. Both islands have a temple. We haven’t seen Lost’s temple, but Ben did mention it. This hints at a society with roots that go far back, perhaps as far back as four-toed beings? Who knows. Also, both the Others and the Palanese wear white muslin outfits for their ceremonies.

4. At the end of Season 2, we didn’t know that the Dharma Initaitive and the Others were not one and the same. We did know, however, that Dharma like Palanese society, was a fusion of sorts between Buddhism and western science.

5. As on Lost, Pala has scientific research stations scattered around the island geared toward discovering saner ways to live.

But unlike with Pala, something has gone wrong. The Others carry guns and kidnap people. They con and torture. Theirs is a corrupted island, a twisted version of Pala, that must be healed and made whole again. Perhaps, that is what John Locke must do, and what Jack seems to have realized in the Season 3 finale only too late.

The world of the Others is nothing like the perfect society of Pala, but to the Others it is. It is perfect, and it is in danger, especially now that it has been found. Their ideal society is threatened, and the survivors of Oceanic 815 are going to have to decide between protecting the island and going home to a world that might not be the one they left.

Season 4 starts tomorrow with “The Beginning of the End.” In the meantime, go here for a list of all the Lost books I’ve reviewed.

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