There are many mysteries on ABC’s Lost and the rabbit hole goes pretty deep as viewers discovered late in the second season in the episode “Two for the Road” when Sawyer was seen reading a manuscript that was found in the wreckage of Oceanic 815. The manuscript was for a detective novel called Bad Twin written by fictional fiction author Gary Troup.
Viewers who looked the book up on Amazon found, to their surprise (and my dismay), an actual book called Bad Twin by Gary Troup. The publisher says it was his last work before disappearing on Oceanic 815.
ARGGHH, I thought.
The last thing I wanted to do was get sucked into some metafictional work that exists only for the creators of Lost to cash in. But then the second season ended leaving many unresolved mysteries and my wife suggested that we should read it along with all the other books mentioned on the show as a sort of fun summer reading project. So here we are.
First of all, Bad Twin is pretty good for what it is: a genre-style detective novel about a small time private eye named Paul Artisan who gets stuck with a big case in which a powerful man, the chairman of the Widmore Corporation, wants him to find his identical twin brother because “he may be in danger.”
It’s a fun summer read that can be enjoyed without any knowledge of Lost because in their world and ours, it’s just a private eye book.
Of course there are connections for those of us who watch Lost. The Widmore Corporation is referenced throughout Lost. Bad Twin mentions Lost‘s ominous Hanso Foundation. In the Lost world Gary Troup was something of an enemy of the Hanso Foundation and when the book was published the imaginary Hanso Foundation took out ads in real (our world now) newspapers denouncing the book.
This is all part of the Lost Experience, a sort of real-world/Lost world scavenger hunt for clues and meaning that I won’t be participating in other than to read the literature referenced on the show which has more to do with me being an English teacher than a TV junkie.
So, other than to make bigger bucks, why was Bad Twin written?
First off, I think that it exists to help educate readers about some of the literary and philosophical references in Lost. Conveniently, the detective in Bad Twin has a close friend with whom he meets every day. This friend is an old literature professor at Columbia University who talks about books that are relevant to Artisan’s investigation. Surprisingly, among these books are Turn of the Screw and Lord of the Flies.
He also talks about the philosophy of John Locke (whose name is shared by a character on Lost) and talks frequently about both Purgatory and Purgatorio.
This alone would be a boon to anyone trying to make sense of Lost but who doesn’t have the time or inclination to go off reading classic literature and seventeenth century philosophers (several of whom give their names to Lost characters) because it distills some of the key ideas that tie in with Lost.
The second reason for Bad Twin, I think is thematic. The story deals with a recurring theme on Lost: that of Purgatory. In fact, Gary Troup’s name is an anagram for purgatory.
Lost’s creators say that the characters are not in Purgatory, but I think they are in something of a purgatory. Each of the characters that has not been nabbed by the Others has a checkered past. In nearly every case, they are given second chances on the island. Some pass this test, others don’t. Like the characters on Lost, detective Paul Artisan gets many second chances and opportunities to redeem himself.
Purgatory is neither Heaven nor Hell, neither here not there. In a way, Purgatory is something of an island between destinations. Bad Twin reinforces this concept by having all of the action take place on islands: Manhatten, Long Island, Key West, Cuba, Australia, and a host of smaller imaginary islands.
Touching on another theme common across the Lost literature is the idea that things are not as they seem. Characters in Bad Twin who are presumed to be good, often are not and vice-versa. I’ve seen this pattern in the Lost lit as well as on the show itself. I keep going back to Henry Gale’s claim that the Others are – contrary to what we’ve been led to believe – the good guys
So it comes down to this. Based on my reading of Bad Twin and the other Lost books, I suspect that the Hanso Foundation is trying to remake the world by moving humanity to the next step in human evolution. I’m not sure if the Others are against or with Hanso, but I think they are trying to save the world, if not remake it.
So the bottom line on Bad Twin? If you watch Lost, it’s a clever re-imagining of the central themes along with a few obscure tidbits about the show. If you don’t watch Lost, it’s a light, enjoyable detective story. Read it at the beach or on a plane.
If you dare.
For more of my Lost book posts, check out The Lost Book Club.