Thursday, June 12, 2008

Wishing I had a Wizard and Glass To Figure Out LOST

Just like LOST, I'm now more than halfway through Stephen King's Dark Tower series, and I still don't know what's going on. Though I do think I have a better handle on Roland's quest than the quest of Ben or any of the 815ers. Things from book 4 Wizard and Glass that remind of LOST follow.

Guys, Where Are We?

First a brief summary of where we are in our quest for the Dark Tower. Roland, a gunslinger from Gilead has put together a posse of sorts to search for the Dark Tower. That group or ka-tet consists of Eddie, former heroine junkie from 1980s New York, Susannah, a woman who can't walk because she has no legs from 1960s New York, Jake, an 11-year-old boy from 1970s New York, and Oy, a billy-bumbler, a sort of dog from Mid-World. The group is currently riding on a monorail train named Blaine and they are engaged in a riddle contest. If the group wins the contest by stumping Blaine, Blaine will deliver them to Topeka without killing them. If Blaine wins by having all the answers he will kill them all by driving at rapid speed into a wall. Now, on to the interesting, at least to me, things.

Each One of Us . . .

One of the main themes of all these books is the concept of ka, a word that means most simply fate but also includes a notion of sovereignty and inevitability. But that doesn't mean who we are and how we act doesn't matter as Eddie points out to Roland when he tells the dour gunslinger "[y]ou can't help your nature." p. 60

"The gunslinger considered this carefully, and discovered something that was wonderful and awful at the same time: that idea had never occurred to him. Not once in his whole life. That he was a captive of ka--this he had known since earliest childhood. But his nature...his very nature..." p. 60

This concept of both fate and nature surround our LOSTies. Locke feels it is his fate to be on the Island, to protect and serve it, but he can't get past his giant patsy nature. Jack has known since childhood that he has to learn to let it go, but he can't.

This passage and Roland's view of ka particularly reminds me of Season 1 "a sacrifice the Island demanded" Locke:

"So [Roland] had done [made a choice], believing in his youthful arrogance that everything would turn out all right for no other reason--yes, at bottom he had believed this--than that he was he, and ka must serve his love." p. 429

Guys, When Are We?

Time and its unreliability, alternate worlds with both alternate wheres and whens, and doors to those worlds play a huge role in The Dark Tower series, but the LOST PTB have ruled out alternate worlds as an explanation for the show, so I won't dwell on that too much. But I will mention that this book includes Bermuda Triangle like places called thinnies which are implied to be doors between worlds. Ones appearance is attributed to an earthquake. Some similar opening could exist on the Island due to the volcano we've heard briefly about.

When Did You Ever Tell The Complete Truth?

The bulk of Wizard and Glass is a flashback like the one we in Meet Kevin Johnson. That is it is a flashback narrated by the character himself, so the question of the reliability of the narrator is certainly at issue. Interestingly parts of the flashback that Roland himself could not have participated in were shown to him in the crystal-ball-like glass, but the reliability of the glass's narration should be looked at skeptically as well.

Repeatedly the ball showed Roland and others only what it wanted to them to know in order to get them to act in a certain way, a different way than they might have acted had they had all the facts. Ironically it doesn't lie to them, but it misdirects by omitting key facts and revealing others. 

This selective revelation reminds me of Smokey's encounters with Locke and the dreams on the Island. The LOSTies have been shown some things and they take them to mean they should do one thing, when in fact if they'd had more information they might have done something else entirely. Think Charlie's kidnapping of Aaron.

Ben's refusal to reveal to the LOSTies all he knows acts similarly. As we've debated since the end of Season 3, given what he knows, of course Jack called the boat. No one has told him or shown him anything that would logically make him do otherwise. But as happens with Roland, selective revelation leads to certain actions and later to regret once all the facts are revealed, eh bearded future Jack?

Reliability of memory is also explicitly called out in the book in essentially the notion that it is the winners who write history. Roland and his friends are framed for a crime they didn't commit and Deputy Dave knows it. But as Roland remarks to himself: "It was just part of the frame, and none of these men believed much of it, Dave likely included. Although, Roland supposed, they would come to believe it in later years and tell it to their children and grandchildren as gospel." p. 498 It sounds a lot like Jack telling his O6 story so much that Kate thinks he actually believes it.

Flashes Before Your Eyes

The ability to see the future has been present explicitly in LOST since Season 3 and I believe that Ben has some ability in this as well. In Wizard and Glass we're given a supernatural explanation for a similar ability. It comes in the form of a "glass" which can show you other worlds. There were 13 of these glasses in all, and this particular glass, the pink one, could show you two things, other peoples' secrets as well as some parts of the future.

I know most people don't want to see Ben gazing into a crystal ball, but there is something interesting about using these balls which could come into play in LOST. You can't keep and use these balls all the time because they are alive and hungry. "One begins using em; one ends being used by em." p. 457 Instead of the glass serving you, you serve the glass. The ends and means become tangled.  

I could certainly see something like that happening on LOST. In fact it might explain the true nature of Ben and Jacob's relationship which could have begun by Ben serving Jacob, but clearly seems to be Jacob serving Ben at least until 815 crashed. Maybe something along these lines will lead to Locke's Island downfall as well.  

Some Final Minor Similarities:

In the flashback, 14-year-old Roland and his friends are sent to a backwater community to keep them out of a harm's way. But they describe this time as being sent by their fathers to "meditat[e] in Purgatory." p. 159

Cuthbert is a slingshot specialist.

There are remnants of the past civilization present in Roland's time, and his enemy, Farson is attempting to harness that civilization's weapons to his advantage. There are similar theories out there about Smokey, namely, that he is an older technology that we don't know how to control anymore.

The "wizard" of the book can appear to you as people from your past.

There's a reference to Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, in particular to how much could work could occur in a single night.

The entire last section of the book is a retelling of the scene in The Wizard of Oz where Dorothy's ka-tet encounters the Wizard in the Emerald City. The glass itself and what people see in it are very Wizard of Oz as well.

Roland has very Jack-like father issues. "[His father's voice] was the hardest voice, the one he so often heard in his troubled dreams, the one he so wanted to please and so seldom could." p. 675

And so I'm over halfway to the Tower! Hopefully before LOST ends I'll get there. With 2 incredibly lengthy hiatuses due before that occurs, I have all confidence that I will, but if not "there are always other worlds."


Ezra James Sharkington said...

Wow, that's a great post. The Flashes Before Your Eyes section really got me thinking about Ben and Jacob's relationship and even about Jacob and Christian's relationship. I think there is much more to this story than we are being told and I am not convinced that Christian is Jacob. I'd really like to know if Jacob is even still around or if Christian is the "anti Jacob" and took over. Could Christian be to Jacob what Widmore is to Ben?

When we first met Jacob you could tell something was not right. There was the grey ash ( maybe to keep him confined in the cabin?) and the voice saying "help me" to Locke. Then the next time we see the cabin we see an eye of whom we can guess was Jacob's and we see Christian chilling out in the rocking chair. Finally, the last time we saw the cabin there was no Jacob (as far as we can see). It was only Christian and Claire with Christian speaking for him. I mean it seems to me Christian was slowly taking over Jacob's whole operation and if that's the case was moving the island really the right thing to do? What do you think?

Capcom said...

You have an interesting point there EJS, CS did sort of creep into the shack picture gradually, didn't he?!

memphish said...

I've been wondering similarly about Jacob and Christian too EJS. And Locke just buys the "I speak for Jacob" and never asks Ben, "hey, what about this guy hanging out with Claire?" Of course, the fact that Locke never saw Jacob the first time is at play too. Maybe he thinks Christian is Jacob despite saying he only speaks for him.

I really wish Jack had spoken to Christian in his Something Nice Back Home flash forward now to see if Christian would tell Jack to come back to the Island or if like dream Claire he would say not to go back. Kate's dream with its conflicting message is one of the big things that's going to bug me all hiatus.

Paula Abdul Alhazred said...


Long time no comment! I hope you've been doing well. I'm glad to see you've finished WIZARD AND GLASS (my personal favorite of the series, along with the final book). As we discussed when you finished THE WASTE LANDS, there are mucho similarities between Roland's quest and our favorite island adventure.

The thinnies definitely remind me of whatever it is you have to travel through in order to reach the island. I'm not so certain that the island is exactly, 100% in our world. I know the producers supposedly said there are no parallel universes, but they've only ever said that in regards to the flashforwards. Just recently, Jimmy Kimmel asked them if everyone on the island is technically from Earth, and it took them a long time to answer a not-so-confident "yes". So clearly there's something going on there, if a question like that is a tricky one.

I think of ka a lot when I'm watching LOST, because ka is fate or an instrument of destiny, and that idea pops up on LOST in virtually every episode. And just as in LOST, in THE DARK TOWER there's always a question about what exactly is controlled by ka and what isn't. (INSOMNIA, by the way, is a spin-off DARK TOWER book that answers a lot of those questions, but raises many more. It's also where you get to meet the Crimson King for the first time, since he is only passingly mentioned in WIZARD. This is assuming you haven't already read INSOMNIA, of course. Cry pardon if you have!).

Roland isn't the only one who has Jack-like daddy issues . . . Jake's relationship with his father completely reminds me of Jack and Christian. When I first saw "White Rabbit," I remember feeling a sense of deja vu when Christian was lecturing young Jack. And then I remembered all of Jake's memories of his father.

The idea that there are ancient technologies and leftover civilizations is one of my favorite things about THE DARK TOWER, which is maybe why I am always thinking that way when I theorize about LOST. (And don't these faceless, monolithic corporations like North Central Positronics, Ltd./LaMerk Foundry/Sombra Corporation remind you of the DHARMA Initiative/Hanso Foundation/Paik Heavy Industries/Widmore Corporation?). Roland's world has had several apocalypses . . . the Great Cataclysm or Great Poisoning, when the Age of Technology collapsed and left remnants, not to mention lots of biological, chemical, nuclear and interdimensional waste. And then of course there is what happened when the world moved on several millenia later, when Gilead collapsed and time and space began to stretch and fall apart. This makes me wonder if the island itself has seen several major catastrophes.

You made an awesome point about the unreliability of memory. The wizard's glasses only show bits and pieces of the truth to hurt and wound their users (or at least the pink one does). Black Thirteen is mentioned in WIZARD AND GLASS as well, and I would imagine that could be a very troublesome instrument in its own right. Anyway, it's also worth mentioning Roland's statement about the past, where he says that time is now so unreliable that even the past is rearranging itself. That idea is certainly explored in various ways in all of the TOWER books (just look at Roland and Jake's mental schism in the third novel), and I think it could have something to do with LOST as well. Yeah, yeah, I know there's "course correction" and all that, but I see course correction as being the same thing as ka. There is fate, but there is also free will, and SOME things really can be changed. I think Desmond's time traveling has demonstrated that, as has Roland's. Desmond's schizophrenic perception of time even reminded me of Roland and Jake's experiences in the third book.

The idea of the Wizard appearing as people from your past very much recalls the monster. Interestingly, WIZARD AND GLASS basically establishes that Walter, Marten, Flagg the Magician, Randall Flagg, Russell Faraday, Richard Fannin, etc. are all the same person, this so-called Ageless Stranger. In THE STAND he's referred to as "the man with no face." This idea of shifting identities really does make me think of Jacob and the monster.

Even more than that, though, is the idea of a being which takes the form of people's fears or memories. That is what I assumed the monster was early in the first season of LOST (before doubting myself for a while), and of course, Stephen King wrote about this same thing in the novel IT. And without spoiling anything, there is a connection between IT and the DARK TOWER novels (though it is debatable how direct the connection is). I'd also be on the lookout for a particular contraption at some point that might recall a theory or two about the monster (trust me, I'm not giving anything away).

Whew! Yet again I am reminded how much I love to talk about LOST and the DARK TOWER at the same time. I think it makes people want to kill me. Anyway, it's been fun blogging again. I hope to be visiting here more often, and I should have a new post over at my blog fairly soon. Take it easy!

memphish said...

Thanks for the great comment PAA. I'm glad to see you here and look forward to reading your new blog posts.

I think the thinnies could well be what's going on with the special Island headings. They aren't quite direct links between our world and the Island, but they are a path. Of course, the thinny path was an extremely dangerous, generally terminal one. And I guess you might argue that the wrong approach to the Island is as well as was witnessed by Minkowski. I think we have some form of this mythology at play, but I'm think the rules aren't quite hard and fast on LOST.

Insomnia will have to go on my reading list. My goal is to finish the Dark Tower series before the start of Season 6. Insomnia may have to wait until after that, but that's all right. I'm reading IT right now, and play to start The Wolves of Calla by the end of the summer.

I totally agree about Jake and Jack and their dads, though I'd argue Jake deals with daddy better than Jack ever did.

I also like your idea that there have been several "incidents" on the Island. Perhaps Smokey represents one iteration, Dharma certainly represents another and there may be more still. The hieroglyphs are an interesting clue.

As for the reliability of the past and memory, I agree that King is probably more right in making both unreliable, but I think for the sake of clarity LOST's PTB are trying to avoid that type of story telling. It's more complicated and open to cries of foul, but I think in terms of the "real" world, that's more of what I lean towards. You look back on your life and think what if I'd chosen this college instead of that and suddenly you have an entirely different life. I think big things like that are to some extent set at least once you get far enough removed from them. But I think that's harder to portray in a visual medium than in print so that harder rules help in LOST's story. Nevertheless that's one of the most intriguing mysteries to me given the way S4 ended. Why does Jack think they need to go back? What can they change? I'll have a post on that next week.

Thanks again for the great comment. I hope things are looking up for you. I was sorry to hear about your tough times. Stay LOST!

Paula Abdul Alhazred said...

Hey Memphish! Thanks for the well wishes.

I definitely think that, if the monster is some form of technology, that it's leftover from a previous civilization on the island. I'll be expounding on that in the next post on my blog. And I agree that Jake handles his daddy issues way better than Jack. But Jake's dad was basically just a jerk, whereas Christian is a lot more complex.

I should clarify that I don't think LOST is gonna go off the deep end with numerous versions of the past or anything like that. But I think characters like Desmond can at least flirt with that idea of doing certain things differently, and making small changes in the big picture. I think LOST will continue to present that stuff, but in a scaled down and accessible way (as opposed to DARK TOWER, which gets way convoluted with the spacetime jumping as the books go on). It'll be interesting to see, with Jack and the gang, just how much destiny can be reversed or corrected.

Well, that's it for now! Take care.