Tuesday, July 3, 2007

The Moon Pool

This is the book when I realized I was going to see Lost everywhere I looked. The Moon Pool itself has never been on the show, but people think that constant mentions of the moon pool -aka submarine dock- in the Looking Glass Hatch might be a reference to this classic early science fiction novel. Me, I'm not sure, but it was interesting anyway.

MP is a classic pulp science fiction adventure story from 1918 (Project Gutenberg has it). Basically, it's about this mysterious island and the people stealing monster it contains. Unlike our monster, this one is made of pure, shining moonlight. "The Dweller" or "The Shining One" steals people to feed off their emotions, and holds them captive thrall forever. The monster comes with an eerie cysteine tinkling sound, and when someones sees it their face contorts with "utter agony and utter ecstasy".

The story follows a very international little group, drawn to the island for different reasons. The main character, Doctor Walt Goodwin (spooky) is trying to find his old friend, who has been taken. He is joined by adventurous Irishman Larry, a Norwegian looking for his wife and child, and a evil Russian looking to harness the monster for his own sinister purposes.

So far it's very Lost, right? Well, I'm sorry to report that once they get to the Island, we break pretty hard with the show (at least as far as we've seen). On the island they find an ancient lost civilization, and the story gets really tangled in the technologies and politics of this world. And dwarfs and frog people. The plot is pretty standard science fiction stuff about two races, one dominant, lead by an evil priestess. The priestess and her ilk worship the shining one, the good people (including beautiful handmaiden Lakla) worship and older trinity called "The Silent Ones". Eventually there's an epic battle I'll talk about after I stop and explain some things.

There's some character alignments that are pretty eerie, although it might just be that everybody's using the same archetypes. The Irish guy, Larry, is a wisecracking, nick-naming, adventurous ne'er-do-well who's always clutching his pistol. He's the past's more innocent version of Sawyer. The Doctor is very Jack: earnest, brave, and constantly pointing out that he believes in science, not supernatural crap. Larry falls hard for native lady Lakla, and they hook up while the Doc looks on pathetically. The friend Doc is going after? His name is Throckemartin, called Throcke, and he chides the doctor for his inability to believe in higher power, or the unexplainable.

Back to the plot. It turns out that The Shining One was actually made by The Silent Ones. They're remnants of an ancient race, who believed that they had grown so wise that they could create powerful life. But this belief was prideful, and their pride infected their creation, and it became warped. It fed off negative emotions, and grew stronger. First they made sacrifices to it, but it's gotten out of control and started taking people. The evil priestess (and the evil Russian) are going to try to use the monster to take over the whole world, so its time for an epic battle between good and evil. The Shining Ones tell Larry that the only way to stop the monster is with great sacrifice. Larry and Lakla will have to throw themselves into the Shining One, and the force of their love and purity of their sacrifice will kill it. They choose to do this.

Except for no good reason, it doesn't kill them, just the monster. It dies, and its thousands of captives fall : "no longer dead-alive, now all of the blessed dead, freed from their dreadful slavery!" Yay. Larry and Lakla decide to hang around and help rebuild her society, and the Doc seems inclined to do the same, but all of a sudden the Russian (suddenly back from the presumed dead) knocks him out, and he wakes up locked out, with no way back in. Everything that was is covered by the sea. "There was no road to Larry- or to Lakla! And there, for me, the world ended." Poor lil' dude.

I have to say I see parallels. Or at least potential parallels. The show hasn't gotten close enough to the question of what the monster actually is, let alone the ancient lost civilization that the ruins have hinted at, for me to have anything but a feeling that this seems relevant. And the mix of ancient power and modern greed is very Lost. The idea of the captive dead fits for me too, depending on your interpretation of the way the whispers and visions work. It's interesting to consider the monster as a being that feeds off negative emotions and is rebuffed by positive ones, although I hope Lost could be a little subtler about it. Reading this book made me reconsider the importance of our monster, who's been lurking in the background lately. I wonder if the end of the show could include a similar final showdown with the monster, possibly including a parallel noble sacrifice.

I recommend this book if you like science fiction, especially older stuff. Anyone else is probably going to get bogged down in the middle. I think there's a lot that connects to Lost here, but I genuinely can't decide whether it's intentional, or if its just because they're both working from the same stack of sci-fi tropes and character archetypes. Either way, it's a good excuse to read some melodramatic pulp adventure, and I say take it.

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