Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Book Review: The Gospel According to Lost by Chris Seay

It is clear that author Chris Seay is a huge fan of Lost. He summarizes the show well in The Gospel According to Lost and navigates what could be a confusing five seasons with ease and clarity. My wife and I have been watching Lost from Episode 1 and thus I felt qualified (and excited) to review this book. Typically with a niche book such as this, I find myself saying "this book isn't for everyone, but fans of _________ will enjoy it".

However, I don't feel I can even say that, because all the things that make Lost such an arresting show are missing from this book: deep philosophical questions, challenging theological themes, and a joy in both the mystery and the revelation. Also missing from the book: the Gospel. The "good news" of salvation and forgiveness of sins through the work of Jesus in his death and resurrection was mentioned explicitly once, but that seems a little scarce for a book with "The Gospel According to" in the title.

One of the things that sets Lost apart from other television is the fact that you can tell that the writers are steeped in science, philosophy, literature and theology and it comes out in the writing. I was expecting to find the same intellectual rigors in this book, but was disappointed. This book read more like a collection of blog entries, each focusing on a character or two from the show. Rather than a logical progression through Gospel themes drawn out from the show, each chapter took a disjointed character snapshot and then somewhat awkwardly turned their dominant personality trait into a spiritual reflection. Unfortunately, for a show that so perfectly crafted deep and complex character arcs, this formula made them all seem one-dimensional.

The Gospel According to [fill in the blank]-type books are a strange breed to begin with. It takes a well-studied author (of both his subject matter and relevant philosophical and theological ideas) who can draw the themes of the Gospel out of fictional literature or film without it feeling forced or contrived. Unfortunately this is the very trap into which the book falls. Indeed, I finished the book feeling like nothing significant has been said about the Gospel (or Lost, for that matter).

If you're looking for a brief character study of each of the major players from Lost, you may enjoy this book. If you're looking for an intelligent way to introduce the Gospel into the conversation with diehard Lost fans, you will probably be disappointed.

This book was a free review copy provided by Thomas Nelson Publishers.

5 comments:

theologyandculture said...

LOST is amazing for everything you note here. What a shame that the book failed so miserably at capturing that.

BTW, this post looks like it was accidentally copy and pasted twice ;-).

Jared said...

Thanks for that heads up! I think it's fixed now, though everyone subscribing through a feed probably got it that way. :)

Johnnie said...

I read the original post and just thought you were skipping through time while you wrote it...I'm glad you were able to find your constant though!

Jared said...

Yay! LOST humor

Side note: I do skip through time, I just don't write blog posts while I do it.

Johnnie said...

Seriously, though, the dumbest thing about this book is that LOST is ongoing--you really need to wait until the story is over to be able to say what "The Gospel According To..." it is. That would be true of any story, of course...you don't analyze a novel by stopping half way through and writing about it...but it is particularly true of LOST. Much of the pleasure, week after week, is finding out that what we though we knew, we didn't know, etc.

Hope I don't spoil anything here, but for instance, in the final episode of the last season, we heard the "man of science" admit that he had been wrong and that the "man of faith" was correct all along.

But then in the last minutes....we had good reason to doubt that.

But then....

We have 18 more hours to go!

How can you analyze that???