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A good, if not definitive resource with some noticeable flaws
on October 19, 2010
The LOST Encyclopedia will not bring a bevy of new insights or craved "answers" for fans of the show, but it is a solid catalog of facts and histories from the show's vast mythology. I wouldn't call it comprehensive, but it's an enjoyably casual reference for fans of the show.
The biggest negative trait of the book is the sloppy editing. Despite being delayed multiple times before its release, the articles still contain numerous typographical errors (I'd estimate one every couple of pages on average), far more than should be acceptable for a professionally published work like this. There are even entries that are OUT OF ALPHABETICAL ORDER: under "D," there are three entries ordered "Donovan," "Dogen" and "Doctors." I know it's something most people won't lose a lot of sleep over, but as an English major I found them impossible to ignore and quite distracting from the flow of the book.
More important and germane to the nature of the LOST Encyclopedia, there doesn't seem to be much rhyme or reason to the emphasis placed on some elements of the show in contrast to others. For example, on the same two-page spread, Eddie Colburn, a minor character featured in ONE flashback episode, is given as much attention as Edward Mars, a character who appeared in multiple flashbacks and on the Island. Another example: there's a massive two-page entry dedicated to the RECORD PLAYER in the Swan station. The same amount of space is given to the blast door map, one of the pivotal set pieces of the series. If I had to guess, I'd say that such decisions were made to make the articles fit into neat two-page layouts, with the visual presentation emphasized over the relevance of information.
As mentioned in a previous review, the alphabetization of the entries is slapdash. If you want to actually look up an obscure element of the show rather than just casually browse the book, you may find yourself taking several guesses on what your query may be titled before you find it. For example, if you want to look up the glowing river alternatively called "The Source" or "The Heart of the Island," you won't find it listed under either of those two names. Instead, it is mentioned in a brief paragraph in the massive entry "The Island," as well as intermittently in other entries. Other aspects of the show that this fan thinks should have entries but do not, based on their importance in the show, include the Whispers, Time Travel, and the Donkey Wheel.
Now, to the positive. Given the existence of the much more comprehensive fan wiki "Lostpedia," the biggest appeal of The LOST Encyclopedia is not the depth or organization of its entries. Instead, it is the hundreds and hundreds of visual aids that accompany the entries, along with photos of LOST props and locales sprinkled liberally throughout the book. All of the entries on the major Dharma stations feature original diagrams. There are hundreds of close-ups of key props, such as Faraday's journal and maps used by the characters, as well as more obscure pieces like Drive Shaft promotional posters and the contents of Kate's time capsule. Most fans have never had an opportunity to see such components of LOST lore this clearly and up close.
The encyclopedia also features a number of ancillary elements that exist outside of the show, thus establishing them as canon while also exposing them to fans who may not have seen them before. The entry for Alvar Hanso contains information about Thomas Mittlewerk and Rachel Blake, characters featured only in the LOST Alternate Reality Game "The LOST Experience." The article on the Purge includes a copy of the truce between the Others and the Dharma Initiative, previously available only to those who bought the special edition of the Season Five box set. There are even translations of many of the hieroglyphics featured on sets and props from the show, engravings that would be impossible to discern from screencaps.
Ironically, the unofficial Lostpedia easily remains the definitive source of information on LOST even after the release of this book. Really, The LOST Encyclopedia functions best as a kind of coffee table attraction, a tome to peruse for the sake of curiosity as opposed to a serious study of the show's mythology. While its numerous textual errors give some entries an unpolished feel, from a strictly visual perspective the book is stunning. It's not easy to produce as many new images from a show as heavily scrutinized as LOST, but the material unique to the book, as well as the conversational tone best suited to enjoyable casual reading, make it worth the buy.