Book Review: S. by J.J. Abrams and Doug Dorst

Posted on 02/10/2016 in Book Review / 2 Comments

Book Review: S. by J.J. Abrams and Doug DorstS. by J.J. Abrams, Doug Dorst
Published by Mulholland Books on October 29th 2013
Genres: Adult, Mystery, Fantasy
Pages: 457
Source: Gift
Buy on Amazon

A young woman picks up a book left behind by a stranger. Inside it are his margin notes, which reveal a reader entranced by the story and by its mysterious author. She responds with notes of her own, leaving the book for the stranger, and so begins an unlikely conversation that plunges them both into the unknown.\r\n\r\nTHE BOOK: Ship of Theseus, the final novel by a prolific but enigmatic writer named V. M. Straka, in which a man with no past is shanghaied onto a strange ship with a monstrous crew and launched onto a disorienting and perilous journey.\r\n\r\nTHE WRITER: Straka, the incendiary and secretive subject of one of the world’s greatest mysteries, a revolutionary about whom the world knows nothing apart from the words he wrote and the rumours that swirl around him.\r\n\r\nTHE READERS: Jennifer and Eric, a college senior and a disgraced grad student, both facing crucial decisions about who they are, who they might become, and how much they’re willing to trust another person with their passions, hurts, and fears.\r\n\r\nS. , conceived by filmmaker J. J. Abrams and written by award-winning novelist Doug Dorst, is the chronicle of two readers finding each other in the margins of a book and enmeshing themselves in a deadly struggle between forces they don’t understand. It is also Abrams and Dorst’s love letter to the written word.

I was incredibly excited when I unwrapped this book on Christmas morning. I’d heard so much about it, and it seemed less like a book than an interactive mystery reading experience. Here’s the premise: Ship of Theseus is a book written by a fictional author named V.M. Straka, and it’s designed to look like a library book – complete with stamped due dates and everything. Inside, there are notes written in the margins of almost every single page. Sometimes, multiple sets of notes (different colored ink is used).  The notes are a discussion between two students regarding the mystery of the author, but it evolves into much more. There are also lots of inserts – photographs, letters, post cards, newspaper articles, etc. If you’re a fan of the story-within-a-story formula, then this is right up your alley. Oh, and did I mention this is the brain-child of J.J. Abrams? image1 I will caution you – this book is involved. There are several ways you can choose to read it: you can read the entire text of Ship of Theseus first, then go back and read the notes, or you can read the text and notes at the same time. I chose to do a combination of the two – I would read a few pages, then go back and catch up on the notes. This way I wasn’t constantly leaving the story, but I was also reading the notes soon enough that the story was fresh.   I will admit, there were times that I was bored reading The Ship of Theseus, and anxious just to get back to the notes between Eric and Jen. Not always – sometimes the story was really intriguing and I read a few pages further than I intended before catching up on the notes. Overall, I really, really enjoyed this. It was such a unique experience – I mean, how cool is it to pull a map that is handwritten on a napkin, out of your book? I loved the mystery and how involved it was.   As soon as I finished, I immediately went to the websites that are dedicated to the book (there are several) and began reading. I felt like there was still so much to process and figure out. And then I found out that there was an alternate ending (“recovered” pages) that was tweeted by Doug Dorst, and my mind was blown even further.  Days after I finished the book, I’m still thinking about it, and going back to look things up and read more. This is definitely an experience that I recommend, but be prepared to put some serious thought and effort into reading it.  

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Jessica’s addiction to books began at age 4, going on weekly trips to the library with her mom. After being a young fan of Sweet Valley High and The Baby-Sitters Club, she discovered the thrill of reading a book that made her want to leave the light on and check under the bed. Her all-time favorite author is Stephen King, but she will read just about anything! Jessica never leaves home without her e-reader, and considers it the best gift she ever received. Her other hobbies include running and going to Disney World as often as possible.


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