S.

( 24 )

Overview

One book. Two readers. A world of mystery, menace, and desire.

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.

The book: Ship of Theseus, the final novel by a prolific but enigmatic...

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Overview

One book. Two readers. A world of mystery, menace, and desire.

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.

The 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.

The 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 rumors that swirl around him.

The 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.

S., 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, and it is also Abrams and Dorst's love letter to the written word.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

Ranking as the most exciting collaboration in recent memory is this new novel by film and television director J.J. Abrams (Lost; Alias; Star Trek; Mission: Impossible) and novelist Doug Dorst (Alive in Necropolis; The Surf Guru). At its heart is a wonderful density: A narrative of romantic encounter and adventure accompanied by marginalia from two readers that echoes online and in the real world. S. inhabits a universe that entangles us in its secrets and provocations.

Publishers Weekly
★ 11/04/2013
Fans of Abrams’s TV series Lost will delight in this multilayered and complex novel, coauthored with Dorst (Alive in Necropolis), which comes in a highly unusual package. A sealed slipcase holds a “library copy” of V.M. Straka’s 1949 book, Ship of Theseus, a title that calls to mind Plutarch’s famous paradox, which asks whether a ship that has had all its parts replaced is really the same ship. Virtually every artificially browned page in the book contains the marginal notes of students Jen and Eric, who share details of their lives and remark on the text (the notes are in different colors, allowing readers to distinguish between the authors). Their annotations and questions punctuate Straka’s story of a man known only as S., who’s been shanghaied and has lost his memory; footnotes lead the reader down more and more rabbit holes, as do multiple loose inserts such as photos, memos, postcards, and letters. For those in our online age able to accept the notion of a chat carried out by handwritten exchanges in a printed book, the Talmudic commentary will fascinate, even as clues are dropped early on that the resolution may be ambiguous. This is a must-read for literary puzzle fans, even for those unfamiliar with Abrams’s TV and film work. Agent: Jay Mandel, William Morris Endeavor. (Oct.)
From the Publisher
"The best-looking book I've ever seen. . . . The book is so perfectly realized that it's easy to fall under its spell. . . . If you want to write a romantic mystery meta-novel in which two bibliophiles investigate the conspiracy around an enigmatic Eastern European author, you couldn't choose a better team." --Joshua Rothan, New Yorker

"Impressively smart, engaging . . . Filled with secrets and stories that are endlessly beguiling and inviting . . . Reading S., and trying to decode everything [was] an incredibly enjoyable, fun experience, as well as a particularly immersive one. . . . For all its mysteries and intrigues, this is a book about the value of books, and what they can offer us that other storytelling mediums cannot." --Wired

"S. is gorgeous, a masterpiece of verisimilitude. . . . The book's spiritual cousin is A.S. Byatt's Possession. . . . The brilliance of S. is less in its showy exterior than the intimate and ingeniously visual way it shows how others' words become pathways to our lives and relationships." --Washington Post

"Both as literature and as a physical object, S. is a profound and tremendous work of art. . . . Brilliantly conceived and perfectly executed, the book harkens back to a golden age of storytelling. . . . An audacious literary achievement that calls to mind Vladimir Nabokov's Pale Fire, Chris Ware's Building Stories and even Charles Portis' Masters of Atlantis." --Miami Herald

"Reading S. is fun, and the book feels alive . . . Gloriously embroidered with marginalia and jammed with artifacts inserted between its pages . . . A celebration of the book as a physical thing." --Chicago Tribune

The Miami Herald
"Both as literature and as a physical object, S. is a profound and tremendous work of art."
Library Journal
Abrams, who has created, produced, written, and directed multiple Emmy Award- and Golden Globe Award-winning television series and films, joins forces with PEN/Hemingway Award- and Shirley Jackson Award-nominated novelist Dorst for a Rubik's cube tale of love and adventure.
Kirkus Reviews
★ 2013-12-19
A delightful, endlessly unfolding fiction that is meta beyond meta, a sort of Da Vinci Code for smart people. When lead author Abrams isn't busy rebooting the Star Trek film series, he's cooking up puzzles, mysteries and legerdemain. With lieutenant Dorst (Alive in Necropolis, 2008, etc.), he's conjured up a fine frame on which to hang the enterprise: a sort of gothic romance--though of the Horace Walpole rather than Barbara Cartland sort--called Ship of Theseus (a title that, as game theory enthusiasts will know, itself conjures up a thorny philosophical puzzle). Written by a Poe-esque poet named V. M. Straka, the invented piece is a study in gloominess: "The stolen look becomes a prolonged study, not of the devastation but of the figure he notices skulking at the foot of the port's only lighthouse, hidden from the shooters and watching S. recede into the dark, perhaps even waving once before S. disappears from view." Weaving its way through this book is a second story, marginal notes exchanged by a young man and young woman who sometimes flirt and sometimes fret, puzzling over Straka's yarn while gabbing their way toward resolution over their own lives ("I seriously doubt your dad is some evil Bouchard person." "I know. But it makes the marketing job even more repulsive. Don't want to be any part of that world." "Hard to avoid. Maybe impossible.") The twin narratives, spinning in and out of each other like loopy helixes, are absorbing enough, but the most impressive thing about this shaggy-dog story is its physical form: a book that looks every bit like the 1949-issue stolen library book that it is supposed to be, hatched with doodles and annotations and underlinings, its pages full of laid-in treasures: postcards, letters, notes, photographs and, yes, a decoder wheel. The book is a simulacrum as wondrous as the one the protagonist of Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore invents--and if this book has a spiritual twin, it's Robin Sloan's lively 2012 tale. Beguiling. For fans of mysteries, postmodern fiction and fine bookmaking: a book that makes demands of its reader, but that amply entertains in return.
The New York Times
"[The] presiding pop-culture guru-geek ... a generous showman."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780316201643
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
  • Publication date: 10/29/2013
  • Pages: 472
  • Sales rank: 185
  • Product dimensions: 6.50 (w) x 9.70 (h) x 1.60 (d)

Meet the Author

J.J. Abrams is the multiple Emmy Award-winning producer, writer, and director of Lost, Star Trek, Alias, The Fringe, Cloverfield, Armageddon, Super 8, and more. This is his debut novel.

Doug Dorst teaches creative writing at Texas State University-San Marcos. His work has appeared in McSweeney's, Ploughshares, Epoch, and other journals, as well as in the anthology Politically Inspired. He is also a former Jeopardy champion.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 24 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(18)

4 Star

(0)

3 Star

(3)

2 Star

(2)

1 Star

(1)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 24 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 11, 2013

    This novel is an absolutely mesmerizing love letter to the writt

    This novel is an absolutely mesmerizing love letter to the written word, and the power it can have over its reader. A story in which art imitates life (and vice versa), "S" has an incredibly clever design which allows you to follow multiple stories at once via the voices of the two margin notes writers, Jen and Eric, as well as the "Ship of Theseus" author, V.M. Straka. Once you enter this novel's world, you'll never want to leave it! Highly, highly recommend this for everyone to check out!

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 7, 2013

    This book is amazing. It's a fictional myster which is real yet

    This book is amazing. It's a fictional myster which is real yet fantasy all at the same time. It's easy to fall into the pages, and extremly difficult to climb back out.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 29, 2013

    great book DO NOT TRY TO TAKE THE TAG ON THE FRONT/BACK OFF. it

    great book

    DO NOT TRY TO TAKE THE TAG ON THE FRONT/BACK OFF. it was meant to stay on there, despite looking like it was removable.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 12, 2013

    UGH.

    UGH.

    1 out of 37 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 14, 2013

    Most fun I've had in a long time reading a book, and I'm only on

    Most fun I've had in a long time reading a book, and I'm only on page 50.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 12, 2013

    This is a great book thus far, I am really satisfied with the st

    This is a great book thus far, I am really satisfied with the story and everything that is happening. It is a very thorough and well thought out concept that has turned out to be a very great read, I cannot wait to see what is going to happen and figure out the mystery behind the author V.M. Straka! I highly recommend this book to anyone who is a fan of reading and new concepts that are offered!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 22, 2014

    I Also Recommend:

    Fantastic, suspenseful read. Also read Hector's Juice.

    Fantastic, suspenseful read. Also read Hector's Juice.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 16, 2014

    Awesome !!!

    This book is so good. Its like 2 stories in one book. definitely check it out. if you like j.j. abrams movies than you will definitely love his book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 14, 2014

    No other book like it!

    The first time I heard about this book I REALLY wanted to read it. The concept was just so different from any other book I had read, and all the artifacts contained within intrigued me. I immediately purchased the book and began reading it.

    At first, I wanted to read one chapter at a time and then go back and read the notes in the margin, but they were too distracting, so I changed to reading a "section" at time. This worked, but it took some getting used to. It was difficult keeping the "Ship of Theseus" storyline straight while keeping the marginal conversation in mind too. The book's storyline became easier to follow, but throughout the entire book the marginal notes were still a bit hard to follow. There were a lot of names being thrown around, plus all the "codes" contained within the footnotes.

    In the end, I definitely enjoyed reading the book. I'm not sure how I feel about the ending, but I did enjoy the book as a whole. If you like puzzling, challenging books that require you to constantly use your brain, then this book is for you.

    *** I decided to change my rating to 5 stars. The reason is I found that the eotvos wheel at the back of the book DOES serve a purpose, which leads me to believe that there is more to the story then it initially seems. Classic Abrams. I can't wait to try to crack the code and see what else the book contains!***

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 6, 2014

    This turned out to be a very interesting and entertaining book,

    This turned out to be a very interesting and entertaining book, exhibiting creativity at its best with a peculiar concept. The engaging nature of the storytelling reminded me of Janvier Chando's The Usurper and Other Stories. Complex though S is, it is a fun read and brings story telling to a whole new level.

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  • Posted January 31, 2014

    A unique reading experience.

    If the text is what we usually think of as the novel (e.g., the words that make up each chapter), then the paratext are the words about the text or novel (e.g., book reviews, essays about the book, or--in this case--the notes written in the margins). What makes S. unique is that both the text and the paratext are one. There are several separate, yet overlapping stories in the novel, and it's really up to you to decide which story is the most important as you read the book...however many times you might end up doing so. Obviously, I haven't read everything, but I'm pretty sure this approach to a novel is original. The characters who write to each other in the margins--like a literary "Catfish"--are well-developed despite the limited space on the page we're allowed to see them actually develop; the additional "paratexts" stuffed into different parts of the book communicate what the characters can't elaborate in the margins. What I originally thought would be my criticism of the book has actually changed while writing this review; if I were to say what the "problem" was, it would be evidence of my missing the book's point.

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  • Posted January 16, 2014

    You need to love reading books to like this book - recreational

    You need to love reading books to like this book - recreational reading that you need to work at.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 14, 2014

    I am only on page 44 of this book, but it is absolutely amazing.

    I am only on page 44 of this book, but it is absolutely amazing. I very easily got lost in the page this morning, and before I knew it, an hour and a half had passed by!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 10, 2014

    Creative, but not easy to follow

    I admire and appreciate the creativity in compiling/writing this book, but found it frustrating to follow all the margin notes and have not the slightest idea who the numerous people alluded to were, nor their positions vis-a-vis the mysterious V.M. Straka. I think having some sort of a "cheat sheet" listing those who were rumored to be connected to "S" and in what capacity might have enhanced my appreciation of the book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 9, 2014

    This novel is an absolutely amazing love story or should i say t

    This novel is an absolutely amazing love story or should i say three love stories mixed with fantasy and mystery. Once you enter this novel's world, you'll never want to leave it! Highly, highly recommend this for everyone to check out! It is slow reading because there are so many things going on but it is a worthy adventure. It drew me in at the very beginning and I lost track of time.




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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 8, 2014

    The book starts out strong but is incredibly anticlimactic.  The

    The book starts out strong but is incredibly anticlimactic.  The writing in the margins only weakens the book.  It was a good idea, just not well executed.

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  • Posted January 3, 2014

    Great customer service and delivery

    Great supplier who answered by question promptly after I placed my order. Book was as promised!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 30, 2013

    Mesmerizing

    It is slow reading because there are so many things going on but it is a worthy adventure. It drew me in at the very beginning and I lost track of time.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 29, 2013

    Interesting concept, however, the result is 2 mediocre stories,

    Interesting concept, however, the result is 2 mediocre stories, very disappointing.

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 21, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

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