Over the weekend I finally finished S, by JJ Abrams & Doug Dorst. This book was on my Christmas list a couple years ago, but it sold out and I forgot about it until this past year. I pushed it to the top of my wish list and wouldn’t you know it, I still didn’t get it. Enough was enough and I wound up purchasing it along with four other books. Knowing the concept behind the book, I saved it for last as I figured I would take my time reading it. Take my time. Yes, that’s an enormous understatement considering my last Recent Reads post was on January 27, 2016. Why did it take so long to read S? As so often happens, life/travel got in the way and this isn’t a great travelling book unless you’re extremely careful. As you can see from the above image, there’s a lot that comes with this book. If you can’t tell, the book is at the top of the picture and all the items surrounding it are stuffed between the pages. As the saying goes, there’s more to this story.
For those unfamiliar, the story is about two people who are fans of the mysterious author V.M. Straka and immerse themselves in the task of uncovering his true identity through the pages of his books, letters, postcards, newspaper clippings, etc. They do all this within one of his books entitled Ship of Theseus. This is the physical book you hold in your hands upon opening the S-labelled slip cover. If you click on the above image to enlarge it, you’ll notice that, in addition to the full Ship of Theseus/SoT Straka story, the book also contains copious handwriting. This is where the real story exists between Eric and Jen.
The story within the story or the story outside of the story, depending on your perspective, is an intriguing concept. I’ve seen discussions on how people chose to read the story – some opted to read the entire SoT story first and then return to follow the exploits of Eric & Jen, while others (like me) read a page of story and then went straight to the margins to see how it impacted the two protagonists. Personally, this seemed the most effective way to handle the story since there are coded clues to Straka’s exploits in the footnotes. Yes, puzzles to cipher! Eric and Jen help decode some of the puzzles, but others are up to you to solve. Or, if you get stumped or just can’t be bothered to put forth that effort, you can find some answers after a little online sleuthing. If you’ve read the book, feel free to share your thoughts.