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S.

by Doug Dorst, J.J. Abrams (Creator), V.M. Straka (Pseudonym)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
3,344883,965 (3.83)1 / 77
"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."--Slipcase.… (more)
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Group TopicMessagesLast Message 
 The Green Dragon: Geek alert! JJ Abrams & Doug Dorst book87 unread / 87Macumbeira, April 2014

» See also 77 mentions

English (85)  Italian (2)  German (1)  Dutch (1)  All languages (89)
Showing 1-5 of 85 (next | show all)
This novel is difficult to describe. It is a sometimes macabre story of an amnestic man who is searching for a woman he might know, who has various adventures in which he gradually becomes a revolutionary assassin opposed to an evil capitalistic state. The title of the book is the name of a famous paradox, namely does the Ship of Theseus retain its identity when all of its constituent pieces are gradually replaced (Many other books also have this title.). The actual authors of the novel are J.J. Abrams (the television producer) and Doug Dorst. There is an extensive subtext concerning who the fictitious author, V.M. Straka, might be. The subtext occurs in fictitious translator’s notes and, most extraordinarily, in marginalia that have been printed in different colors and different hands by different fictitious characters who are reading the novel, commenting on it, passing it back and forth (the book is printed to look like a library book), and falling in love with each other. But that’s not all. The book has been published with occasional inserts resembling, for example, postcards from Brazil, personal handwritten letters, a map of Pollard State University (where the book resides) drawn on a napkin, a decoder device, a telegram, and a small photograph of a woman.
So, is it any good? I’m not sure. It is difficult to read. I first tried to read the text of the novel for a chapter then go back and read the marginalia, but this became tedious and I eventually read the text of the novel and the marginalia together. I had no interest in the discussion of the author’s identity, but I was mildly interested in the relationship among the characters who wrote in the margins. Anyway, ultimately, the most interesting thing to me was how does one produce a book like this?
( )
  markm2315 | Jun 13, 2024 |
I'm pretty much the exact target audience for this book. A huge fan of both meta-fiction and conspiracy theory books, and this one delivered both in spades. I think I enjoyed the book within the book more than the story in the margins, but they do complement very well and it made for a really fun reading experience. ( )
  rknickme | Mar 31, 2024 |
"That's why people like Vévoda always have the advantage, you know," Corbeau says, rubbing her nose. "Over people like us. Because we're cursed with the belief that people matter. It's much, much easier to bend the world to your will if bending the world is what matters most to you."

S. is several different books at once. At the base, there's the physical book; a very satisfyingly weighty object with library binding and a library sticker on the spine called, rather obviously, Ship of Theseus. That volume holds the last work of famed author V.M. Straka, a mysterious person whose identity is the subject of debate. In this novel, a man washes ashore at a small industrial port city currently in the midst of a labor strike. He is quickly swept up in the chaos and ends up taking shelter with the ringleaders of the strike as things rapidly fall apart and they are forced to flee across the mountains. Eventually, the man ends up back on board the ship that had left him at the city, and no matter what he does, he ends up back on this ship, one that becomes more and more battered as damaged parts are replaces with ever flimsier substitutions.

The next part of this book are the footnotes written by his translator, a person who never met Straka, but who has spent their life working for him. Straka himself was seemingly disappeared, or chose to disappear, the pages of this novel left scattered in the alleyway behind the hotel where he was taken. There are clues and codes embedded in the footnotes and relate to Straka's history of being part of a band of artists fighting an evil corporate entity.

Then there's the story of an English major working part-time in the university library who finds a copy of Ship of Theseus "owned" (see library markings) by a graduate student expelled from the university who is desperately trying to find out who Straka really was, even as the professor he had studied under has taken his work and is trying to discredit him. As the two correspond through notes written in the margins, they begin to work together to find out who Straka was and what exactly happened to him, leaving information between the pages of the book. There's an added layer in this correspondence, as they go back and forth through the book with their messages, so that a single page can hold messages from different times in their storyline.

The result of all of this is a very tactile and interactive book, where there are maps scrawled on napkins and all sorts of comments on the text as the story progresses. Doug Dorst has created an intricate work where the various elements enhance each other. It's a slow reading process, and one that requires more from the reader than just turning pages, and I very much enjoyed my time with this book. There is an audio version of this book, which boggles my mind. ( )
  RidgewayGirl | Mar 21, 2024 |
I really love the concept of this book. Some of my favorite children's books are ones with hand-written letters in them. But I had trouble reading this book, from the practical standpoint of all the extra documents wanting to fall out, to the question of what order to read each page in. It was very enjoyable, but I don't think I would re-read it, just because of the practical difficulty of handling all the documents. ( )
  knerd.knitter | Mar 20, 2024 |
Love, love, love this! Such an interesting concept: a book written in the margins of a book. The “fake” fiction book that the margins were written around is great. And my favorite part of the whole thing. So well written and thought provoking: are you still you, if everything about you has changed? Draws from the philosophical question: if every piece of wood on the ship is replaced, is it still the same ship? The story in the margins was interesting, but got really difficult to follow and eventually boring. ( )
  ZL10 | Mar 1, 2024 |
Showing 1-5 of 85 (next | show all)
As viewers of the final episode of Lost know, Abrams has form in creating an addictive narrative and then disappointing at the end. And, despite delivering regular high-concept pleasures, S. is finally a brilliant piece of publishing rather than a wholly coherent rethinking of the novel.
added by amanda4242 | editThe Guardian, Mark Lawson (Nov 13, 2013)
 

» Add other authors (6 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Dorst, Dougprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Abrams, J.J.Creatormain authorall editionsconfirmed
Straka, V.M.Pseudonymmain authorall editionsconfirmed
Schnettler, TobiasTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Schröder, BertTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Original title
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People/Characters
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Epigraph
Dedication
First words
If found, please return to Workroom B19,
Main Library, Pollard State University. [in pencil]
Translator's Note
  And Foreword
          by
   F. X. Caldeira

               I.
Who was V.M. Straka?
Chapter 1

What Begins,
   What Ends

Dusk. The Old Quarter of a city where river meets sea.
Quotations
What begins at the water shall end there and what ends there shall once more begin.
Words are a gift to the dead and a warning to the living.
The story you walk into, he has learned, is always more complex than it first appears.
They're good questions, to be sure, but they have no answers, and at some point one chooses not to ask anymore.
But you ought to understand, too, that there's an attrition that takes place inside, one in which options and choices and even desires are ground ever smaller until finally their existence can no longer be confirmed by observation or weight or displacement but only by faith.  Until desire is a ghost.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Should not be confused or merged with S. [http://www.librarything.com/work/1379...] by John Updike.

-or with-

S. [http://www.librarything.com/work/1077...] by Slavenka Drakulic.
Publisher's editors
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References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (2)

"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."--Slipcase.

No library descriptions found.

Book description
Haiku summary
They say you never

read the same book twice, but this

might require it.

(legallypuzzled)

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