S is the most incredible reading experience. It hit the shelves at Christmastime 2013, and I can’t believe I let a whole 4 months go by before I got started on it. But now I can’t put it down – compelling, puzzling, romantic and cool, this is a pretty amazing book.
S is a collaboration between major Hollywood director JJ Abrams – you’ll know him from the Star Trek reboot and LOST; and Doug Dorst, a writing lecturer at Texas State Univeristy – San Marcos, and author of Alive in Necropolis. S is their love letter to the written word, and it is a beautiful one. The quality of the book will blow you away! A major selling point is the ephemera that is stuck between the pages, notes and letters from the two readers, but these are not just small photostats – they are real napkins, real notepaper, real photographs. The novel itself comes in a gothic-esque box (apparently you can keep the ephemera in the box but I preferred to not lose their pages as some of the notes are directly referenced in the book), the novel is amazing – the pages are yellowed, there’s a library call sticker stuck on the spine and the embossed cover is homage to the cover art styles of the 1940s. It’s superb, one as a reader I appreciate so much – no corners cut, no expense spared to make the experience so real and engaging.
So, I’m sure many of you are wondering what the actual plot is … imagine, if you will, walking through your uni library in search of a good book to read – you want pirates and mystery and a switch on the switch. You find Ship of Theseus by V.M. Straka and open to the first page – but someone has written all over it, inked notes about the book cover the margins. You take a quick scan of what’s been written and – BAM! You’re following two uni students on their consuming quest to find out the true identity of V.M. Straka, a reclusive writer who may have been murdered, who may have been involved in WWII, who may not be V.M. Straka at all …
This is a book of threes. There is the novel itself, which is fantastic. It tells the story of S, a man with amnesia who is knocked unconscious in a bar and thrown onto a pirate ship where he tries to escape and find out who he is, why he is being targeted by enemies, and if he can find a woman named Sola who he had an instant connection with and might hold the keys to his identity.
Then there are the readers – Eric, a disgraced ex-honours student who has devoted his time to solving the mystery behind Straka and his body of works; and Jen, an undergrad who is swept up in the mystery and helps Eric research the book. They get to know each other through their notes, meet in real life, fall in love and try to solve the mystery and understand who they are as young adults.
The third element is Straka himself and the mystery surrounding him – was he a pen name for any number of potential authors, was he a wanted criminal, is his novel Ship of Theseus just a book, or is it a dangerous dossier naming the members of a secret organisation?
These three lines are well written and provides a gripping and puzzling mystery. There are codes and puzzles to be solved as Jen and Eric’s involvement lead them into a dangerous game.
I have been totally enthralled by S and highly recommend getting a copy and enjoying a reading experience like no other! I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below – specifically if anyone can figure out the compass code, because that one did my head in and I’m still trying to solve it!
PS: There are a few things in the book that take getting used to, namely the different coloured inks in Jen and Eric’s notes – to save you the confusion it goes like this:
Pencil – notes Eric made as an undergrad when he was writing his first research paper on the book.
Blue and Black – 1st round, they read the book and wrote their first set of notes to each other.
Yellow and Green – 2nd round, a lot of these notes happen when Eric’s research is revived and he travels to track down answers about the book.
Purple and Red – 3rd round, this is towards the end of their research where stuff starts heating up and Jen finds herself in academic trouble.