hungry-eyed and weather-stained

twenty-something who likes reading, orange & oranges, & science fiction, among other things. often dreams of parallel universes, multiple timelines & the purpose of her existence; however she has yet to find a satisfactory answer to that last point.

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S. — Doug Dorst & JJ Abrams

17 November 2014 | 0 COMMENTS

This is a beautifully designed book, and I'm not just talking about the exterior and end pages. I've been itching to write about it ever since I got it last year, and since I have this space now, why not?

S. is a collaboration between Doug Dorst & JJ Abrams*, and is essentially a story nestled within another story, with parts of the plot hidden within codes and ciphers scattered throughout the book — for some reason reminds me of those Usborne Puzzle Adventures I was obsessed with as a kid (still am pretty obsessed with them actually, even though I get lazy these days and just flip straight to the answers), so if you loved those books / solving puzzles you will probably love this one.

The book comes in a black slipcover, and beyond that there is nothing much on the actual book itself to indicate the real authors or the plot — it looks pretty legitimate. There's even a small library sticker on the spine itself with the book classified under the Dewey decimal system, which gives us a tiny hint as to where the story begins; or rather, where the story in the story begins — you're essentially reading two stories simultaneously (or not, if you choose to read both parts separately).

The first thing that came to mind while flipping through the pages for the first time was "this must have been a really tricky book to print & bind". All pages are printed in full colour — besides the coloured handwritten notes in the margins the pages have been printed to look old and yellow (the book smells new though). Not all the notes are made in chronological order, and the colour of the ink used changes as the story moves along, but read closely and you will be able to piece together a rough timeline.

What makes this book truly special though (and why you should get a physical copy over the ebook), are these:

There are a couple of loose supplementary materials tucked between the pages; I did a search and it appears that the pages where these are inserted are the same for every physical copy.

As with the handwritten notes, not all of the inserts are placed in chronological order, some might want to take them out and keep them separately; personally I like having them in their original place so I left them there. I taped mine down with some washi tape because I am a huge klutz who tends to leave things lying everywhere...

The front matter isn't anywhere near the front, but disguised and hidden within the library return stamp at the end of the book — so incredibly clever and sneaky!

As mentioned above, S. is a story within a story, and starts off with our two main characters bickering on the title page of a high school library book that was never returned** — the Ship of Theseus. Their bickering soon transforms into deep discussions about life, the universe and everything else in between, alongside a collaborative search for the true identity of the author behind the Ship of Theseus: who exactly is the mysterious V. M. Straka? Reading between the lines they soon find clues and hidden messages, scattered throughout by Straka himself, and his translator.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book — great plot/s, beautiful writing, and puzzles (if you need help you could always use a search engine), all combined into one charming package. The narratives may be a little confusing if you're not used to reading multiple books at once though, but the plot is pretty easy to grasp.

There are a couple of reviews out there that compared S. to Mark Z. Danielewski's House of Leaves because of their experimental narratives, so naturally I got my grubby hands on a copy; it was a little harder to grasp the story in House of Leaves, but I found myself enjoying it very much. I'd even go as far to say that it's my favourite out of all the books I've read so far in my limited existence — but I'll leave that for another entry!

* To be honest I only discovered this book because I was stalking the internet for stuff on JJ Abrams — basically what happens when you're going through major Fringe withdrawal symptoms and desperately hoping for some ~*bonus material*~, ha ha, fat hope.

** It just so happens that there's a library book on my shelves from high school that I never returned...

P/S: As much as I hate writing in sentence case I decided to capitalize everything that should be capitalized because I figured no one else could probably stand reading long rambly entries set entirely in lowercase... Everything looks extremely odd right now; I am this close to changing everything back to lowercase.

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