Review: S. by JJ Abrams and Doug Dorst

Rating: 4/5
Release Date: Oct. 29, 2013

S. by J.J. Abrams and Doug Dorst is as much a puzzle as it is a novel. While I had some expectation of this, I thought I would be opening a 100-piece puzzle, not a 1000-piece puzzle. It was certainly more complex and confusing, but it was also more unique, enjoyable, and rewarding because of it. I found myself flipping pages back and forth, trying to uncover the secrets of the book and fit the pieces together. When I did have to put it down, I couldn’t wait to pick it back up.

S. has been one of the best books I’ve read this year. A story within a story within a story, each layer works to create a fantastic puzzle and novel.

The first: The life and unknown identity of author VMS Straka. Rumors and theories surround the author, from ideas about a resurrected nun to stories of an assassin for a political organization.

The second: VMS Straka’s nineteenth and final novel, SHIP OF THESEUS. The main character wakes up with amnesia and is taken on board of a strange and dark ship. His path leads him on a search for his identity, for the mysterious woman Sola who continues to appear in his life, and for justice against a corrupt power.

The third: PhD. Straka scholar Eric and undergrad literature major Jen. Jen finds Eric’s copy of SHIP OF THESEUS in the library, and the two begin passing it back and forth with their notes in the margins. As they work to unravel the mystery of Straka, they find themselves growing closer as forces around them threaten them and their search for the truth.

From the first page, I was engrossed. Because of the notes and extraneous aspects (such as postcards or letters hidden between pages), S. offers a completely singular reading experience. It demands attention, and I was more than happy to give it because of the strength and craft of the storytelling. All three arcs are complete, compelling, and exciting. They weave together artfully, commenting on and complimenting each other.

It’s a novel that begs the reader to engage with and think about it. For those who do, S. expresses a powerful, universal tale of the search for identity, passion, and meaning.


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