One book. Two readers. A world of mystery, menace, and desire.
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.
S., conceived by filmmaker J. J. Abrams and written by award-winning novelist Doug Dorst, is the chronicle of two readers finding each other in the margins of a book and enmeshing themselves in a deadly struggle between forces they don’t understand, and it is also Abrams and Dorst’s love letter to the written word.
“The best-looking book I’ve ever seen. . . . The book is so perfectly realized that it’s easy to fall under its spell. . . . If you want to write a romantic mystery meta-novel in which two bibliophiles investigate the conspiracy around an enigmatic Eastern European author, you couldn’t choose a better team.” —Joshua Rothan, New Yorker
“Impressively smart, engaging . . . Filled with secrets and stories that are endlessly beguiling and inviting . . . Reading S., and trying to decode everything [was] an incredibly enjoyable, fun experience, as well as a particularly immersive one. . . . For all its mysteries and intrigues, this is a book about the value of books, and what they can offer us that other storytelling mediums cannot.” —Wired
“S. is gorgeous, a masterpiece of verisimilitude. . . . The book’s spiritual cousin is A.S. Byatt’s Possession. . . . The brilliance of S. is less in its showy exterior than the intimate and ingeniously visual way it shows how others’ words become pathways to our lives and relationships.” —Washington Post
“Both as literature and as a physical object, S. is a profound and tremendous work of art. . . . Brilliantly conceived and perfectly executed, the book harkens back to a golden age of storytelling. . . . An audacious literary achievement that calls to mind Vladimir Nabokov’s Pale Fire, Chris Ware’s Building Stories and even Charles Portis’ Masters of Atlantis.” —Miami Herald
“Reading S. is fun, and the book feels alive . . . Gloriously embroidered with marginalia and jammed with artifacts inserted between its pages . . . A celebration of the book as a physical thing.” —Chicago Tribune
Emmy Award-winning filmmaker J.J. Abrams has produced, directed, or written films and television shows including Lost, Alias, Felicity, Star Trek, Cloverfield, Super 8, and Mission: Impossible and more.
Doug Dorst teaches creative writing at Texas State University. His work has appeared in McSweeney’s, Ploughshares, Epoch, and other journals, as well as in the anthology Politically Inspired. He is also a former Jeopardy champion, one of only two novelists in the show’s long history.