First book of the new year, and was it long to read. S., by J. J. Abrams and Doug Dorst is not a book you want to read when commuting. There is quite a bit going on with this book. From the novel, to the novel in the margins, to all the inserts, to all of the names of different characters (most of them are just referenced through the novel in the margins), this is a book that takes time. And effort.
Long story short, there is a novel called The Ship of Thesus, whose author is sort of unknown. You see, no one has actually seen the author, except for a select few of his contemporaries. Though one or more of these may actually be the author. The second novel, the one in the margins, is correspondence between two people, an expunged grad student, and an undergrad who finds the grad student’s copy of The Ship of Thesus in the university library. They start talking back and forth writing in the margins, and as they get to know one another, they also try to solve the mystery of the who the author really was.
See, and that’s the short version.
There’s a lot more to it than this but I don’t want to give anything away. With all of the characters named in the book, the reader might want to take notes on who is who, exactly. And there several layers of margin correspondence going on. On any page they could be discussing when and where they are going to meet for the first time, what happened after the grad student met with one of editor of the novel, and what happens when the undergrad graduates. Fortunately, Abrams and Dorst have two different handwriting styles (script and print) and different colored inks (for the most part) so it’s easy to distinguish who is talking, and at what point in the relationship they are in.
I enjoyed the book, overall. There is a lot of thought put into it. Abrams and Dorst must have laid everything out with some weird frigging flowchart or something because this is some wild stuff. There are coded messages, and test from the novel that are underlined and used as part to reference events in the students’ lives. This is one well-thought out book. And there are inserts throughout the book like postcards, notes on school letterhead, napkins, pictures, that add to the dialog between the two students and helps with moving the story along.
That said, I did find myself annoyed with the story with the two students at times. A lot of it seemed redundant without any closing to it. I mean, you find out what happens to them, but some of the incidents that occur are never answered. Whether that is good or not, depends I guess. I don’t need to have everything resolved, but some answers would have been good.
I think I was more interested in the “main” novel, though even this was far from being perfect. Some of it felt forced in a way to push the other story along. The ideas were there, and if this were a stand alone novel, I’m sure it would have been better and I would have enjoyed it.
Overall, I liked it more than I didn’t. I would suggest reading it if you have the time and don’t mind putting in some effort. Just don’t expect everything to be nicely wrapped up.