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3.83  ·  Rating Details ·  13,141 Ratings  ·  2,329 Reviews
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
Hardcover, Slipcase, 456 pages
Published October 29th 2013 by Mulholland Books
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Christa Cannon It's fantastic!!!

After reading through the foreword (with all the notes, no matter the colour), I did a little research on how to go about this…more
It's fantastic!!!

After reading through the foreword (with all the notes, no matter the colour), I did a little research on how to go about this thing! There's no right way to read it, but here's how *I'm* doing it:

1) Read through chapter (and pencilled notes).
2) Go back and read notes written in blue & black. (After a few chapters, I actually just started reading both these and the pencilled at the same time. So, now I'm reading chapter by chapter, along with the pencilled, blue, and black notes. Watch out--the black & black notes can fool you. Those are the very last.)
3) I finished the whole book this way yesterday and have now started going back to the beginning to read the next notes, which are in orange and green.
4) After that, I'll go back (again) and read the notes in purple & red.
5) And again in black & black.

It's hard to completely ignore the "future colours," but do your best, because there will be spoilers, otherwise. Sometimes the "future colours" will give you a hint about the item that's tucked into that page, though, so it can be a good thing. (I read all the notes, cards, etc. tucked into the book as I came across them, and they do give you some spoilers, so I'm trying to be more careful. There's one hand-written note towards the back ["To my new friends:"] that I think needs to be read later, so I'll read that when it's the right time. )

I haven't figured out how to use the decoder yet...hoping that gets explained in a note.

Here's a list of what page each insert is on (in case one falls out--I had that happen!):

Some people take each one out and put a post-it on them with its page number, but I didn't.

There's some good sites out there. Here's one:, which includes this spoiler-free beginner's guide:

I haven't delved too terribly deeply into a lot of the other stuff, though, because I did find a spoiler.

Good luck!(less)
Sara I read the chapters and notes all at once. I LOVED all the layers of story that came through that way. The notes are their own story, a very touching…moreI read the chapters and notes all at once. I LOVED all the layers of story that came through that way. The notes are their own story, a very touching one. (less)

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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M.G. Bianco
Nov 30, 2013 M.G. Bianco rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
As a tutor of homeschooled students in my community, I have to fight against a certain proclivity when reading books: no writing or marking them! The parents generally won't allow their children to "damage" the books, so they can be reused by younger siblings or resold to other homeschooling families. This rule eventually becomes the norm for the students, and as they grow older they have an ingrained objection to writing in books. I have and will continue to argue that they should mark up their ...more
Wil Wheaton
Dec 19, 2013 Wil Wheaton rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Janet Rochester
Nov 28, 2013 Janet Rochester rated it really liked it
I wonder what it's like to be JJ Abrams.

Does a trip to the supermarket become a frantic sortie into a grocerian wilderness? Do battles rage between produce and deli, with stalks of celery raining like arrows upon quivering chunks of roast beef and aged Vermont cheddar? Are the pizzas lurking in a control room behind the freezer case, broadcasting shortwave signals that force the croutons, lemminglike, to hurl themselves from the shelves to the floor where they lie, helpless, waiting to be crushe
Ruby  Tombstone [With A Vengeance]


Okay, actually, in my mind it's more like 9.5 as I had some quibbles with the last chapter, however "9.5 stars" didn't quite sound right for a heading. Reading this book was an "Experience". There was pure joy for me in this act. What more could anyone ask?

[Review to be continued, when I've had time to process it all. Also, the Chaos Reading group is doing a group read - discussion starts January 12th.]

Dec 07, 2013 Dem rated it it was ok

2.5 Stars

S. By J.J. Abrams is a beautiful hardback carefully distressed to look like an old Library book with its old book smell and stuffed full of notes, postcards, papers and bits and pieces.
When I received this book in the post I was pleasantly suprised with the faboulus concept and design. I loved the idea and could not wait to start this novel. I loved the margin notes to begin with and was fascinated to see how this story would play out.
I have to admit for all its gimmicks I soon foun
Nov 06, 2013 Maxwell rated it liked it
Shelves: i-own-it, 2015
Not sure how to adequately express what I just read, or rather experienced, because this book is most definitely an experience. It's a piece of art. And like all good pieces of art, it has so many layers allowing for so much interpretation. It's complex and original and unlike anything I've ever read before and will probably ever read in the future. This book takes time, devotion, attention, and it asks you to really give of yourself in order to fully experience it. And I think, though it was no ...more
Dec 03, 2013 Casey rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviewed
I might have accidentally taken most of the day off to finish reading this book, and now I have a lot of feels.

There are a lot of things that I could say about this book, and I almost wish that I could go back to my freshman English class where we studied nested narratives and I wrote a paper about The Neverending Story, so that I could write about this instead. If I can compare this book to anything, it would be House of Leaves. I've always enjoyed non-linear and experimental narrative forms, a
Oct 29, 2013 Mayra rated it it was amazing
4.8 stars

This has been such an amazing, unique experience. I wholeheartedly applaud J.J. Abrams and Doug Dorst for creating this puzzling, entertaining side of literature. Everything was so well developed, every facet coming together in such a satisfying way. Prose, notes, postcards, pictures, maps, newspaper articles, codes… This was not just a book. It was a project. A bold one at that.

It was almost entirely perfect were it not for the Obituary. Being Brazilian, one of my biggest pet peeves –
A tale of S.
Inspired by E. A. Poe (modified by A. Reader)

During the winter of the year 2013, while residing in Dubai, UAE, I casually made the acquaintance of S..

I gazed at S. wonderingly - bathed in the full knowledge of S.'s origins--Abrams royalty. Conceived by JJ and brought to life by his partner, D Dorst, their imaginations were singularly vigorous and creative. S. no doubt derived additional force in this world from such privileged entry, albeit from a long and arduous labor.

S. was rema
Dec 02, 2013 Jason rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book probably deserves two stars, but I gave it one because I was upset I wasted time on such a mediocre story/stories. I'd watched the trailer for the book. It built the novel up as a contemporary thriller, yet did not deliver. I was excited about the interactive concept of a story within a story along with the pull outs (telegraphs, notes, newspaper articles, etc.) and J.J. Abrams being involved with the project; however, this was another reason for my letdown. I expected more. The actual ...more

S. is by far the most intricate novel I have read in the past few years. Even the monumental work of James Joyce in Ulysses cannot quite compare to the full flavour and power of the metafiction and post-modern styling of Doug Dorst's work (inspired by the ideas of J.J. Abrams). Certainly it is a major call to state that a modern work of this kind could be more of a puzzle than Joyce's depiction of Dublin and yet I believe that it is (or at least as convoluted a labyrinth in its way). However, I
Jan 20, 2015 Miriam rated it really liked it
Shelves: mystery, books
In case your inserts fall out: Thanks, Erica!

Random thing not really relevant but interesting to me because it's in my home town: the only place mentioned by name in "The Ship of Theseus" is Fort Point.

Richard Vialet
2.5 Stars
In these times of Kindles, Nooks, and iBooks, a novel like S. is a really exciting breath of fresh air. It's truly a love letter to physical books and a great effort in interactive reading and storytelling. The novel, written in a collaboration between film director J. J. Abrams and novelist Doug Dorst, is a story within a story within a story. The book contains "Ship of Theseus", the final novel of the critically popular but mysterious author V. M. Straka (who disappeared under unkno
Dec 10, 2013 Kevin rated it did not like it
Ugh. Gorgeous, brilliant concept, beautifully printed, but super tedious to read. A bad novel is still just a bad novel no matter how you dress it up. And the two students scribbling all over the bad novel? Who cares.
What did I think? I finally finished reading this book hours ago and my head is still spinning. As I turned the last page I remember thinking, this is unreviewable, or at the very least unrateable. I'll try to articulate some thoughts - that will be the review - then at the end I'll see if I can come up with a number.

Firstly, I have to put it out there - this is the highest of high-concept books I think I have ever read. 5+★ for that. I was so excited to collect it from the library, along with a
Wart Hill
Nov 27, 2013 Wart Hill rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mystery, intrigued
OMG. I went to B&N and this came home with me and it is gorgeous and I haven't even taken the plastic off yet!!

If I weren't reading way too many books at once right now, I'd just plop down and get going.

***HERE THERE BE SPOILERS***(probably, it's hard to talk about this book without spoilers)

hearts and souls and lives can themselves be sites of unimaginable suffering.

"What is S.?" is quite probably one of the most difficult questions I have ever found myself trying to answer. S. is not s
Nov 07, 2013 Kaora rated it it was amazing
I have two thoughts on finishing this book:
1) This is the most intricate piece of literature I have ever read.
2) JJ Abrams is a fucking smart dude. (Doug Dorst too)

S. is nothing like anything I've read before. The main story is Ship of Theseus written by a writer no one knows the identity of who goes by V.M. Straka. On its own is a wonderful story. The other story is about Eric and Jen, two readers brought together through this book, communicating in messages in the margins. The color of their p
Christine (AR)
Nov 11, 2013 Christine (AR) rated it it was amazing
First off - twenty ZILLION points for concept and execution - this is the single most pefectly designed book I've ever held in my hands. From the vintage cloth binding (with library sticker on the spine) to the I'd-swear-they're-really-written-in-pen margin notes to the (I am not kidding) musty old-book smell, this thing is flawless. And that's before taking into account the inserts - a map jotted on a napkin, legal pad letters and worn business cards, a yellowed obituary clipped from a newspape ...more
Ingrid Hardy
What did I think of this book.... Many things, actually, and I'd rather leave an hour infront of me to compose a decent post about it rather than hastily throw out a bunch of thoughts. This book deserves that. But briefly, I found it thrilling, slow, thought-provoking, snobbish, relevant, confusing, brilliant, and it contained more than one "wtf" moments for me.

I absolutely loved it, enjoyed the ride, disliked some of the overly-literary atmosphere that spills off the story (because most of that
Sep 10, 2013 Epizeuxis marked it as to-read
How cool is this? It's a story involving a book in which said book is the actual book, and the story about it is told through scribbled notes and ephemera found on/within the pages.

Is it gimmicky? Absolutely! But who doesn't love a heady dose of such things every once in a while?
The Books Blender

Questa recensione è presente anche sul blog:

Molto in difficoltà nel dare una valutazione secondo canoni standard, ma direi almeno 4,5 (arrotondato per eccesso)!

Ebbene, lo ammetto: con un misto di apprensione, curiosità, mistica devozione per questo esperimento letterario così discusso, ho iniziato la lettura di "S. La nave di Teseo" (solo "S." nell'originale).

[No, un attimo. Prima c’è stato un lungo, complesso e logorante processo di decisione: lo prendo?
Nov 09, 2013 Richard rated it liked it

So I think I made a mistake. I read this all in one shot and I don't think that's how I should have read it.

J.J. Abrams had a clever idea about reading a book and seeing a couple writing to each other in the margins of the book. He turned to Doug Dorst to pen the story within a story.

S. is a story about Jen and Eric reading Ship of Theseus by V.M. Straka. Jen and Eric are trying to figure out who Straka is. (turns out he was a mysterious author with a mysterious past) Ship of Theseus is about a
Oct 31, 2013 Ian rated it it was amazing
I really enjoy the concept of the book and JJ did a great job promoting the book with the trailers. I was hooked immediately.

Even with that as the background, the book is a bit overwhelming when you try to tackle it. There are all the clue pieces, the dialogue between Eric and Jen and then the story itself. I was having a tough time trying to read the story and the banter while keeping it all together in my head. I decided to pull out the clue pieces(catalog the pages they are stuck between, it
Tom Tabasco
Dec 25, 2014 Tom Tabasco rated it it was amazing
"S." is an act of love. Love towards reading, and towards the book as a physical object. The concept is wonderful. Many other books "pretended" to be some mysterious manuscripts by fictional authors, or translations of obscure novels, and this was actually a technique in fashion a few centuries ago (i.e. see The Betrothed, Alessandro Manzoni).

But with "S.", something stands out far above everything similar that's ever been created: the EXECUTION and the attention to DETAILS. By the time you get
Dec 19, 2013 Linette rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Totally engrossing, more than just a book. I didn't want this to end.
Apr 01, 2014 Kara rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy, thriller, war, mystery
This book (it's so hard to call this a book) was an adventure. The text itself is a fictional book called The Ship of Theseus written by the mysterious V.M. Straka and translated by F.X. Caldeira. No one knows who Straka was, but there are many guesses. He was a controversial figure thought to have, among other things, started WWI. Two students pick up the book separately and start writing notes to each other in the margins.

There are three mysteries:
- the mystery of The Ship of Theseus which is
T. Stranger
Nov 04, 2013 T. Stranger rated it it was amazing
S. is a book much smarter than me. Why? Because there are so many layers to this story that one could read it five times over and still be left with unanswered questions. It's not that these questions can't be answered, because they can be. You just have to be clever enough to work them out.

The concept of the book is phenomenal. Within the margins of the pages is a complicated story between two characters trying to discover their own sense of identity. Additionally, the book (or story) itself is
Nov 01, 2013 Higgins rated it it was amazing
In reviewing this book, I should start by saying that 'S' is not a 'book' as such. 'S' is a multi-media experience based around a collection of material contained inside an artificially aged library book. In some ways its like an adult version of those 'Pirate Treasure' books you see for children, with maps and compasses and 'parchments' held in a large book sleeve.

Its more akin to a role-playing game than straight fiction, and that's where its appeal and impact lies.

In order to really apprecia
Nov 04, 2013 Britney rated it it was amazing
I can't stop sniffing this book. Any book lover won't necessarily judge me for that.

Beyond the complexity of the story, which is amazingly complex in its simplicity and straightforwardness, are the details that went into making this book. However they did it--witchcraft, deal making with the devil, alchemy--it smells and feels and looks like a 70-year-old book, but it was just printed a few days ago.

There are real paper napkins and letters and varying textures and so, so much went into this to
Mattia Ravasi
Oct 29, 2016 Mattia Ravasi rated it it was amazing
Video-review (entirely spoiler-free):
Featured in my Top 20 Books I Read in 2016:

More literary-board game than novel, S. is way more over-the-top gimmicky, way more complex, and waaaaay more well written than I expected. It's a thrilling experience and a wonderful narrative on the nature of escape and commitment, reading for pleasure VS reading for knowledge, the power and limitations of writing and reading.
If you'r
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Buddy Read for Mid-February 2 14 Feb 10, 2016 11:14AM  
2017 Reading Chal...: S by J.J. Abrams 50 100 Sep 02, 2015 04:51AM  
A Million More Pages: S. ~ Feb 15 20 49 Jun 07, 2015 01:12PM  
Nothing But Readi...: Abrams, J.J. & Dorst, Doug - S. - - Informal Buddy Read; Starts February 15, 2015 9 201 Apr 06, 2015 01:32PM  
Goodreads/Kindle ...: Marginalia discussions in S 3 4 Oct 01, 2014 09:38PM  
Madison Mega-Mara...: #97: S. by J.J. Abrams and Doug Dorst 1 4 Sep 18, 2014 08:55PM  
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Jeffrey Jacob "J. J." Abrams is an American film and television producer, screenwriter, director, actor, composer, and founder of Bad Robot Productions. An Emmy and Golden Globe-winner, he is known as the creator or co-creator of the television series Felicity, Alias, Lost, and Fringe, and as a director of films including Mission: Impossible III and the 2009 feature Star Trek.
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“We're all just in the muck trying to believe we're capable of greatness, but closer to breaking than we want to admit. And we tell ourselves stories--about ourselves,but maybe also all these stories about other people, about characters--as a way to hide from how small we are.” 35 likes
“It's what happens. You love, then you lose, then you die. Even if you survive, you die.” 25 likes
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