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3.85  ·  Rating details ·  19,416 ratings  ·  3,211 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 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…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

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Average rating 3.85  · 
Rating details
 ·  19,416 ratings  ·  3,211 reviews

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M.G. Bianco
Nov 30, 2013 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 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Janet Rochester
Nov 28, 2013 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
Dec 07, 2013 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
Ruby  Tombstone Lives!


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 03, 2013 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
Nov 06, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: owned
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 02, 2013 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
Oct 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: own, favorites, excellent
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 –
Jan 20, 2015 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.

Mar 10, 2014 rated it it was ok
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 unk
Dec 10, 2013 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.
Olivia (Stories For Coffee)
DNF 36%

Life’s too short to drag yourself through boring stories.
Petra Kruijt
Nov 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This book did something that very few books are capable of: it came to life, and it did so in the margins. While the old story of S. and Sola and the rickety barge with its half-witted crew is interesting in its own right, the story that really had me hooked was that of Jen and Eric. I was surprised over and over again by the things they accomplish and felt the same way Jen did about a lot of things they discover. (Just to be clear: the margins and the story itself are intertwined, but you'll di ...more
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
Jonathan Terrington

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 12, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
What a fabulous looking book!

How to read this? After some research I came up with this:

(view spoiler)

Here is one of the many webpages extr
Jun 21, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This is one of the most beautifully-presented works of fiction I’ve ever seen. It’s also really quite boring. I should add that I haven’t finished it, and I probably won’t. It has been sitting on my printer for weeks, mocking me. But I can’t go back to it! And that makes me sad.

Before I can explain why it makes me sad, my first sentence needs a little unpacking — and I mean that quite literally. The book itself is a hefty, weathered-looking hardback bearing the title ‘The Ship of Theseus’ on it
Wart Hill
Nov 27, 2013 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 n
Jul 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
There are a lot of things to like about J. J. Abrams's attempt at interactive fiction. The story takes place entirely in the margins of an imitation library book where the two lead characters share intimate scrawls, scraps, maps and other doodads. The production quality of the book is top quality and the distressed edges and faded pages have an almost Hollywood-esque impact. The inserts in the book have incredible detail too and add another level of immersion.

Our characters meet and get to know
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
Nov 07, 2013 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 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
Dec 31, 2016 rated it it was ok
As for me this one started with such a novel idea but then finished sadly uninterested.
Thomasin Propson
Intellectually intriguing (the story itself, the relationship between readers, the mystery of authorship, the expansion it allows beyond just this single story, reflecting on the self [myself] reviewing it all), artistically appealing (the handwritten notes in the margins and the different colored pens--fantastic!), physically challenging (I was terrified I'd lose an insert--this was a library book), anxiety inducing (MY involvement required for understanding. Pressure!).

Fantastic and yet ultim
Mattia Ravasi
Oct 29, 2016 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
Nov 09, 2013 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
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 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?
Otis Chandler
Mar 26, 2014 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Otis by: Chris Michel
An amazing and unique creation: JJ Abrams and Doug Dorst created what reads like a classic work of fiction - something you can easily imagine having read in English class - and then wrote a intriguing side story in the margins. A grad student (Eric) has left his annotated copy of SOT (Ship of Theseus) in the library, and an undergrad (Jen) finds it and replies to his annotations. This leads to them making exciting discoveries about the book, and also falling in love.

The first thing is this book
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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. ...more

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