J.J. ABRAMS, DOUG DORST + THE EXPERIENCE OF READING

Consider this a pre-review.

Most of us are brought up with pretty strict rules in a library. Once you got a gist of the card catalog (of which, there often entire class session devoted to the subject), or browsed the stacks enough on your own to find a book you’re interested in, or need for reference – you then go through the rigmarole of obtaining a library card, being stamped or scanned and receipted — all for ultimately defining a finite period of time (usually 2-3 weeks) to read whatever short or behemoth you’ve selected. If you don’t return it in that time, you were often fined and if you damaged the book in any way (no dog-ears, no underlining, definitely no highlighting) you could be fined for that too. IF someone noticed. Especially old books might be a treat as they were sometimes more elaborately designed and carried an “old smell” – but they were fragile, with thin pages and tiny text making it virtually impossible to carry around. And If you were lucky enough to a book that someone had brazenly damaged – their notes in the margins, their dog-earred pages became like a second story that would ultimately always remain a mystery. The best kind of  mystery.

Filmmaker J.J. Abrams (Lost, Star Trek) and writer, Doug Dorst (Alive in Necropolis) have come together to do just that in their work S. One reviewer writes, “S. is less of a conventional story written using words than it is an experience using the book as an object that mystifies the reader into a multi-layered tale of intrigue, young romance, and mystery.” Inside, the classically old-looking Ship of Theseus by one V.M. Straka is essentially, the narrative that both we, and two Peghorn University students, are set up to read. From the start (and to open the book, is inevitably to start it), you know a couple of things pretty quickly: 1 – This is a library book, 2 – It was left by all-caps writer (Eric) in a library and 3 – It was discovered by curly writer (Jen0 and agreed that she would finish it while he was taking a break. It feels a little like The Goonies meets The Lake House.

s-jj-abrams-review

The book is filled with actual letters, post cards, newspaper clippings and what looks to be a compass of sorts that ostensibly serve as attachments not only to the two students (whose dialogue goes back and forth in the margins) to learn about each other, but also as they attempt to unlock the mystery of the author V.M. Straka. As this is sort of a pre-review, I don’t know anything beyond this point. I’ve been wanting to dive in since it was released in late October, but this is not the kind of book you can carry around (which befits it’s status as a library book) as the inclusions are as much a part of the story as the original narrative.

S-novel-1

J.J. Abrams is known for directing, producing and writing fantastical narratives, which undoubtedly gives this book some weight. As the experience of reading books is often a singular, isolated experience — it’s an innovative step in the Choose-Your-Own-Adventure realm to allow the reader to discover these elements on their own, make what sense they can and read on. It’s also an argument for the experience of reading a physical book instead of a digital file. I read a ton of books on digital devices as I go about my day – and though I still read physical books, they’re not as common for me anymore (especially since I’ve moved a lot in the past 10 years and book collections + their cases are difficult to move around. I’m excited to dig into this book + see if it’s worth the hype.

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