Home Arts & Lit Reviews Review: ‘S’ by Doug Dorst

Review: ‘S’ by Doug Dorst


Naomi Poltier tells us why S should be on every aspiring writer’s New Year reading list… 

The book S, by author Doug Dorst and film director JJ Abrams, is one of 2013’s unearthed gems. I am not recommending this book simply because I loved it – although admittedly this does play a small role – but because it is an innovative way of writing, which offers yet another platform for creative writers out there.

It is a hard book to explain, so I will try to unwrap the different layers.

The book comes in a case….

[divider]Layer #1[/divider]

The book that you take out of the case. It is called Ship of Theseus, written by a fictional writer, V. M Straka, and tells the story of a man who wakes up one day and can’t remember any detail of his life thus far.

[divider]Layer #2[/divider]

The book is full of multi-coloured annotations, written by two young adults. They each have their own distinctive handwriting, and get to know each other in the margins of the book. They also pass each other post cards, letters and secret maps, among other things, which have been left between the pages of the book for the reader to discover.

[divider]Layer #3[/divider]

The translator. Ship of Theseus was originally written in German, so the version the non-german reader receives is a translation. It is also important to know that the original author, V.M. Straka, has disappeared; no one knows where is. In fact, no one truly ever knew who he was, as he was involved in political acts of murdering and needed to keep a hidden identity. Thus, he has never met his translator, as they always communicated through letters.

The translator, F.X.C, explains in the foreword that he has now lost all contact with V.M. Straka. F.X.C has also included footnotes in his translation of the book that are often filled with false information. The two young adults, with research, quickly realise this and find out that each chapter’s footnotes has a code that the translator has included to communicate with the author.

photo credit: goodreads.com


It may  seem like I have disclosed a lot of information, but I have spoiled none of the plot. That is just the beginning – the format – of the book. It would be like me telling you that Harry Potter is a story about a wizard told in third person narrative, featuring chapters.

is a treasure chest for any book lover. The reader gets lost in all the layers, and is taken away from reality in this way. JJ Abrams and Doug Dorst call S their “love letter to the written word.” In a time period where there are more mediums for writing than ever (screen-writing, journalism, poetry, novels, to name but a few), this is yet another refreshing discovery. ​

Naomi Poltier

Have you read any books that explore new mediums for writing? Comment below or write to us on our Facebook and Twitter pages!

*featured image credit: amazon.com
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