Five reasons why S. is a game-changing novel

A page from JJ Abrams and Doug Dorst's S.
Category: Reading

Here at Scottish Book Trust, we have been drooling over JJ Abrams and Doug Dorst’s mind-bending novel, S., since it arrived at our offices.  

S. is an intricate multi-layered novel, comprising of a core text – a novel called Ship of Theseus by fictional author VM Straka – and the notes that two academic students, Jen and Eric, write to each other within its pages. Beyond that, it is supplemented by acerbic footnotes from Straka’s translator, FX Caldeira, and a host of paraphernalia inserted into the book by its two chief contributors. The mystery surrounding it concerns itself with the mystery of Straka, a man of many deeds and aliases, and so our protagonists spend the novel attempting to uncover who Straka truly was.

Having read it, it’s safe to say it delivers on the nerdy wow factor. It’s a total goldmine of false trails, red herrings, men in black and great literary mysteries. However, if it’s possible, there is even more to this novel than meets the eye.

Just when you think you're done with the book, more elements reveal themselves, and the story appears to continue on online in various forms. While researching, I came across so much cool stuff I just had to share it with you. Whether the publishers are behind these extra strands or whether a collective of superfans of the book are messing with our heads, it’s certainly thrilling and I'm not sure I mind either way!  

Here are five things I've learned about S. that have been nerding me out the most.

1. Radio Straka

Radio Straka popped up on our radar before Christmas. This website features five hour long broadcasts of eclectic music presented as an accompiament to Straka’s work as a whole, and the mysteries surrounding it. The website itself gives little away, and the recordings are hosted by an older European gentleman who we assume runs the Twitter feed of the same name.

The Twitter feed seems mostly concerned with seeking out other S. enthusiasts and making contact


2. #StrakaNews

The publishers behind S., Canongate, are using coded messages from the book to let people know news about the book.

On March 11, they posted this enigmatic tweet:

and followed it up with several tweets to the same effect. The super sleuths over at SFiles22 have already decoded it, and though it turns out it is a message about having signed copies on their website, you have to love the way they're going about it!


3. SFortunus

One of Straka’s many aliases in the book was SFortunus, and I noticed this mystery person of the same name tweeting under the handle @KMVastra. Out of all the ridiculous internet blogs and false accounts connected to S., this one has to be my favourite, as there is absolutely no explanation behind any of it. So far, Fortunus has limited themself to tweeting vague messages relating to the book and its contents and something around this 1949 Air France plane crash.

What could it mean? I have no idea! Exciting!


4. Jen and Eric      

The two main characters, if you can call them that, have feisty personalities of their own that shine throughout the book. As it turns out, they are also on Twitter. Though they go through quiet spells, they both tweet, semi-regularly, about S. related chat. Though this insight into their lives is nice, it seems interesting that two people who have hidden their discussions in a book for fear of being discovered, would take to Twitter to announce important activities related to their covert actions.

Jen's Twitter is @JentheUndergrad, and Eric tweets under @EricHusch

If you are feeling extra nerdy, Jen also has a Tumblr, with some interesting additional content on Ship of Theseus.

5. The Summersby confession

Read the book. Watch this video.

'Nuff said.

If you want to hear more about what we thought of S. and its associated mysteries, have a listen to this month’s Book Talk, where we talk more in depth about the book, its ins and outs, and the mystery of VM Straka!

Have you read S? Did you like it? Let us know in the comments below! 

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