by J.J. Abrams and Doug Dorst
The thing that piqued my interest about this book was the buzz about the format — a book published in 1948, stolen from a high school library, with notes scribbled in the margins. I spent some time perusing the sample copy we had at he bookstore, and I was intrigued enough to buy myself a copy for Christmas. I began eagerly, because it IS an intriguing concept: reading someone else’s notes and conversations, figuring out the story as you go.
The other thing that intrigued me at first is that it’s an incredibly layered book: the “book” is one Ship of Theseus, written by the mysterious V. M. Straka. In this book, the main character, S., has insomnia and goes on a journey to figure out who he really is. In doing so, he finds out that he was involved with rebels and assassins. The second layer of the book S. is the work that a disenfranchised grad student, Eric, is doing to figure out the real identity of V. M. Straka. All that’s really known about Straka is that he was involved in this mysterious organization called The S. Eric gets help on this quest from a struggling undergrad, Jen, who finds Ship of Theseus lying in the stacks and begins a conversation. Which brings me to layer three: Jen and Eric’s story. As they work together to figure out Straka, they develop their own relationship (on the page, though it’s evident that they eventually meet) and their own story.
Unfortunately, I realized fairly early on that all this was just too much for me. I was reading linearly, trying to hold all three storylines in my head at once, and found it was too much. I ended up giving up the main Ship of Theseus story, partially because it was boring, but partially because with all the interruptions from Jen and Eric, I couldn’t keep the main story in my head. But there was also the fact that the story’s told inside out and backward. I did think that maybe if I had read it in shifts — read Ship of Theseus first, then the inked comments (they are in multiple colors, and there is a definite progression to them), then maybe it would have made more sense.
So, in the end, for me, this was all form and no substance. In the end, all the thrills, chills and mystery I was hoping for just weren’t there. It did succeed in being a homage to paper books (it’s stuffed with papers and cards and letters, and it’s so much fun to peruse). But it wasn’t much else.
And in the end, I found that disappointing.
Rated: High for language (including many, many f-bombs) and some violence, none of which is graphic.