Tag Archives: J.J. Abrams

Butterfly In The Sky: “S.” – J.J. Abrams & Doug Dorst

It might be a bad idea to start my 2014 book review series (I’m calling it Butterfly In The Sky) with one of the coolest books I’ve ever read, because it really will only be downhill from here. But this is the first book I’ve finished so this is what you get.

S. is a book co-created by J.J. Abrams and Doug Dorst. It’s a little difficult to explain, but it’s really three books in one. Let me use the back cover blurb to elucidate further:

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 and unlikely conversation that plunges them both into the unknown.

The book: Ship of Theseus, the final novel by a prolific but enigmatic writer named V.M. Straka, in which a man with no past is shanghaied onto a strange ship with a monstrous crew and launched on a disorienting and perilous journey.

The writer: Straka, the incendiary and secretive subject of one of the world’s greatest mysteries, a revolutionary about whom the world knows nothing apart from the words he wrote and the rumors that swirl around him.

The readers: Jennifer and Eric, a college senior and a disgraced grad student, both facing crucial decisions about who they are, who they might become, and how much they’re willing to trust another person with their passions, hurts, and fears.

So quick recap: S. is the story of two university students communicating about an author and his work through the medium of margin notes in the author’s final book, traded back and forth between the two. So as the reader of S., what you’re holding is the book Ship of Theseus, and aside from being able to read that story, littered in the margins are the notes between Jennifer and Eric. A little confusing, right? These might help.











This is what the reader’s experience is like. Not only do you read Ship of Theseus, but you’re following the story of Jennifer and Eric and their sharing of literary ephemera (like the front page of an issue of their university’s student newspaper, pictured here. Other inserts are a letter written by Straka, a photocopy of a lit/humanities academic journal, various postcards, photos, among many others.) that helps them come closer to solving the mystery of the book and its author.

I’ve never read a book like this. Conceived by J.J. Abrams and written by Doug Dorst, I have to tell you that even if you don’t think the book is awesome, it is a really cool experience. That is basically how I pitch every project J.J. Abrams has ever been involved with, because I love all of them and recommend them all. Even if you don’t like it, it will be a different kind of experience than you’re used to. Lots of people didn’t like Cloverfield (I thought it was outrageously cool), but if nothing else, it was far ahead of the “found-footage” genre. Lost is an extremely polarizing show; but even if you weren’t a die-hard fan who ended up hating the ending, it was a still a TV show unlike anything that had come before.

That’s what this book is like. I decided as I read the foreward (written by F.X. Caldiera, a Straka scholar who is thought by Jennifer and Eric to have hidden secret messages to Straka through his footnotes on the book) and the subsequent margin notes that I wanted to try and separate these two stories before connecting them. So I read Ship of Theseus first, ignoring all footnotes and margin notes. I then went through the book again, focusing on Jennifer and Eric’s story.

As far as the whole story itself goes? Ship Of Theseus isn’t a fiction book I’d totally fall in love with on my own, but in the context of S., it’s pretty awesome. Really though, S. is the story of Jennifer and Eric. They create the heart of this story. I thoroughly enjoyed learning about Jennifer and Eric as they learned about each other, as their relationship developed, all while trying to crack the nut of the Straka mystery.

If you are a fan of J.J. Abrams or have some attachment to the medium of physical books, give this one a read. Abrams and Dorst have basically written a love letter to this medium and done something totally unique with it.

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A thank you letter to J.J. Abrams

I have to give all credit to Adam and his friend who linked this article on Adam’s blog. I am speechless after reading this. J.J. Abrams has exactly nailed so many genius thoughts in his commentary of modern American popular culture. The Age of Immediacy, what a dead-on phrase. This is exactly why I strive to keep my iTunes library so immaculately organized and complete, and why I was so excited for The Dark Knight before it came out. This is why I don’t want to watch Lost on TV, I want to wait until the whole show is on DVD and I can enjoy it in the privacy of my own home, away from prying eyes and spoiler-happy media junkies. I admit, I am absolutely a technophile and love keeping up with the media and the newest trailers and who’s going to be in what new movie four years down the road, but there are some things which are so artful, so full of originality and excitement, that I do my very best to save every facet of the adventure so I can enjoy it the way I want. Slowly and each part in its due time. Mystery is such a valuable thing and in our culture of complete publicity and overexposure, where everybody has to know who is dating who, with a few clicks of a mouse button you can find out what your favorite celebrity’s next project is, where they shop or even what they had for breakfast, mystery is such a rare and priceless commodity.
Thank you, J.J. Abrams, for bringing mystery back into the American eye and making us love it and long for it. Please don’t ever stop making awesome things to watch.

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one bad thing about studying abroad is missing all the great american stuff that gets released while you’re gone. so far, i’ve missed the release of albums like gnarls the odd couple and movies like rambo. ok rambo’s a joke, but i’m missing the latest episodes of lost, 30 rock (a new fav.), and the office. and in may, there are loads of movies coming out that i would love to see: iron man, speed racer, prince caspian, and indiana jones and the kingdom of the crystal skull. i definitely want to see at least all of these in the theaters because they’re epic adventure movies. you can’t see these on a laptop or a crappy tv set. you gotta watch them in style, with killer sound and a gigantic screen in your face.

this is the way i wish i had’ve seen cloverfield. i watched it last night on my laptop, and although i was still blown away, i can only imagine how intense it must’ve been in the theaters. if you haven’t seen it, i think it’s out on dvd now so i definitely recommend it. it was incredible; a super sweet monster movie. if you don’t know anything about it, the whole thing is shot from the perspective of a handheld camera, captured by a guy who was originally supposed to document a going-away party held for a friend. it starts at this party, and then everyone hears a huge explosion, a monster comes storming through the city, and all hell breaks loose after that. basically the whole movie is this group of a few friends running and screaming. and oh man is it scary. never once is the illusion broken that all these events are happening while you are watching; everything seems so incredibly real. the camera is jerked around, it points towards the ground at times, it always seems shaky; it’s an incredibly visceral experience. i was dreading what was coming next the whole time because there is such a feeling of outright panic and confusion throughout the whole movie. i was as in the dark as the people running from the monster, i was struggling to keep up with what was going on, just like everyone else in the movie. usually not knowing what’s going on is obnoxious in a film, but here it just makes you feel like you’re so much more involved. you get a little frustrated when the camera doesn’t show you things you want, but so is everybody else because they have no idea what’s going on either or if they will be ok or anything. so awesome.

the makers of this movie (i love you j.j. abrams) know exactly how much to give the audience to keep them hooked. there is only one real money shot of the monster, and it is crazy. up until then all you see are glimpses, and never the whole thing. visually, it just traps you and you can’t look away. the actors do a great job too; there wasn’t a minute where i wasn’t involved with them. hud, the cameraman, at times is a bit too dumb, but as far as reviews that said the characters weren’t developed or were all 1-dimensional? of course they aren’t developed, and it doesn’t take away from the film at all. it’s a monster movie in real time, of course the characters are trying to survive by getting away from this unseen danger, not grow in their relationships with one another.

it’s also a cool commentary on our culture, that a person would actually attempt to keep a camera rolling the whole time this disaster is occurring. when the head of the statue of liberty comes crashing through a street and lands in front of everyone, you can actually see people taking out their camera phones and taking pictures of it. our culture is so obsessed with capturing moments and the movie nails that really well. very cool.

there has been some talk of a sequel, which, if done in an uncheesy way, could be potentially awesome. they’ve talked about making another movie from the point of view of another camera, another group of people. that would be great, as long as totally new narratives are given concerning the monster. maybe it could go on longer than the first one did; follow-up the story a bit. i don’t know. whatever they do, it’s gonna have to be killer to top this one. watch it.


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