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S. Hardcover – October 29, 2013

447 customer reviews

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The Crescent Spy by Michael Wallace
"The Crescent Spy" by Michael Wallace
In the midst of the American Civil War, the finest reporter at Washington's Morning Clarion is arrested and whisked away to the White House where she learns that she has been chosen for a highly secretive mission that could hasten the end of the war. Learn more | See more from the author
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Editorial Reviews


"The best-looking book I've ever seen. . . . The book is so perfectly realized that it's easy to fall under its spell. . . . If you want to write a romantic mystery meta-novel in which two bibliophiles investigate the conspiracy around an enigmatic Eastern European author, you couldn't choose a better team." --Joshua Rothan, New Yorker

"Impressively smart, engaging . . . Filled with secrets and stories that are endlessly beguiling and inviting . . . Reading S., and trying to decode everything [was] an incredibly enjoyable, fun experience, as well as a particularly immersive one. . . . For all its mysteries and intrigues, this is a book about the value of books, and what they can offer us that other storytelling mediums cannot." --Wired

"S. is gorgeous, a masterpiece of verisimilitude. . . . The book's spiritual cousin is A.S. Byatt's Possession. . . . The brilliance of S. is less in its showy exterior than the intimate and ingeniously visual way it shows how others' words become pathways to our lives and relationships." --Washington Post

"Both as literature and as a physical object, S. is a profound and tremendous work of art. . . . Brilliantly conceived and perfectly executed, the book harkens back to a golden age of storytelling. . . . An audacious literary achievement that calls to mind Vladimir Nabokov's Pale Fire, Chris Ware's Building Stories and even Charles Portis' Masters of Atlantis." --Miami Herald

"Reading S. is fun, and the book feels alive . . . Gloriously embroidered with marginalia and jammed with artifacts inserted between its pages . . . A celebration of the book as a physical thing." --Chicago Tribune

"Both as literature and as a physical object, S. is a profound and tremendous work of art."―The Miami Herald

About the Author

Emmy-Award-winning filmmaker J.J. Abrams has produced, directed, or written films and television shows including Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Fringe, Lost, Alias, Felicity, Star Trek, Cloverfield, Mission: Impossible, and more.

Doug Dorst teaches writing at Texas State University. He is the author of the PEN/Hemingway-nominated novel Alive in Necropolis and the collection The Surf Guru. His work has appeared in McSweeney's, Ploughshares, Epoch and elsewhere. Dorst is also a three-time Jeopardy! champion.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 472 pages
  • Publisher: Mulholland Books; Slp edition (October 29, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316201642
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316201643
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.8 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (447 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,458 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

844 of 884 people found the following review helpful By Veltscroll on November 6, 2013
Format: Hardcover
I read a lot of books, and I often love what I read, but I literally (no pun intended) have not been this excited about reading a book since I was a kid. It's not just the story (or should I say stories), or all the ephemera and the clever, well-produced presentation. It's how it all combines to actually make you feel like you're in on it. That you're trying to figure it all out right along with Jen and Eric. Reading and re-reading The Ship of Theseus for clues and inferences to what's happening in the "real world". The whole time watching as J&E's relationship evolves. Then, if you're really adventurous, and you start tapping Google to expand your research, you'll find that the experience goes beyond the book. (Google: Eotvos Wheel) ***I HIGHLY SUGGEST YOU DO THIS***

I'll admit: when I opened the book for the first time, the second thought that went through my mind (after "How frigging cool is this?") was, "How the heck am I gonna read this?"

So, for those of you asking that same question, let me tell you how I went about it:

As cool as all the inserts are, trying to keep them from falling out of the book as you're reading is a pain, so take them out and use post-it notes to mark what page they came from, then put them in an envelope that you can easily access.

Now, J&E's notes are not entirely in chronological order. You can generally go by the color of the ink between them to tell what phase of their story you're at.

First, there's Eric's pencil notes to himself about the actual book. Then, the convo between J&E begins when Jen picks up Eric's book and sees his notes and begins commenting on them in the margins. He sees this and writes back.
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214 of 229 people found the following review helpful By H. Parker Smith III on November 8, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
S. is one of the best books I’ve read. Period. But I believe I feel differently than the average reviewer because I made the conscious decision that I was going to “believe” before I started reading. You see, you can only enjoy this book if you go in accepting that you are not its first owner and that what you are reading was not intended for your eyes. The ability to become an active participant instead of a passive reader, I would imagine, is the difference between loving this book and hating it. I fall so far onto the “love” side of the spectrum that I simply cannot wait to read it again.

S. is really a story about 6 principal characters:

• S. – The main character in the novel "Ship of Theseus" who is suffering from amnesia. The novel follows S. as he desperately tries to figure out who he is and what his significance is to both the Ship of Theseus and the various ports at which it docks.

• V.M. Straka – an enigmatic author of the novel Ship of Theseus, the book which serves as stage to this mystery.

• The Translator (FXC) – a historian of Straka’s works who not only translates his novels into a variety of different languages but also pens commentary in the form of footnotes throughout Ship of Theseus.

• Eric – an exhausted theorist who believes the mystery of “Who is V.M. Straka” can be solved via subtext clues cleverly embedded throughout Ship of Theseus

• Jen – a student who stumbles upon Eric’s copy of Ship of Theseus and who’s penchant for researching the obscure and who's fresh perspective on the tale helps reveal that the initial question of “Who is V.M. Straka” is only the tip of a very, VERY large iceberg.

• YOU – You are the 3rd handler of this book.
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Format: Hardcover
Even with that as the background, the book is a bit overwhelming when you try to tackle it. There are all the clue pieces, the dialogue between Eric and Jen and then the story itself. I was having a tough time trying to read the story and the banter while keeping it all together in my head. I decided to pull out the clue pieces(catalog the pages they are stuck between, it's important) and just read the story ignoring Jen and Eric. It's hard to do but I think it helps. The idea being I will read the story first, as Jen did, then go over it a second time reading Jen and Eric's banter at which point the clue pieces will be introduced. This will give me a greater depth of knowledge when trying to put the clues together.

I have not completed the story and don't want to drop any spoilers so this review is more of a guide book on how I thought the best way was to tackle the mystery. I'm sure other people will have different ideas and my plan may change as I progress so I will add updates as I move through the process.

If anyone reading this has a better ideas or thoughts to share please comment below, would love your feedback.


1) If you elect to read the book as I am(story first), DO NOT read Eric and Jen's banter. Clues are dropped that you will not want revealed.
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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Dani Estrela on November 22, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase

What an engaging and original concept. One Book with two different, but interlocking, stories.

I preordered this book with little to no information on what is was about and boy what a glad surprise. For some time I was looking for a good mystery with a nice pacing and an original story. S. may seem a complicated book to read due to the numerous notes, commentaries and chats scribbled in almost every page, but once you get the right pace the reading is extremely fun and engaging.

What's the best MO to read this book? Try it this way:

Read each chapter of the Ship of Thesus, ignoring all of Jen & Eric's notes. Upon finishing each chapter, go back and read only the blue/black notes and any referenced inserts. Then, move on to the next chapter. After you finish the whole book, go back and read only the orange/green notes and referenced inserts. Then purple/red, then black/black.

The books add-ons with maps, postal cards, xerox pages, newspaper bits, business cards, napkins etc. only add more to the realistic concept envisioned by JJ. It even smells like an old library book with all the stains and mark you expect to see on a worn book. The notes, commentaries and chatting are written in what looks like marker felt and ink pen, there's even some notes written in pencil. Incredible design with top notch materials.

Actually, the concept is so well thought that, as you read the book, you feel right in the story. It's like you're the third reader following along the notes and commentaries written on the pages.

I would definitely recommend this book. The best book I read in 2013.
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