S. is a, well, you could call it a book with the catchline of 'One book, two readers.' Conceived by the film-maker J.J. Abrams and written with McSweeneys contributor Doug Durst, it is presented as a book within a slipcase, with a paper seal keeping it in. Once the seal is broken, the hardbound book inside-- titled Ship of Theseus-- can be pulled out and read. Once opened, one discovers this is a stolen library book, with at least two distinct people writing in the margins. Tucked inside the various pages are mimeographs, postcards, and newspaper clippings within greeting cards.
The two people are trying to decipher the mystery of the story, the author, and much more, as the story itself will presumably rework the idea of Plutarch's ship of Theseus paradox: If his ship has been repaired and reconstructed completely over time, is it still the same ship?
At the back of the book is a cipher wheel, referred to by the two readers as an 'Eötvös wheel' and a quick google search brings up... a fake website, leading to more information, or less, about the mysterious author of Ship of Theseus.
Which leads to... you get it: down the rabbit hole as puzzles and mysteries present themselves.
I love this stuff. I remember first being given Kit Williams' Masquerade when young and gleefully exploring every strand. This was followed by the challenge of computer puzzle games of Fool's Errand, Adventure and Myst, all of which strung a story through their challenges. S. draws on these plus the Griffin and Sabine series and Danielewski's House of Leaves and swirls in the alternative reality games that run underneath various films and Tv series like the Abram's produced Cloverfield and Lost. It might end in a big old mess, but the journey will be fun.
I'll be documenting my journey here,
day by day, so spoilers may and most likely will follow.
1 Nov: Before writing about anything else, the action of breaking the seal needs to be addressed.
Ages ago I heard a local band on the radio and wanted to buy their latest release, which I could only do via mail. So I did, and what arrived from the band, Crawling With Tarts (is that not a perfect band name?) was a cassette tape, wrapped in screenprinted paper of some forested something. To get to their music I had to destroy a work of art.
There's a TED talk from Abrams where he discusses the purchase of a 'mystery box' from a magic store ($50 of magic kit for the price of $15) as a kid which he's never opened. Basically for him it's the promise of the potential: mystery is the inspiration; sometimes you don't need all the kit, just go with the tools at hand. Still, if you wake up Christmas morning and there's a pile of wrapped presents there, you're not going to pack them in the attic to pull out now and then to relive the joy of seeing all the presents; you're going to rip them open.
So I tore open that cassete cover, and listened to the music, which was great! And I broke the seal on S., and pulled the book out and opened it and gave an exclamation of please surprise at what was to be found inside.
...and then I set it down when a medical crisis hit the family and decided to pick it up sometime later. Not tonight though.
Xmas holidays! perfect time to get back into this intriguing puzzle! Oh hey, X-files dvd boxset, let's just play the first disc.
Ok, I'll have some downtime and great hanging out places in Amsterdam and Germany to really dig into this. Damnit, we've really stuffed our carry-on luggage full, what to discard....