JJ Abrams keeps up his mind-bending streak in S

JJ Abrams is a busy man: a new Star Wars film, the new TV series Almost Human - and a puzzle book he just released with the novelist Doug Dorst.

JJ Abrams has teamed up with Doug Dorst for the fictional book S. ANDREW GOMBERT / EPA
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"Take a picture and tweet it. I killed J?J Abrams."
It's Saturday night at Symphony Space on Manhattan's Upper West Side and Abrams - the filmmaker and television showrunner who made his name thrilling audiences with smart hits such as Lost, Alias and Super 8 - is sprawled face down on the stage in front of a crowd of hundreds.
Lena Dunham, the writer and director of the HBO drama Girls (currently in its second season on OSN Comedy First) has just told him that she has seen the critically panned 1999 Star Wars film The Phantom Menace, after earlier revealing that she never watched the original trilogy. There are gasps and howls from the audience.
"Do I watch it now?" she'd asked him after that first admission. "Then I'm going to be the guy who's going around being like, 'Guys have you seen Star Wars? It's so good!'" Abrams had pretended to storm offstage, saying, "This is where it ends."
It was announced at the beginning of the year that Abrams would be directing a new Star Wars sequel due out in 2015, while continuing to take the reigns on Star Trek, the movie franchise that he rebooted in 2009. His second Star Trek film, Into Darkness, which he produced and directed, came out in the spring and a third is in development.
That's not even all he's been up to. Abrams's latest television series, Almost Human, for which he is credited as co-creator and executive producer, is being broadcast on OSN First HD (it's a futuristic cop show in which humans team up with robots to fight crime), and two days before Halloween he published a book, co-written with the novelist Doug Dorst.
S is a work of fiction in the form of a puzzle. While its real title and creators are displayed on the jacket, inside is a different book altogether: Ship of Theseus by the fictional author V?M Straka. It's designed to look like a public library book from the 1940s, complete with date stamps. And while the novel itself tells the story of a nightmarish voyage, a second narrative happens in the margins, where two readers scrawl notes back and forth to each other, and hide postcards, photos, clippings and, in one case, a map hand-drawn on a napkin. It's as exciting and as mind-bending as the best of Abrams's work.
"I couldn't even begin to give away spoilers," Dunham says by way of an introduction, "because I don't know what happened." The audience laughs and she clarifies: "In a good way."
. S by J?J Abrams and Doug Dorst, Mulholland Books, Dh143 from Kinokuniya. Almost Human is on OSN First on Saturdays at 9pm
Quotable quotes from Abrams
On juggling Star Trek and Star Wars
They are completely different animals. One's a long time ago . and one's in the future. The truth is that while Star Trek is very much a science-fiction story, Star Wars is a fairy tale. It has a very different feeling. We're being led by what the story wants to be. These are obviously two enormous pre-existing things, but I never feel them overlapping.
On Jar Jar Binks
How would I kill him? By any means necessary. (Wild applause) It's such an easy target, to say that.
On Captain Kirk versus Han Solo
I am going to refrain from answering; only because if I answer the wrong way, I will get my ass kicked either by Harrison Ford, or by William Shatner, or Chris Pine, and all three of them could take me down.
On S's themes
As these two (characters) are falling in love, they're slowing revealing truths about themselves, so the idea of identity in a relationship is at hand. Then, of course, the whole title of the novel (refers to the philosophical puzzle): "If you keep replacing pieces of a ship until you've replaced all the pieces, is it the same ship?" That notion of identity is hit, beautifully, throughout.
On the book's structure
It wasn't always clear that the book wasn't going to be a pre-existing novel, but then I said: "No, I actually want to write the novel and use this notion of conspiracy about the author". So it became a much larger and more fascinating project. It was clear from the early drafts that Doug was writing something that transcended the gimmick at the book's core, because the writing was so compelling: so sweet, romantic, fun, mysterious.
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