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The Raw Shark Textsby Steven Hall
"I defy anybody out there to find a more original and audacious debut novel this year....It is very rewarding to read a debut novel like The Raw Shark Texts, and the sense that you get of not only better things to come, but the satisfaction of getting in on the ground floor of what is sure to be an amazing literary career." Gerry Donaghy, Powells.com (read the entire Powells.com review)
Synopses & Reviews
Eric Sanderson wakes up in a house one day with no idea who or where he is. A note instructs him to see a Dr. Randle immediately, who informs him that he is undergoing yet another episode of acute memory loss that is a symptom of his severe dissociative disorder. Eric's been in Dr. Randle's care for two years — since the tragic death of his great love, Clio, while the two vacationed in the Greek islands.
But there may be more to the story, or it may be a different story altogether. As Eric begins to examine letters and papers left in the house by "the first Eric Sanderson," a staggeringly different explanation for what is happening to Eric emerges, and he and the reader embark on a quest to recover the truth and escape the remorseless predatory forces that threatens to devour him.
The Raw Shark Texts is a kaleidoscopic novel about the magnitude of love and the devastating effect of losing that love. It will dazzle you, it will move you, and will leave an indelible imprint like nothing you have read in a long time.
"Hall's debut, the darling of last year's London Book Fair, is a cerebral page-turner that pits corporeal man against metaphysical sharks that devour memory and essence, not flesh and blood. When Eric Sanderson wakes from a lengthy unconsciousness, he has no memory. A letter from 'The First Eric Sanderson' directs him to psychologist Dr. Randle, who tells Eric he is afflicted with a 'dissociative condition.' Eric learns about his former life — specifically a glorious romance with girlfriend Clio Aames, who drowned three years earlier — and is soon on the run from the Ludovician, a 'species of purely conceptual fish' that 'feeds on human memories and the intrinsic sense of self.' Once he hooks up with Scout, a young woman on the run from her own metaphysical predator, the two trek through a subterranean labyrinth made of telephone directories (masses of words offer protection, as do Dictaphone recordings), decode encrypted communications and encounter a series of strange characters on the way to the big-bang showdown with the beast. Though Hall's prose is flabby and the plethora of text-based sight gags don't always work (a 50-page flipbook of a swimming shark, for instance), the end result is a fast-moving cyberpunk mashup of Jaws, Memento and sappy romance that's destined for the big screen. 125,000 first printing; $150,000 promo. (Apr.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"The star of Steven Hall's rousingly inventive 'The Raw Shark Texts' is its villain — always a good sign in a thriller. Raymond Chandler famously said, 'When in doubt, have a man come through a door with a gun in his hand.' Hall one-ups Chandler by sending in a shark. But not just any shark, a conceptual shark called a Ludovician, which swims in a current of words and ideas and feeds on memory and... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review) sense of self. Every time the Ludovician makes an appearance, Hall's novel jolts to life. Eric Sanderson gasps awake one day to find his memory missing. As Eric struggles to forge a bland and static life, a series of letters, apparently from his self before the memory loss, the so-called First Eric, warns him of the conceptual shark that, with a vengeance as unmotivated as Iago's, is determined to eat Eric's memory over and over. 'Life is tenacious and determined,' explains First Eric. 'The streams, currents and rivers of human knowledge, experience and communication which have grown throughout our short history are now a vast, rich and bountiful environment. Why should we expect these flows to be sterile?' Second Eric doesn't buy it until he spies the figure of a shark within the white noise of his television. In the first of a series of text pictures that make the book so engaging, Hall shows the Ludovician as it gets closer and closer until it is nothing but a great unblinking eye. And then it attacks. It isn't long before Eric is on the run, dodging the memory eater and searching for the strange Dr. Fidorous, who might just be able to get the damn shark off his tail. At this point the novel takes on the cloak of your typical thriller: a man on the run, aided by a great-looking waif with a killer smile and a bomb in her pocket. Oh, yeah, and there's a cat. Employing Second Eric's point of view, the main narrative voice is not especially compelling. If the author's goal was to show how integral recollections are to personality, he succeeded. More compelling are the journals written by First Eric, the raw texts of the title, that give glimpses of Eric's romance with Clio, the love of his life, who was killed in a tragic accident off the coast of Greece. Hall, an artist and first-time novelist from Derbyshire, England, is exploring questions of memory and grief here — how memory deals as much with the future as with the past, how grief can cause memory to freeze, or even seize up — and he does so rather deftly. But his real achievement is to create a bizarre and sinister world where language and ideas exist like a stream of nutrients, spawning predators and parasites, such as the one that slips one night from a malevolent letter into Eric's body. 'It was small — maybe nine inches, maybe the length of a worry that doesn't quite wake you in your sleep. ... The creature had a round sucker-like mouth lined with dozens of sharp little doubts and inadequacies.' Though much of this meta-territory has already been mapped by writers such as Jasper Fforde in his police procedurals, where the cops slip in and out of classic literary works, and Tom Grimes in his epic tale of information sickness, 'WILL(at symbol)epicqwest.com,' it can still be dangerous ground. Nothing kicks a reader out of a story faster than an author playing meta-games just because he can. But even as Hall takes great delight in showing off the details of his world with all kinds of loopy names and textual tricks — including one terrific visual sequence where the terrifying nature of the shark is made real — his methods almost always serve the purpose of the story. And for a first novelist, Hall has a nice way of hiding telling details until the end of a sentence or a scene, like the stinger at the end of a scorpion's tail. It's all a lot of fun, yet there is also a surprising emotional resonance in seeing Second Eric, like Beckett's Krapp with his tapes, reading and rereading First Eric's journals as he obsesses over the experiences that the Ludovician has chomped out of his head. And to hear Second Eric's voice take on the snap of his predecessor's is especially satisfying. Best of all, there is the shark itself, wily and relentless, with its chilling eye and gaping maw, hungry for memory. Hall has created a nightmare creature, engorged on humanity's unquenchable urge to express itself. 'Less than fifty yards behind us and keeping pace, ideas, thoughts, fragments, story shards, dreams, memories were blasting free of the grass in a high-speed spray. As I watched, the spray intensified. The concept of the grass itself began to lift and bow wave into a long tumbling V. At the crest of the wave, something was coming up through the foam — a curved and rising signifier, a perfectly evolved idea fin.' Yikes. Tyler Knox is the author of the novel 'Kockroach.'" Reviewed by Chimamanda Ngozi AdichieMarie AranaMichael DirdaHarold HolzerTyler Knox, Washington Post Book World (Copyright 2006 Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group)
(hide most of this review)
"If Paul Auster and Haruki Murakami collaborated on Moby-Dick crossed with The Wizard of Oz, they might produce something like Hall's deliriously ambitious debut, which mixes profound themes with playful plot twists." Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"The bastard love child of The Matrix, Jaws and The Da Vinci Code. Very entertaining." Mark Haddon
"Fast, sexy, intriguing, intelligent — The Raw Shark Texts is all these and more: a cult waiting to happen, a blockbuster begging to be made. Steven Hall is a truly fantastic storyteller. Investigate, now!" Toby Litt
"An absurdly confident and intriguing debut....Move over Damien Hurst." Esquire
"The most original reading experience of the year....A novel that genuinely isn't like anything you have ever read before." Independent
"Clever, exciting, funny...and, finally, moving." Sunday Times
"Paced like a thriller, the book thinks like a French theorist and reads like a deluge. The end result is a fun, quirky, very British love story." San Francisco Chronicle
"The Raw Shark Texts is so much more than a clever, playful book, though it is both those things." Los Angeles Times
Moving with the pace and momentum of a superb thriller, exploring ideas about language and information as well as identity, The Raw Shark Texts is ultimately a novel about the magnitude of love and the devastating effect of losing that love.
Eric Sanderson wakes up one day with no idea who or where he is. A note instructs him to call a Dr. Randle, who informs him that he is undergoing yet another episode of memory loss and that for the last two years—since the tragic death of his great love, Clio, while vacationing in Greece—hes been suffering from an acute disassociative disorder. But there may be more to the story, or it may be a different story altogether. As Eric Sanderson begins to examine letters and papers left behind by the first Eric Sanderson” and the staggering tale they seem to contain, he and the reader embark on a quest to recover the truth and to escape the predatory forces that threaten to devour him. Moving with the pace and momentum of a superb thriller, exploring ideas about language and information as well as identity, The Raw Shark Texts is ultimately a novel about the magnitude of love and the devastating effect of losing that love.
About the Author
Steven Hall was born in 1975. After completing a fine arts degree, he became one of the founding members of Manchester's Wet Nana and has produced a number of plays, music videos, conceptual art pieces and short stories. He lives in Hull.
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