The Raw Shark Texts, the first novel by the British writer Steven Hall, which will be published in the U.S. this month, revolves around "conceptual" sharks who track down humans and devour their memories, a horror-dystopic-philosophical mash-up that has critics drawing comparisons to Borges, The Matrix and Jaws.
Tom Shone - New York Times Magazine
How all this will read in 20 years, or even two, is hard to say, although one suspects that what seemed so vertiginously modern will ultimately seem like so much cyber-age psychedelia — as depthless and woozy as paisley-patterned shirts. Hollywood, needless to say, has taken the bait; the book was a big hit at the most recent London book fair, and the movie rights were fiercely contested and finally sold for a sum in the mid- to high six figures. But I would advise producers to tread cautiously: we could be in for a replay of The Beach, by Alex Garland. Novels so in hock to the movies have a habit of evaporating by the time they get to the screen.
Tom Shone - New York Times Book Review
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.
Tyler Knox - Washington Post
Steven Hall's The Raw Shark Texts is a psychological thriller with shades of Memento and The Matrix and the fiction of Mark Danielewski; page-turning, playful and chilling by turns, it explores the construction of identity through the adventures of an amnesiac who is guided by letters from his former self and menaced by a conceptual shark. —Justine Jordan
The book justifies the hype.... An innovative, postmodern, metafictional novel.... The most original reading experience of the year.... A literary novel that's more out there than most science fiction.... Genuinely isn't like anything you have ever read before, and could be as big an inspiration to the next generation of writers as Auster and Murakami have been to Hall.—Matt Thorne
An avant-garde thriller in which these devil-fish of the unconscious somehow escape the symbolic realm, or rather, we join them on their side of the border....Ian is a splendid character: a self-important misanthropist, invariably with 'thundery disgust and disappointment all over his big flat ginger face.' . . . The novel's great virtue is its structure.... Information is released in pieces, like time-release drugs in a capsule, their order derived from the progressive revelation of truths rather than the forward march of events....The Raw Shark Texts unfolds not in sleek cyberspace, but inside the post-Freudian human self, with its layers, its pungent humours, its debris left over from construction, and its monsters of the deep....Jaws meets Alice in Wonderland. —Sarah Bakewell
Times Literary Supplement (London)
Readers who are prepared to tolerate (or be amused by) a few typographical gimmicks and manipulations, as well as an engaging story, are in for a treat.
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.
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