four-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
29-July-Aug-2007
By: 
Steven Hall
user_rating: 
0

A-The Raw Shark TextsEric Sanderson returns to consciousness—but has lost his memory. Contradictory notes, letters, and encrypted clues (prepared by an earlier version of himself) guide him in his effort to reclaim his identity. One letter directs him to visit his doctor, who tells him he’s suffered recurring bouts of amnesia since his girlfriend, Clio, disappeared during a trip to Greece. Another note tells him not to trust the doctor. He learns that a "Ludovician shark" consumed the earlier Eric’s identity and memories and continues to pursue him. The shark inhabits a nearby conceptual dimension, where memories and ideas have physical counterparts that live on even after they’ve been expressed in this world. As Eric, Scout (a counterpart of Clio), and an academic hunt down the shark, the novel races toward a heart-pounding climax.
Canongate. 428 pages. $24. ISBN: 1841959111

Minneapolis Star Tribune 4.5 of 5 Stars
"This book is going to be a huge success; the movie is already optioned and the computer game can’t be far behind. Wait for these versions, however, and you deprive yourself of its sheer verbal pleasure." Emily Carter Roiphe

St. Petersburg Times 4.5 of 5 Stars
"[S]wift, playful and fearsomely intelligent. … It takes a strong writer to juggle memory and identity, the words people use to make sense of reality, without losing the reader along the way. Only an extremely gifted one can keep everything up in the air and keep the reader engaged with everything that’s going on." Kit Reed

Los Angeles Times 4 of 5 Stars
"The Raw Shark Texts is so much more than a clever, playful book, though it is both those things. … Some of the pages contain word pictures (there’s even a flip section of a swimming shark), and although they’re simple, they truly enhance the feeling of swimming and being preyed upon in the water, of being part of the complex conceptual food chain." Susan Salter Reynolds

Oregonian 4 of 5 Stars
"The Raw Shark Texts is a fluid, fast-paced thriller. Make that a PG-13 thriller: a slightly older Harry Potter meets edited-for-TV Shaun of the Dead meets Jaws. … And it works." Vernon Peterson

San Francisco Chronicle 4 of 5 Stars
"Paced like a thriller, the book thinks like a French theorist and reads like a deluge. … He has written an engrossing, delirious and perfectly wacky book and, if nothing else, in his generous imagining not one of us has ever had a wasted thought." Tobin O’Donnell

USA Today 3.5 of 5 Stars
"The prose is often self-important and less brilliant than the situations it describes, and many of the story elements dogmatically adhere to Hollywood conventions. … A metaphysical book such as this easily could have become dense and inaccessible, but Hall’s unrelenting focus on visual storytelling keeps it lucid." Eliot Schrefer

NY Times Book Review 2 of 5 Stars
"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. … Novels so in hock to the movies have a habit of evaporating by the time they get to the screen." Tom Shone

Critical Summary

Almost everyone loves this much-hyped first novel, including, according to USA Today, Nicole Kidman, who asked Steven Hall if he’d change the main character into a woman for the movie. (He declined.) Although a few critics found Hall’s prose imperfect, most applauded his achievement in transforming hefty subjects (memory, identity, meme theory, grief) into an energetic thriller, in which ideas—such as those implied by the "Ludovician shark"—come to life. Only the New York Times panned the book, finding it formulaic and overly clever. 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.