Monday 25 May 2009


If you like your sharks conceptual

I started (and finished!) my first book for awhile over the weekend, The Raw Shark Texts by Steven Hall. His debut work, the author has been hyped as one to watch and the book has already been added to the 'cult novel' lexicon by some pretty respected and influential people. Has anyone else read it? Because I really can't decide if it was good or not...

The story follows a man named Eric Sanderson, who wakes up in a flat with no memory of who he is or his life before that moment. He finds a note instructing him to contact the psychologist who was treating him before he lost his memory, and through her learns a bit about his previous life: this has happened before, and the original dissociative condition was precipitated by the tragic loss of his girlfriend four years prior. She instructs him not to follow any instructions the first Eric Sanderson may have pre-arranged for him to receive, which he ignores. And then it gets complicated.

The first Eric Sanderson tells him that he is being pursued by a conceptual shark, a Ludovician, that devours memories. Yes, I said conceptual shark. Not a real one, but a concept of a shark, made of words. But hell bent on eating him right up. Eric gains a guide in the form of Scout, who may or may not be his dead girlfriend. Or the concept of her. And they adventure through un-space (yep, I said un-space) in pursuit of the scientist who's an expert in the field of conceptual fish. Who lives in a cathedral constructed of phonebooks. I'll not give the denouement away because I don't know myself want to be a spoilsport, but it's a doozy.

The problem I have with this book (and a lot of 'cult' books) is that it's too clever by half. Or, if you really want to get into the spirit of things, it's probably too clever by π. The 36 'un-chapters' that aren't included in the book but are hidden in cyberspace or real world. Plot and logic sacrificed for hip post-modern references and visual special effect (40 page flip book of the word-shark's approach?!). It smacks of a house of cards. A conceptual house of cards, I mean.


  1. sounds like one to avoid...I just *know* I'll get it for my birthday next week. and be expected to discuss it afterwards. can I copy your homework if thta happens? I'll give you my lunch money.

  2. I can only conclude that by mentioning your birthday that you are hoping that I will send you this book, now that I am done with it...

  3. Absolutely NO way I'll be reading this! Far too clever, clever, and probably quite self-satisfied too. It would make me very cross. Right, off to bed with Persuasion now!

  4. argh! nonononono, choklit and wine yes please, difficult book, no thank you xx