A young man with severe amnesia comes to realize that he is being stalked by a conceptual shark (which is much, much scarier than you might think).
What surprised me most about The Raw Shark Texts was how fast it moved. For all its high-minded metaphysical aims and experimental underpinnings, the book has the pacing of an airport thriller or Stephen King horror book. There were some sequences in this book, such as protagonist Second Eric’s Sanderson encounter with Nobody, that were are frightening as anything I’ve ever read.
Eric Sanderson is the classic fictional amnesiac, waking up one day with absolutely no memories at all. He begins receiving letters from himself, whom he dubs the First Eric, warning him to take certain precautions to protect himself against the conceptual shark who devoured all his memories to begin with. That’s right–a conceptual shark, a ruthless predator that feeds on memories and ideas. It is absolutely extraordinary how author Steven Hall turns this intellectual conceit into a genuinely menacing threat and a successfl plot engine. The Raw Shark Texts is like the bastard child of Generation X and Foucault’s Pendulum.
Charles Stross’s Accelerando deals with memes and the uploaded self
David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas is another surprising accessible experimental novel.
But more than anything, I was reminded of that great Michel Gondry/Charlie Kaufman collaboration: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. In the same way that film exploited the language of cinema, The Raw Shark Texts exploits language itself, and both do so in the service of achingly poignant stories about love and grief. Both of these works are a divine marriage of technique and soul.