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The Raw Shark Texts

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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.

427 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 2007

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About the author

Steven Hall

9 books515 followers
Steven Hall is the author of The Raw Shark Texts and Maxwell's Demon. He is one of Granta's Best of Young British Novelists.

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5 stars
6,380 (31%)
4 stars
6,935 (34%)
3 stars
4,353 (21%)
2 stars
1,616 (8%)
1 star
774 (3%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,028 reviews
Profile Image for mark monday.
1,644 reviews5,099 followers
May 1, 2018

You are a book, The Raw Shark Texts. You are an unstable narrative. You are a story of loss and love and memory, of a broken heart and a broken mind. You are a mystery; you are a postmodern text; you are a Burroughs, with a certain sort of sunny spotless mind. You are a first novel, complete with a first novel's typical weaknesses: an intermittent stridency and repetitiousness that is occasionally tedious, a tendency towards wanting to amaze the audience with your brilliance, characters and dialogue that are intended to be cheeky & real but often come across as precious & cutesy-poo. You are overlong. Still, your ambition is pleasing. Your level of writing ability is impressive. There is a mad genius to it. You exist on multiple levels. You excited me, then bored me, then excited me anew. You made me think on many things: new ideas and old, what is a person, what is an emotion, what makes a concept real. You are a book that this reviewer liked, sometimes.



" - the view becomes the reflection, and the reflection, the view."

Profile Image for LaHaie.
135 reviews11 followers
March 13, 2009
A brief behind-the-scenes recap of "The Raw Shark Texts":

Steven Hall is inspired. Writes a brilliant one hundred pages of an unfinished novel. The first hundred pages of 'The Raw Shark Texts' are truly a great read, hinting at something avant-garde, something page-turning in the finest sense of the term. We're all clicking off the rusty old disbelief mechanisms because 'The Raw Shark Texts' is putting it all together. OK, sure, it is yet another "piece-my-life-back-together-after-what-would-seem-to-be-amnesia" kind of plot, but it is raging, it is rythmic and totally unapolagetic, like screw you if you think you've heard this song before. Steven Hall is promising to tease out the mystery with total originality and brio. The characterization of the shrink in particular is extraordinary. What is going on here? The reader awaits, the reader is prepared to suspend many further unknown belief mechanisms...

Then: Steven Hall is feeling kind of dull and uninspired, but here we go. Up and at 'em! Another 200 pages of "The Raw Shark Texts" coming at ya. Ah-hem... Kicking in with cutesy-poo winsome boy-meets-girl capers in post-modern clichèland... But Steven Hall is just MESSING WITH YOU, get it? Ok, ok, let's get back to the good stuff.

Then: "JAWS." Yeah, we're gonna re-do JAWS. But it's gonna be, like, a CONCEPT SHARK, get it? No? That's ok, really, no problem. Because the girl who appears out of nowhere but could also (but might not) be the over-simplified key to an overly-convoluted plot is, like, fortunately, the MOST BEAUTIFUL GIRL OUR MEMORY LOSS DUDE HAS EVER SEEN and, like, THE COOLEST GIRL EVER, and, umm, let's see, SHE DROPS TONS OF WITTY ONE-LINERS and stuff.

Also: This might be the afterlife.

Or: A dream.

I mean: It's what you what you might think if you're in a coma.

Then: This reader is thinking: I can't believe I finished this awful fraud of a book.
Profile Image for Rick Monkey.
5 reviews36 followers
May 16, 2008
You know what I like?

This whole genre of stuffy British dudes who find themselves unwillingly going on adventures and discovering that there's more to them than just being pasty and flustered.

And, yeah, it's a genre. There's TONS of books with that same damn plot. Thing is, they're often very entertaining.

They're also usually played for laughs. Which is not the case in The Raw Shark Texts. Yes, the protagonist eventually finds himself drawn into a world where the old rules don't apply. Yes, he has an adventure. Yes, he even has a sidekick in the form of an irascible, unflappable (fortunately, non-talking) ginger cat.

But it's a story of confusion and grief and loss. Eric Sanderson has lost everything he ever held dear, including himself, beginning with a stupid, everyday accident and culminating in the predations of a conceptual beast who feeds on memory and swims the currents of ideas and information.

It's a very meta sort of story, with much of the narrative being dedicated to the biology of ideas and memes, how they grow and evolve, how they have their own ecosystem that interacts with our material one. There's also a fair bit of fourth-wall breaking (but not in the usual sense) as the words and type on the page are molded and re-arrange to become more illustration than text.

I'm not sure I can properly review this book, I really don't have the language for it. But I can assure you, even if the plot is a bit familiar, the ideas are quite unlike anything you're likely to have encountered.
Profile Image for Brittni Kristine.
179 reviews113 followers
November 30, 2020
I can see why others may not have found this to be a fantastic read, and it wasn’t until maybe the last 20 pages that it moved up from 4 to 5 stars for me. Ultimately, I found it to be completely and utterly beautiful. I’ve never read anything like it and doubt I ever will again. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the imagery of a tunnel/maze completely made of pages from books, and the claustrophobic feeling of crawling through them.

This book is a mystery and an adventure and a love letter, and I adored it.
Profile Image for Kinga.
476 reviews2,195 followers
January 12, 2012
(There might be very minor spoilers here but I doubt they will make any sense to you if you haven't read the book, so read on, unles you are uber-paranoid about spoilers)

“The Raw Shark Texts”. It’s supposed to be a literary psychological thriller where Jorge Luis Borges meets Danielewski meets Matrix meets Fight Club meets Jaws. I thought: Oh dear. Steve, I hope you know what you are running up against and I hope your game is tight.

The book starts with the main character waking up on the floor not knowing who or where he is. His personal memory seems to have been wiped clean. This is a tried and tested opening that is sure to grip anyone from the first page. The problem with it is that you have to back it up. The book has to live up to its premise.

I give credit where credit is due – Steve Hall had a superb idea. Our narrator, Eric Sanderson, is hunted by a kind of conceptual fish (the kind of fish that lives in a purely abstract world and feeds on thoughts, ideas, memories). Somehow he stepped on the toe of the most dangerous conceptual fish out there – the Ludovician, a conceptual equivalent of the great white shark. And it eats his memory. Nom, nom, nom.

There are also very funny/scary (albeit gimmicky) typographical illustrations in the text. They even looked cute on my kindle.

While I think the idea was brilliant, I feel there was a little of wasted opportunity there. We are made to understand that the way to fight the shark (or at least to keep it at bay, so to speak) is to use so some sort of flow of information to throw him off your scent and set up a conceptual loop which works like a shark cage. And our hero uses other people’s post and Dictaphones to do that. Dictaphones? What is it, 1985? What else? Maybe he should fax the shark as well?
Why not set up some computers with facebook and twitter accounts that would constantly get new followers and feedback to each other ad infinitum. Perfect conceptual loop! Or why throw ‘letter bombs’ (made of shredded phone books and such) at your shark? Why not treat it with a stream of penis enlargement and Russian brides spam? That should send it all the way back to last century. Why go through other people’s post where you can just download their blogs, twitters, tumblrs, facebooks, and emails? I mean, if I were looking for tons of pointless information, the Internet would be the first place I would go to.

But fine, Steve. I am with you. Let’s party like it’s 1985, Dictaphones and all. So I am suspending my disbelief, conceptual sharks, some zombie like figures, Un-space (yeah, me neither) until Hall introduces Eric’s love interest in its two incarnations Scout and Clio. And boy, oh, boy, ain’t she a dream come true for any nerdy boy? She’s got boobs and likes to show them, she knows about computers, rides a motorcycle, and talks like she is reading a sitcom script. She never mentions kids or marriage. She is a superhero but also slightly damaged inside so can be occasionally protected. She is Lara Croft meets Leelo from the Fifth Element. And here comes the love story with the extra cheese on top. Here comes the melodrama when Eric decides to sulk for half of the book over something that a PMSing sixteen year old girl would have a hard time sulking over for longer than 40 minutes. I can’t take this. I shout : “Jeez louise, Steve, what are you doing? Why are you doing it?”.

And then at the end, Steve tells my why he was doing it. And it makes sense, and I get it. And he knew that I knew, but I didn’t know that he knew that I knew. And ha, ha, the joke is on me. But you know what, Steve, I could’ve stopped reading there and then if I wasn’t so OCD about finishing every book that I start. I really do get it, but I still don’t know why I was forced to read 100 or so pages of that bad soap-opera. So there goes one star from what could’ve been a four star book.

And then of course there is the ending... Oh.
Profile Image for Paul.
1,179 reviews1,935 followers
January 20, 2019
A bit oversold, but certainly creative at times with a sprinkling of novel ideas which for me, almost worked; but not quite.
At heart this is a simple love story, which I didn't mind as I quite like simple love stories, being an old romantic at heart. That the love story was between a man whose memories had been eaten by a conceptual shark (see later) and a woman who he may have loved in his pre memory loss existence who is now dead (but not a ghost - nothing supernatural here) matters not a jot.
There are homages all over the book and references to films and books. Lots to Casablanca and of course Jaws; the last part of the film is played out at the end of the book.
There are quite a few oddities. A character we never meet called Mycroft Ward decides in the mid 19th century that he really does not want to die. He studies hypnotism and finds a younger suggestive subject and hypnotically gives him great detail about his own life and becomes him. He continues to do this creating a number of versions of himself. He eventually becomes an internet database.
Now the fish. The novel depends on the idea that there exist conceptual fish that feed on ... well, concepts and ideas. The Ludovician is a large conceptual shark that feeds on memories and seems have have developed a liking for Eric, the main character in the book. Eric recieves messages from his previous self in the mail and from other sources telling him how to protect himself.
There is also unspace; the empty spaces in our modern urban world, behind shops, empty factories and warehouses, railway sidings.
The whole thing reaches a climax in the conceptual world, which becomes real to the protagomists. I quite like that idea.
There are some quite clever ideas and it has cult classic written all over it; I also suspect it is designed to be filmed; although quite how they're going to manage conceptual fish! The ending is a bit of a cop out and the first part of the book deserves better.
It is entertaining, but on closer examination rather flimsy. Apparently for each chapter in the book there is a negative (or unchapter) out in the world somewhere; on line, in other editions of the book or yet to be discovered. Am I bothered enough to seek them out; nope. That may tell you all you need to know
I did like Ian the cat and had every sympathy with him being dragged around Eric's rather mad adventures.
Profile Image for Brad.
Author 2 books1,688 followers
May 14, 2011
For sheer ballsy creativity The Raw Shark Texts is an incendiary word bomb of conceptual fish, mad world hungry pseudo-immortals, movie geekdom, Greek tragedy and cats with mundane names.

To say there is something lacking in Steven Hall's first novel seems unfair and trite, but I can't shake the feeling that something in Eric Sanderson's relationship with Clio/Scout felt too forced and way too indoctrinated by current gender attitudes. If that was by design I can't imagine what the design was; if it was merely the truth that Hall found in his characters I have to admit that I couldn't see that truth. That could be down to me.

Besides, it seems a petty complaint when weighed against the moments of sheer genius in Steven Hall's debut. I know I will be back for multiple reads because there are so many questions I need to examine again and again. I almost started listing them here, but instead I will simply provide words for which I am compelled to seek answers: Dr. Ryan Mitchell. Dr. Randle. Mycroft Ward. Ian. Greg. Ludovician (one of the all time great antagonists in any novel -- ever). Eric Richardson the first, the other, the second.

The Raw Shark Texts is a rich mine of thought that I look forward to returning to, and Steven Hall is threatening to enter the rarefied upper region of my personal literary canon. I just hope he doesn't slip in the direction of Chuck Pahlaniuk with his next work. Promising beginnings can so often become failure to live up to potential. Oh well, who cares? I'll always have The Raw Shark Texts to enjoy if the future doesn't work out.
Profile Image for Shovelmonkey1.
353 reviews875 followers
May 6, 2012
Duh Dum.
Duh Dum.
Dum dum dum dum dum dum DUM!!!!!

Ok that was a poor attempt to mimic the Jaws theme tune in text format, but hey, it's not that easy.

On Animosity Island, everyone is looking forward to the summer season. The picket fences are suitably white, the sky is picture-postcard blue and the beaches of fine yellow sand are ready to receive the beach towels and inflatable toys of hundreds of British holiday makers. For Chief Brady, head of the Animosity Island police department, there is one fly in the sunscreen - there's something in the water. A girl is washed up on the beach with huge L's and U's bitten out of her. Then little Alex Kidney is ripped from his inflatable doughnut and reduced to nothing more than a red ink blot on the ocean waves. Chief Brady and his faithful sidekick Mitt Hopper(renowned beard wearer and oceanographer) take to the high seas to investigate. They quickly stumble upon the half submerged and chewed up remains of a boat belonging to a local fisherman. When Hopper explores the damaged hull he is startled to find a huge letter U embedded in the hull. Then suddenly the boat shifts and a copy of the Raw Shark Texts drops in front of him. Hopper screams and breaks for the surface.


But it does contain some heavy referencing to Jaws and as I love that film, then that's ok by me.

The Raw Shark texts is conceptually quite brilliant and I have to admit I loved parts of it. The first Eric Sanderson has been "eaten" by a Ludovician, a conceptual shark which follows the stream of information that people generate (thoughts, conversations, mail, emails) and slowly takes great big bitey chunks out of their memory until they become a sort of un-person. Brilliant. Conceptual sharks. Love it.

Remnants of Eric survive these shark induced fugue states and so following notes left by the First Eric Sanderson, the Second Eric Sanderson tries to catch and kill the Ludovician before he's a goner too. In order to do this Eric has to hunt down Dr Trey Fidorous who lives in un-space. Un-space which is entered via Waterstones. Brilliant. To this end he is accompanied by Ian the cat and Scout who is an un-version of the improbably super-cool girlfriend Clio Aames.

There are all sorts of other "I'm mad but you're not supposed to know how mad" subtext occurring, most of which is based around the death of Clio Aames, improbably super-cool girlfriend of the First Eric Sanderson. Women reading this will in all likelihood intensely dislike the conceptual memory of Clio Aames. I was secretly hoping that she got eaten by a real shark and that is why she wasn't around any more. Sadly not.

In the end the attempt to catch and kill the Ludovician is based on the shark-chase scene in Jaws, complete with a couple of chapter titles which are an outright homage to these ad-lib-ed scenes, including Farewell and adieu to you fair Spanish Ladies . If this book also had a chapter called Show me the way to go home, I'm tired and I want to go to bed then I might well have given it five stars.

Wikipedia also says that as well as the 36 chapters of the book I've just read, there are also a series of 36 un-chapters which have to be hunted down on line. This book is clever. This is also the kind of marketing wet dream that causes publishers to have a little sex wee and hi-five each other for being seven kinds of zeitgeist. Probably not as clever as House of Leaves and a number of people have dubbed it House of Leaves-lite (or maybe it was just me, I forget as the Ludovician has been taking chunks out of my own memory recently).

Anyway the star of the show was Ian the cat. He survived and wasn't as mad as Eric Sanderson (either versions one or two) and he wasn't as smug as Clio Aames either.
Profile Image for Arthur Graham.
Author 70 books650 followers
March 11, 2020
Personally, I wouldn't have ended it on such a sappy note, and OF COURSE he's reading Paul Auster in that scene towards the end, but this was a pretty compelling and inventive read overall, even if some of it felt a bit gimmicky at points. One could only hope for such generous criticism of their first novel, so that's why I'm giving credit where credit due. Four out of five stars.
Profile Image for Brandon.
902 reviews233 followers
March 19, 2013
The Raw Shark Texts was released back in 2007 by first time U.K. author, Steven Hall. In some circles, it’s been referred to as some bizarre cross between Jaws and The Matrix with perhaps a little Da Vinci Code thrown in there for good measure. It follows the story of Eric Saunderson who awakes on his bedroom floor without any memories. While the man retains his basic motor functions, he remembers nothing resembling emotions or sense of identity. Shortly upon awaking, Eric finds a note left by the “first Eric Saunderson” with basic instructions on how to resume his life. From this point forward a proverbial can of worms is opened and the mystery unfolds itself in an addictive way, by which I mean, it’s really hard to put this book down.

I had an experience like this when I read “House of Leaves”. The stories are quite different but the layout is just as ambitious. While Danielewski goes above and beyond with liner and foot notes as well as scratches and interchanging fonts, Hall goes with long gaps of pages with little to no words as well as diagrams and exhibits. The changing style throughout the novel really adds to the experience and gets the reader more involved in what is happening to Eric’s world. There’s something about this style that I really like. I guess it’s refreshing to pick up a book that not only feels different but looks different as well. Some people could probably write this off as some sort of gimmick but changing things up once in a while should be welcomed.

While Hall is working on a second book, whether he can produce something on par to Raw Shark Texts remains to be seen but I know that I’ll be checking it out. Let’s just hope he doesn’t go in the direction of Danielewski’s Only Revolutions.

Cross posted @ Every Read Thing
Profile Image for MJ Nicholls.
2,023 reviews4,068 followers
June 20, 2018
Hall’s conceptual sharks are clever, baffling and original. His typographical quirks are deployed to interesting and, in one infamous instance, hilariously terrifying effect. Howevs, the writing suffers from an overuse of dramatic verbs, a overly stylised relationship between the hero/heroine (regardless of any ironic intentions), moments of prolonged confusion and plot dullness, and melodrama. Still, it shows a clear love of language, words and books, so I can overlook the long sloggy parts.
Profile Image for Gorkem.
140 reviews93 followers
May 19, 2023
Bir Slipstream * Türü Olan Romana Güzellemeler,

Köpek Balığı Metinleri , orjinal ismiyle The Raw Shark Text, ismini Rorschach Testinin fonetik yapasını romana yansıtan zekice bir kitap. Geleneksel kalıpları thriller ( heyecanlı kitap) formunu tamamen değiştirdiğine inanılan roman, okuyucuya birçok farklı okuma deneyimi sunmaktadır. Steven Hall, Köpekbalığı Metinleriyle ilgili olarak, okuyucuyu da romana katan "aktif okur" fikriyle bu romanını oluşturduğunu kitap ilk yayınlandığında kritklerin övgüsüyle duymuştum . Ki yazarın kendisi, tek bir kitapta birçok farklı zeka algısının ve disiplinin, tek romanda meydana getirilebilinir mi tezini bu kitapla ortaya koymak istemiş.

Bu açıdan baktığımda, kendimce, bu tarz bir deneyimi yazımsal anlamda başardığını gönül rahatlığıyla söyleyebilirim.

Roman bir çin bulmacasının parçası gibi tane tane açılıp ana karakterimiz olan Eric Sanderson'un travmatik bir kaza sonucu belleğinin silinmesi ve doktor Randall'dan aldığı bir telefon ile hafızasının kaybetmeden önceki İlk Sanderson'dan gelen mektuplarla kendi kayıp geçmişini arayışı ile açılmaktadır. Hall'ın ilk Sanderson ve kendine gelen Sanderson ile insanın kendi geçmişi, ve şu an ile nasıl başa çıktığını ve gelecekte düşüncelerin anıları nasıl yönlendireceği sorularını son derece basit birkaç kavramdan yola çıkarak kitabı okurla birlikte ilerletiyor..

Güzellemeye Kötüleme

Kitabın benim açımdan baktığım yukarıda da belirttiğim gibi birçok farklı okuma deneyimi bir kitapta denenmiş olduğunu görmek keyifliydi. Aynı zamanda bu kadar çeşitlilik bir süre sonra sıkabiliyor.

Kitabın benim açından baktığımda, Hall'ın kendi dilsel anlatımdan kaynaklanan bir durumdan dolayı ve sıraladığım aşırı çeşitlilikten dolayı kitapla ve olay akışıyla aralıklarla kitapla aramdaki bağlantının ne yazık ki kopmalara neden oldu. Bu nedenle de kitaba bağlanamadım.Ve ne yazık ki Sanderson'un yaşamış olduğu arayışları, okur olarak içimde hissedemedim. (Bu durumun kesinlikle çeviri ile ilgi olduğuna inanmıyorum. Keza,kitabın çevirmeni Aylin Ülçer, çeviri konusunda son derece başarılı, birçok zor metni son derece etkileyici olarak çevirmen usta. Çeviri inanılmaz, akıcı ve çok başarılı )

Sonuç olarak,

Kitabın Hall tarafından tür açısından bakıldığında okuru rahatsız ve farklı hissettirmesi, birçok farklı sanatsal ve görsel algının edebiyat ile birleştirilmesi açısında son derece farklı bir okuma deneyimi sunan bir eser. Benim açımdan, her okur adına bu bir kıstas olmayabilir, bu eserin Hall'un ilk eseri olmasından dolayı kesinlikle okurun beklentisini yüksek tutan bir kitap. Belki bu kitabı uzun zamandır listemde tutup beklentimi aşırı yüksek tutmam karşından anlatım açısından aradığım bütünleşmeyi yakalayamam eserle aramda kopma yaratmış olabilir. Buna zamanla karar vereceğim.

Bu kadar şeyi yazdıktan sonra her şeyi kitaptan çok sevdiğim bir alıntıyla sonlandırıp, okuma okumama fikrini size bakıyorum.

Keyifli okumalar.


İnsanın aklında binlerce soru olması demek, gerçekte sorabileceğiniz hiçbir şey olmaması anlamına gelir çoğunlukla.Cımbızla seçilip diğerlerinden daha önce sorulsa kulağa tuhaf gelmeyecek, iyi başlangıç noktası oluşturabilecek tek bir soru yoktur.

Slipstream Roman:*"kabullenilmiş gerçeklik algısının tamamen yok edilerek, okurun en basit anlamda kendisini garip hissettirmesi"
Profile Image for Danger.
Author 33 books629 followers
July 10, 2018
I tried explaining the plot of this book to someone and I sounded like a crazy person. Not because it’s overly-complex (it’s just the right amount of complex, actually) but because it’s so strange and original and realized, every little detail seemed important. The Raw Shark Texts succeeds on all levels. I’d give it 6 stars if I could.
Profile Image for Ari.
85 reviews31 followers
January 23, 2016
Area woman wildly unimpressed with White Man™ pretentious pseudo-intellectual masturbatory fantasy, complete with the Struggle of being a Man who doesn't know his Place in the world and manic pixie dream conceptual girl.
Profile Image for Corinne.
183 reviews15 followers
July 13, 2007
I give up. I'm nearly halfway through the book and I'm putting it down. Maybe, at another time, I'll pick it up again and feel differently but the action/adventure vibe just isn't sitting with me at all. It's like reading The Celestine Prophecy -which I did many, many moons ago- only without the big morality question leading you through to the end. Or, it's like reading Haruki Murakami without his talent for subtle storytelling. Or -sorry to go overboard on this- it's like reading House of Leaves without all the decoding and, well, the effort. Or -just one more- it's like reading The Illuminatus Trilogy sans the brilliance of Robert Anton Wilson poking fun at his book for a thousand pages.

The over-narration is what really did me in. Every emotion is dropped on the page, every clue is highlighted with a flood light, and not a single important piece of information is given to the reader without fanfare. When Scout, his hip and pretty adventure guide shows up, I just couldn't keep reading. It was too much for me. The conceptual shark, I could deal with. The living room turning in the ocean and back, I was into it. But the sudden appearance of a hot, hip twenty-year-old pushed me overboard (ha).

When the movie comes out I'll watch it (maybe even in the theaters), it'll be a nice distraction for a few hours. But, the book and I are done.
Profile Image for the kenosha kid.
75 reviews55 followers
July 23, 2018
Writing this review feels bad. I'm sure Steven Hall worked lovingly on his first book. Judging by his chirpy author picture, he looks like a cool guy, and I hope he lives a long happy life and writes many great bestsellers and gets to buy a flying yacht where the party never ends.

That being said, The Raw Shark Texts is terrible. It feels like a badly mixed porridge of everything the author thought was AWESOME. Let's see – the movie Jaws? AWESOME. Memento? AWESOME. House of Leaves? AWESOME. Abandoned underground places, ancient Japanese secret societies, scattered chapters and subtle mysteries? Oh man, this is going to be the best book ever!

Unfortunately, Steven Hall isn't a very good cook.

The novel's main premise, that of "conceptual fish" that live in the flow of ideas and feed on memories, is ludicrous and completely unjustified. Same with much of the book's mythology. There's a fortress made of stacked books, a banal memoir encrypted with insane algorithms, a make-believe boat magically turned real, a secret underground network of service corridors and parking lots whose relevance to the story is not clear. None of this is ever explained. The protagonist accepts it all without much reflection, and the reader is expected to do the same. I couldn't. It all felt phony and lazy.

The characters are little more than archetypes – there's the amnesiac protagonist, the pretty and clever love interest, the eccentric recluse scientist. This flat troupe is antagonized by two of the dullest villains I've ever seen, a magical shark that appears every now and then to say "boo" and a nineteenth-century dude inhabiting many bodies, who could have been an intriguing fellow if only he appeared in the story at all. But nope: he's just mentioned, and his only reason to be in the novel seems to be to provide a motivation for the love interest's actions.

It's not very good writing, either. The Raw Shark Texts could have been written by an enthusiastic teenager who read too much young adult fiction, makes as much use of a Thesaurus as is humanly possible, and whose idea of an exciting action scene is a dense paragraph of run-on sentences.

As another reviewer said, the book starts out interesting, but soon all of the flaws mentioned above become obvious, the story becomes dull, and yours truly becomes bored. This is nicely reflected in my reading progress graph (not sure if other people can see it), which is roughly logarithmic, meaning my reading speed became slower as I progressed through the book. The plot develops like you would expect any mediocre thriller to, leading to a final segment that's a point-by-point retelling of the climax of Jaws. That's right – the same deal with the barrels, the shark cage, the sinking boat, the explosion, the nauseatingly corny ending. I don't mean to imply that Hall ripped the movie off; surely the similarity is there for a reason (which I can't be bothered to find out), but, no matter what that is, it's a lazy and uninspired move.

And then, of course, there's the epilogue that basically says "But it was all a dream! ... ... ...OR WAS IT?" Hey, spot on! That was all this book needed to go from lame to ridiculous.
Profile Image for Jenbebookish.
620 reviews163 followers
February 8, 2017
Ugh. I struck out with this one.

This was something I'd been wanting to read for awhile. It's looked super enticing on my bookshelf and when I finally had it in my hands I was brimming with excitement. I had read the first couple pages awhile back and knew that this was the kind of book that grabbed you from the get go.

And welp! That's about the only time it grabbed me, it grabbed me then and let me go about 75 pages in. Maybe I'm just not smart enough...but the whole concept of "conceptual" sharks and predators was just...weird? For me.(weird--for lack of a better word) Once I realized that that was what the entire book was about and I would be stuck in the world of conceptual fish that can recognize you or bits of your personality if they somehow push thru the efforts made to keep hidden & then come back to erase your memory AGAIN. I felt cheated. And apparently these sharks hold grudges, they nibble till the death if they get any hint of your essence floatin around in conceptual space. Or un-space?

Point is--I did NOT dig it. And I know a lotta people really did so that kind of makes me feel stupid but it's not that I didn't understand what was going on...I just didn't LIKE what was going on. I like living in the real world, or in a fantasy world...NOT a conceptual one. And Clio. (Named after the goddess of history I presume? Which is obviously appropriate-ties in with memory and all that very neatly and clearly) I liked clio. Slash scout. Every nerd girl's role model and every nerd guy's dream. But I would have rather had the story play out some other way.

Try it out, see for yourself. I truly believe each book means something different to every person!
Profile Image for Hanneke.
326 reviews325 followers
March 21, 2013
Dit boek is een experiment om de romanvorm te ontstijgen, geloof ik. De typografische foefjes geven je inderdaad soms een visueel gevoel van beweging. Het lijkt soms of je in een nachtmerrie zit of in een gewelddadige video game. Of is Eric Sanderson gewoon krankzinnig en speelt het zich alleen in zijn hoofd af? Ik zou het echt niet weten. Ik vond het een uniek boek. En waardeer het zeer dat Steven Hall buiten alle gebaande paden wil treden.
Profile Image for Simona B.
892 reviews2,985 followers
August 4, 2022
Initially, I thought I'd be rating this 2/5, but the longer I think about it, the more convinced I become that reading this was a total waste of my time. The truth is that The Raw Shark Texts fails to engage with or suggest a single original idea about language and its relation to the self, which I would expect, given that these themes are or shoud be the novel's whole conceptual core. But I would have been happy (or at least, I would have felt less cheated) even with a vaguely interesting if unoriginal idea, or a banal but well-developed idea. The thing is, nothing in this novel comes together as it should. I feel this was just a pretext to write a meet-cute story, which would be okay if you like that sort of thing, but I was promised an experimental-ish cyberpunk-ish book, and I can assure you, The Raw Shark Texts is nothing of the like, and it's not half as clever as it thinks it is.
Profile Image for Kira Simion.
819 reviews126 followers
August 29, 2017
3.5 swimmingly entertained stars.

This is the first (or the only one I can remember ironically) book I've liked that someone told me to read from school. Maybe a Ludovician will wipe me memory and I'll forget it, maybe not. But I like it so far. A unique, entertaining, wild ride that needed a little more relationship development, but I liked it overall.
Profile Image for Ryan Chapman.
Author 6 books255 followers
September 30, 2008
I'd pair this with Remainder by Tom McCarthy: debut novels from the UK by men taking on conceptual literary frameworks. Their work isn't influenced by film so much as engaged by the medium itself. It's certainly not for everyone. In fact, I hated Remainder for the first few months after reading. But I recognize the book--and by extension this one as well--for what is: an avant-garde novel in the 21st century.

This book isn't as finely balanced as it could be, and many of the romantic scenes are so cheesy they may as well be broadcast on Lifetime. But a bold experiment persists for over 400 pages: what are all stories but failures to portray anything real? What if, then, you constructed your own elaborate story to deal with personal trauma? Only you don't know you've constructed it, or, maybe you didn't at all, or... well, this is where the genius of the book resides. Also, there's sharks.

The idea of conceptual fish I'll leave for you to discover on your own. Let's just say the more you buy into the hokum, the more you're rewarded in the end. It's a brilliant tightrope walk of the unreliable narrator (and unreliable text) on the high end, and your basic thriller plot (with chases! and explosions! and SHARKS!) on the low end.

Profile Image for Michael.
939 reviews145 followers
October 5, 2007
Mix _A Clockwork Orange_, _VALIS_, and _House of Leaves_ in a blender, and you would get something like this book. It combines a number of my favorite things, not the least of which is the unreliable narrator - and as an aside to some reviewers, if you think 'Memento' did it first, you really ought to read more and do some research. I was a little wary of the kind of 'fontplay' such as in Danielewski's book, but when Hall used it, he used it purposefully and to good effect.

Note to self: 'fontplay' sounds kinky.

I don't think this book is great literature, especially considering the level of (unseen by me) hype involved, but then again, my own interests made me its target demographic, and I'm not complaining. Intriguing, compelling and chewy, that's what this book was to me.
Profile Image for Baba.
3,560 reviews859 followers
July 28, 2019
Once I started reading this Bookstagram recommended book, I just simply couldn't put it down!
Eric Sanderson wakes up in his home with no personal memories; but he finds notes and messages left for him; directions to a professional counsellor he must see, and later gets letters and parcels posted to his home, to support his recovery... all from himself!!!
This wonderful piece of speculative and retrograded fiction is a mystery, sci-fi, thriller tour-de-force as guided by 'himself' Eric looks to find out who he is, what happened to him, and how can he prevent it happening again.
At times highly original and utterly compelling - this one of those books, that screams 'cult classic' all over! A very firm 9.5 out of 12.
Profile Image for Sinem A..
449 reviews248 followers
May 18, 2017
Garip tarzı, bolca sayfası ama hızla akması, bir kolaj çalışmasını andırması, daha çok bir sinema filmi tadı vermesi -sanırım senaryosu yazılmış- ile değişik bir ilk kitap, değişik bir okuma deneyimi.
Profile Image for Jason.
224 reviews24 followers
March 29, 2011
3/29/11 update:
I want to read it again. I also want Hall to write another book. Come on Steve!!

8/19/09 Update:
I found a copy of the UK version of this book in a used book store the other day and it prompted me to re-read it.
This book is so brilliant it's unbelievable. Reading it a second time brought out, in my mind anyway, what is really going on with this book. I'm truly amazed at Hall's performance here.


i was walking through barnes and noble, i have no idea what i was doing there HA!, and i saw this book...
the title grabbed my attention and i remembered having heard about it at one point or another in connection to danielewski's 'house of leaves'...i picked it up and started reading and haven't stopped...
it's not precisely the exhilarating thrill ride the reviews on the cover would have you believe, but it is extremely gripping and interesting...i can see how it would be compared to danielewski as it very much pokes at the fabric of existence to see how it tears...

the premise at first seems a little cliche, but the execution is quite original and highly imaginative...(i can't help but think this is the novel danielewski should have written after HOL...i still have no idea what he was trying to do with 'only revolutions'...)

this novel deals with a subject that i cannot decide what to do with...
i'm compelled to feel that it is a subject universal to everyone, yet i cannot escape the intimacy of the issue and how close it is to me...to the point where i cannot imagine anyone else really being able to relate to this subject in the same way i do...
yet here is this book...

the subject is that of the void....the gaping cavernous void that you must confront in life at one point or another in a very real way, and also in a very metaphorical way...often it seems ot me this confrontation ends as it did in my case, in a terror induced retreat to whatever safety i could locate...

the first introduction i had to this void was in the deep end of my cousin's swimming pool...as a child of 7 or 8, i was treading water over the deep end, perhaps a depth of 8 feet or so...and i was stricken with an acute awareness of the space underneath me...on some irrational level it deeply terrified me, knowing this space was under me and i didn't really know for certain what was lurking down there...i knew and understood the actual depth of the pool, that it ended a mere few feet below my flailing limbs, but this rational information did nothing to quell the mounting fear that assailed me as long as i stayed in the water...
there's was something horrifying about this space, this emptiness that somehow wasn't empty...
ever since i've had this strange awareness of that void...every so often i'd be reminded soomehow of its existence...
this book did more than remind me of it, it exemplified it...it exposes and explores the very void that i thought was peculiar to my personal neurosis...
this entire story could be said to involve this strange empty space, but there are two overt moments that i should use to discuss what i mean...
the main character eric doesn't care for snorkeling...neither would i...he talks about the occasion when he did go diving and describes the fear he felt when he looked out into the gaping blue bank expanse that represented the open ocean, and how it affected him to the point where he couldn't go back in the water again...
this moment is mirrored to stunning effect when later in the story eric falls in the water and the pages of the text go completely blank...sitting in my comfortable loft staring at those relentlessly blank pages brought my fear of the void rocketing right back to the front of my mind...

in the story, this void is intrinsically connected with eric's loss of memory and the consequent loss his identity...the void tantalizes him with the very real anxiety that he may not only never recover the absent parts of himself, but he may also lose everything he presently knows a second time...

there's more to this than a mere exploration of what identity is, how it functions, and what it means to lose it...i
it's about the strength and power that a concept can wield...
the void isn't a real, concrete place that i can go to and see for myself...but it's there, i can feel it, and more importantly i can feel its influence...conceptual stuctures have every bit as much power over us as any real world construct....

this book deals with this notion like no other text i've ever come across...in the end, it is a conceptual structure that provides for eric's salvation...but, it was yet another conceptual structure that threatened eric's life to begin with...they can go either way...they have the potency to save or destroy...

an incredible book...

Profile Image for Sans.
847 reviews115 followers
September 25, 2014
Dear Book,

You're critically acclaimed and a national best seller.

You're apparently the bastard child of all the great writers and movies.

You think you're clever.

The fact of the matter is, if you weren't a required text for my class, I would have dropped your paperback ass in the recycling bin ages ago.

I'm so glad we're done now and I never have to see you again.

Profile Image for Oriana.
Author 2 books3,300 followers
July 13, 2013
Hmm. Well. It certainly wasn't bad.

One problem with reading advanced reader's editions is that they lay out the marketing plans for you right on the inside cover, so I knew before I even started that this book has a 150,000 initial print run, that the movie rights have already been auctioned, that a website and a viral marketing campaign (puke) are in the works, etc. Soooo, hype hype hype, which always makes me worried.

All the same, like everyone says, cross House of Leaves with Memento and you start to get the idea of The Raw Shark Texts. In the big picture, it's definitely got an original and creative plot, but as far as the details—the writing, the characters, and the development—kind of meh.

This is a backhanded compliment, I know, but the best I can say is that it'll make a really good movie.
Profile Image for Neli Krasimirova.
168 reviews83 followers
May 30, 2017
Sanırım aynı zamanda bir DW yazarı olan Hall hakkında beklentim fazlaca yüksekti, öyle ki 50 yıldır evrenin tüm halılarını önümüze sermeye çalışan dinamik bir ekibin parçasıydı yazar.

En kötüsünü en başta söylemeliyim, ekrana yakışacak anlatımları yazıyla yapmak çirkin. Un-space koridorunda sağa dönmüştü, o tünele tırmanınca kamp kurmuşlardı, yan yatıp çamura batmışlardı diye süren sündürülmüş 100 sayfa bana yalnızca bilek ağrısı olarak dönüp ritmimi düşürdü.

Daha önce bir kitapta kullanılmamış bu derece geniş geek altyapılı kurgu epey vurucu gözükse de inip çıkan ritm, karakterlerin gizemini korumak adına onları tanımamıza izin vermeyip (Latince ve mitoloji bilenler için) isimlerinden esinlenmemizi beklemesi, kullanılan ikili sonuç/anlamlar vs.gibi tekniklerin tamamının bir arada kullanılmasi kitabı kapalı bırakmış.

Kendi adıma bir whovian olarak başka bir whoviandan çok daha tatmin edici bir iş beklerdim. Bir başka Ingiliz yazara bu kadar düşük puan verdiğim için çok üzgünüm.
Profile Image for Özgür Atmaca.
Author 2 books53 followers
May 14, 2017
Peki bakalım bir kaç kelâm etmeye çalışayım.
Öncelikle, "kitap hacmine göre çok akıcıydı" lakırdısı yapmayacağım çünkü bu söylem kendi içerisinde hiç bir olumlu durum barındırmıyor. Bu ve hiç bir kitap için de bu safsatayı yapmam!
Kitaba gelecek olursak ben iki bakış açısıyla değerlendirmek istiyorum.
İlk olarak aralara serpiştirilmiş Bilimsel tanılar ( Anagram sarmalları, İnsan hücrelerinden dünya döngüsüne bağlanan saptamalar ), Psikolojik anlatılar ( Çözülmeli Rahatsızlık, Fûg hastalığı ) ve edebi küçük ayrıntıları ciddiye de alsanız bir süre sonra klişe kovala-kaç hissiyatından kurtulamıyorsunuz ki bu duyguyla okuma zorlaşabiliyor.
Ne yalan söyleyeyim uzun bir sayfa sayısı kadar da bu gözle okumaya devam ettim ve tutunacak bir dal aradığımdan mıdır bilemiyorum işte o anlarda yazarın bile farketmediğini düşündüğüm ( aslında bu konu bilinmeden yanından bile geçilemez) Dil konusu yavaş yavaş kendini göstermeye başladı.
Dil, benim için; Evrim, İnanç, Sosyoloji kadar önem arz ediyor. İnsan düşüncesinin ve düşünce gelişiminin Dil'e paralellik gösterdiğini anladığımdan beri, düğmem bu konuya hep iliklidir.

İşte tam burada da kitaba olumlu ama güçsüz olan diğer bakışım ortaya çıkıyor. Yazarımız bu konuya tam giremeyip etrafından dolaşmış olsa da, kitapta dil, kelimeler ve uzantılarıyla kurulmuş olan materyal yaklaşım "dur bakalım bu konuda ne kadar derinleşecek "merakı, devam etmemi sağlamış olabilir.
Dil'in güzel, etkili ve doğru kullanılması konusuna "Dil Bekçiliği" gibi güzel bir yaklaşımı da var. Ama kitabın genel havası bu yönde gitmediği için de sanırım puanlaması çok da fazla olamıyor.
Yazara anlaşılamamış gibi yaklaşımlar var ama çevirinin bu kadar iyi olduğunun söylenip eserin bu kadar kapalı olacağına da inanmıyorum sadece tek kitapla olumlu veya olumsuz kesin yargılara varılmamasını savunabilirim.
( Bahsettiğim Dil konusu kitabın Dil'i değildir diye not düşüyorum kusura bakmayın ) Saygılar.
Profile Image for Bettie.
9,989 reviews14 followers
December 5, 2015

Would you look at that, on the inside title page, a yellow post-it note saying
The bastard love-child
of The Matrix, Jaws and
The Da Vinci Code


Description: 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.

The animal hunting you is a Ludovician. It is an example of one of the many species of purely conceptual fish which swim in the flows of human interaction and the tides of cause and effect. --from page 64

Tilda Swinton reads one of the most mesmerising passages in The Raw Shark Texts


Into the un-space beneath Waterstones in Deansgate, Manchester.

Dr Trey Fidorus: Hull, Leeds, Sheffield, Manchester, Blackpool

Some parts were eyescorching, yet this slipstream novel does not have the staying power once that back cover is shut in the same way that echoing thoughts of House of Leaves lingered deliciously for days

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