Steven Hall: The Raw Shark Texts
A man wakes up from what appears to be some sort of seizure. He appears to be on the floor at the foot of a bed, in a fairly conventional bedroom. However, he does not recognise the room or anything in it. Then comes the awful realisation that he does not know who he is. He does not recognise the scene from the window. More importantly, he does not recognise the person he sees in the mirror nor the picture or the name he sees on the driving licence in his wallet. When he leaves the room, he finds himself on a landing, The only only other room is locked so he goes downstairs where he finds an envelope which has the words Open Me on it. He is instructed to go to a Dr Randle and details are given of how to do this. The instructions are signed The First Eric Sanderson. From Dr Randle, he learns that he was called Eric Sanderson, that his partner, Clio Aames (sic), had been killed in a accident while they were on holiday in Greece, that he is suffering from dissociative fugue, a rare condition, and that this is the eleventh time that this has happened to him.
The book seemed to be about to tell the story of someone with this condition who tries to rediscover himself, but it isn’t or, rather, it is only in part. Initially, Eric (the current one), realising that he has a house and enough money to live on, stays at home with his cat, Ian, eating takeaway pizza and watching videos and ignoring the letters he receives from the old Eric. But, eventually, he has to deal with the shark. It seems that he and others of his kind are subject to attacks by conceptual sharks. Conceptual sharks? Yes, they are conceptual but, like real sharks, they bite and they kill. The worst of all of them is the Ludovician and it is after Eric. He has to protect himself by setting up four dictaphones with certain texts in the four corner of the room. But the shark is still coming so Eric, on the advice of Eric Mark One, has to track down Dr. Trey Fidorous and to do that, he has to track down the Un-Space Exploration Committee (They map and chart and explore and research un-space), so he sets off (with Ian) to find Fidorous and the Un-Space Exploration Committee. And on the way he meets a girl – Scout. If you are starting to think Murakami, you would be on the right track. Hall quotes Murakami (What we see before us is just one tiny part of the world. We get into the habit of thinking, this is the world, but that’s not true at all. The real world is a much darker and deeper place than this, and much of it is occupied by jellyfish and things.) and the book is sub-(often very sub-)Murakami all the way.
Eric and Scout continue their Murakami-like journey, with Eric having to deal with the pill-swallowing Mr. Nobody and Scout explaining about the mysterious Mycroft Ward, who is gradually taking over the consciousness of people around the world. Together they take a conceptual boat to defeat the conceptual shark, where we soon descend into the world of Jaws. Is Scout Clio? Will Eric get himself and Scout back to the real world or will they stay in the conceptual world? Well, to be quite honest, I did not really care. If you have read Murakami or The House of Leaves, you will know that this sort of contrived novel can, occasionally, work but, as in this case, all too often, it does not.
First published 2007 by Canongate