03 January 2008

The Raw Shark Texts

Several particular highlights amongst the new books I've read recently. I'll try to touch as many of them as I can. First, The Raw Shark Texts, by Stephen Hall. This is an astonishing piece of writing: gripping read, intellectual puzzle, love story, boundary stretching exploration, mystery, thriller...

Don't be intimidated by that, or by anything that follows. You can read it as just a novel, and thoroughly enjoy it. A twelve year old of my acquaintance has just read it through three times on the trot, treating it as a simple horror thriller on a par with Peter Benchley's Jaws.

But, if you want to read it as more than that, you are spoiled for riches. If you have even the slightest of passing lay acquaintance with critical theory, or quantum physics, or mimetics, or Tristram Shandy, or Neil Gaiman, or informational biology, or zen mysticism, or codes, or ... why, then, you will find extra layers of breathtaking delight in Hall's inventiveness.

The protagonist, Eric Sanderson, has just succumbed to his eleventh successive catastrophic loss of memory. His preamnesic self has sent him letters; he has information (but no memory) about Clio, the lost love of his life. He learns from experience the dangers of swimming in the same information stream as the Ludovician, a massive memory eating predator. He desperately tries to follow the fading trail of Professor Trey Fidorius, the only person who can help him, through an alien zoology and the empty spaces of an urban industrial world.

Here is Eric's description of an informational parasite, the Luxophage, which he encounters:

"It was small - maybe nine inches, maybe the length of a worry that doesn't quite wake you in your sleep - a primitive conceptual fish. I backed away slowly. The creature had a round sucker-like mouth lined with dozens of sharp little doubts and inadequacies."

That's an illustration of the Luxophage, at top right...

Wonderful stuff. Wonderfully written. Beg, borrow or otherwise obtain a copy today.

1. Stephen Hall, The raw shark texts. 2007, Edinburgh: Canongate. ISBN (paperback) 9781847670243.

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