Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Raw Shark Texts - Steven Hall

Imagine waking up one morning, and finding yourself laying in the middle of the floor looking up at the ceiling.  The problem is, you don't recognize the house you're in, or remember how you got there.  In fact, you can't remember anything at all.  Your name, age, occupation, address, family, and past are all a complete mystery.  In "The Raw Shark Texts" the protagonist finds himself in this exact situation, but with one major twist.  He has been left a single clue with which to unravel the mystery of his past: a written note left by a man named Eric Sanderson, also known as...himself.  This single letter is soon followed up by a visit to a former doctor who has insight into Eric's situation.  With the doctor's help Eric's life moves back into a a sense of normalcy and routine, that is until more letters from himself begin to arrive daily in the mail.  He soon discovers that his "normal" life is not at all what it seems, and he embarks on a journey to discover the truth of his past, no matter what dangers await.

The problem with reviewing a book like this is that you really can't say a whole lot about it, because too much information would totally ruin it for a first-time reader.  It reminds me of putting a puzzle together without knowing what the final picture is suppose to look like.  If someone walked into the room and said, "Oh yeah I've built this one's the Empire State Building!", then it would completely ruin the moment of realization for the builder.  The same is true of "The Raw Shark Texts".  As each piece of Eric's past is revealed, the reader finds themselves one step closer to the final picture, but still just barely unable to realize what it looks like.  At the same time, Hall does an excellent job of making the reader believe they are building the Empire State Building, but when the moment of realization comes you discover you have been building a picture of an eight legged dog wearing a mini skirt and dancing on the rings of Saturn.  In other words, he will completely mess with your sense of reality and keep you guessing till the end. 

"The Raw Shark Texts" is one of those rare books that just seem to hit the mark on every level.  It is one part sci-fi, one part mystery, and 100% mind trip.  It doesn't take itself too seriously, but instead stays fun and edgy the entire time.  It will challenge your perceptions of reality, but in a fun and exciting way that makes you want to keep reading just one more page...all the way until there are no more pages to flip.  At the same time, you might just find yourself flipping back to page one to keep the experience going.

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