The Raw Shark Texts Book Review

The Raw Shark Texts is the debut novel of Steven Hall, released in 2007. It is a work of metafiction that includes concrete poetry, linguistic jokes, and cultural references.

The Raw Shark Texts Book Review

It was shortlisted for the Arthur C. Clarke Award in 2008, won the Borders Original Voices Award in 2007, and later the Somerset Maugham Award in 2008. In this article, we’ll provide you an in-depth review of what we thought of Hall’s first book.

About The Raw Shark Texts

Eric Sanderson awakens one day in his house with no idea of who or where he is. He’s left a note to see one Dr. Randle immediately.

She tells him that he’s undergoing an episode of acute memory loss, which is a symptom of his severe dissociative disorder.

For two years, Dr. Randle has been treating him ever since the death of Clio, the love of his life, while on a scuba diving vacation in Greece.

However, there may be more to his circumstances than meets the eye. Eric examines the letters and papers left to him by “the first Eric Sanderson” prior to his memory loss.

He finds a different explanation for what is happening. He embarks on a quest with the reader to uncover the truth while also escaping the predatory forces that want to consume him in the form of a conceptual shark and other unseen enemies.

This novel is about his loss of memory, and it’s a book that tells the story of love and the devastation of losing it.

Review Of The Raw Shark Texts

When Eric Sanderson awakes with no memories due to a traumatic incident, he finds a note in his house’s foyer. It reads, “If you’re reading this, I’m not around anymore. Take the phone and speed dial 1.”

The phone leads him to Dr. Randle, who tells him that he has recurring amnesia and that it’s happened ten times before.

The root is apparently due to his mental deterioration following his girlfriend’s death. However, Dr. Randle warns him not to read or write any letters. He has written and left letters for himself to read after his past recurrences, but Eric doesn’t listen.

A letter from “the first Eric Sanderson” quickly arrives, telling him not to trust Dr. Randle. He claims she’s wrong about what’s happening to him and can neither help nor protect him.

Dozens of these letters arrive in the following days, presenting more clues and puzzles. Eric no longer knows who to trust or what he should believe.

The Raw Shark Texts unfold like a Chinese puzzle pot, with each twist leading to greater enigmas and a larger sphere of risks and conspiracies. But it’s not only his doctor and his former self he has to worry about. Every few pages, we find something even stranger than before.

These strange circumstances include an odd package that contains things like an odd package with a videotape of a flashing lightbulb, a cell phone call from his dead girlfriend, an invitation to meet Mr. Nobody in a deserted building, clues on posters and the tiles of underpasses, and also a deadly shark.

There’s no limit to Hall’s imagination, and he has a unique ability to pull these details and incidents into a coherent narrative.

His creativity also applies to the form of The Raw Shark Texts. You’ll find exhibits, diagrams, and typographical innovations which give the novel a piquant avant-garde flavor.

We can’t describe The Raw Shark Texts as a conventional thriller (If you like thriller stories, also check out The Last Thing He Told Me). It’s more of an experimental novel that builds on the usual devices you would expect in speculative fiction.

Hall regularly takes chances at each corner, and there are some challenges that filmmakers would certainly find interesting.

However, despite how visually appealing it is, we need to remember that The Raw Shark Texts is a text. The most potent moments are found in its conceptual and literary foundations.

If you’re looking for a rollercoaster of an adventure, then you’ll be surprised by how much you will find in this book.

What’s The Verdict?

Truthfully, The Raw Shark Texts is an invigorating debut from a promising author. We’ll find that every so often, a work of imaginative fiction will arrive and shake things up to reveal a new universe of possibilities.

Unsurprisingly, we can reveal that this is one of those books, and it will not only be widely read. Still, it will likely be widely imitated as well.

Negatives In The Raw Shark Texts

Overall, there are 36 core chapters that you can find in the novel; however, there are also an additional 36 “lost” chapters, otherwise referred to as negatives or un-chapters.

These exist outside of the main printed text and have been found periodically since The Raw Shark Texts was initially released. They have either been hidden online or in reality.

Some unique negative content was also discovered in different translated editions since the original English edition was released in 2007.

Hall himself would say that these negatives aren’t deleted scenes but are, in fact, part of the novel in a splintered manner.

Online, there is a forum dedicated to the ongoing process of discovering and documenting each of the negatives. However, even in 2023, many of the negatives are still missing.

Visual Style Of The Raw Shark Texts

Using a range of typographical sizes, Hall creates pictures to highlight the crossover between objective reality and its description.

Several pages of the novel form a flip animation of a shark attack made of text. So, it’s no surprise that text imagery forms such a highlight in The Raw Shark Texts, as it explores ideas of language and how ideas and language evolve in a visual way.

Cultural References In The Raw Shark Texts

There are several distinct cultural references that also serve as themes in The Raw Shark Tests.

One key theme is the plot of the film Jaws, which is referenced and acknowledged by the characters themselves. Even the novel’s climax mimics the film’s events in detail, highlighting both their determinism and post-modern self-awareness.

Even the title itself is a play on words, referring to the Rorschach Test, a type of inkblot test where you need to analyze the pictures given to you.

One passage draws on the legend of an all-powerful martial arts master to defeat better-armed and numerous opponents.

To do this, Hall writes the characters for various fighting forms to defeat the opponents using the forms themselves. Thus, kung fu becomes a significant factor.

Finally, there is a postcard with a still frame from the film Casablanca. It was received by Dr. Randle from Eric Anderson, and Hall himself refers to Casablanca as his favorite love story of all time.

About Steven Hall

Steven Hall was born in Derbyshire in 1975 and is known for his novels, The Raw Shark Texts, and Maxwell’s Demon.

However, he is also known for being a lead writer in several well-known video games. He has written scripts for radio dramas based on the British TV series Doctor Who.

His second book, Maxwell’s Demon, was released in 2021, fourteen years after his debut. It follows Thomas Quinn, a failed novelist who is also the son of a world-famous writer.

As his wife researches on an island halfway around the world, he has been surviving by writing short stories and audio scripts. However, everything changes when he gets a phone call from his late father.

Competing with his father’s former protege, Andrew Black, Thomas wonders if strange things are occurring because of Black. After his successful first book, he disappeared, but now, it appears that he has returned.

The Raw Shark Texts won the 2008 Somerset Maugham Award and the 2007 Borders Original Voices Award.

It was nominated for the 2008 Arthur C. Clarke Award and has a screenplay for a film adaptation written by Simon Beaufoy of Slumdog Millionaire fame.

Among his other works, Steven Hall was the lead writer of Crysis 3, Ryse: Son of Rome, Battlefield 1, and Battlefield 5.

He has also written the radio plays, The Word Lord and Doctor Who: A Death in the Family, based on the television series of the same name.

In 2007, he was named one of Waterstone’s 25 Authors for the Future. In 2010 he was hailed as one of the best 20 novelists under 40 by The Daily Telegraph, and in 2013 he was named one of Granta’s Best of Young British Novelists, of which 20 novelists were listed.

Final Thoughts

There’s no doubt that The Raw Shark Texts is a testament to metafiction and a memorable novel that will be remembered for years to come. If you’re looking for a new way to read, then you should consider reading Hall’s debut novel.

If you’d like to read more about our reviews, consider checking out our other articles to find out more about them. For those who enjoy The Raw Shark Texts, consider reading Hall’s second book, Maxwell’s Demons.

Sophie Andrea