The Raw Shark Texts

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The Raw Shark Texts
Author Steven Hall
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Genre Literary fiction
Publisher Canongate, HarperCollins
Publication date
2007
Media type Print (Hardback)
Pages 428 pp (first edition, hardback)
ISBN ISBN 978-0-00-200840-2 (first edition, hardback)
OCLC 81601270

The Raw Shark Texts is the debut novel by author Steven Hall, released in 2007.[1] The book was released by Canongate Books in the US and the UK and published by HarperCollins in Canada. The title is a play on "Rorschach Tests", which are inkblot tests.

Plot summary[edit]

Eric Sanderson, a British man in his late twenties, was working with the Un-Space Exploration Committee after the death of his girlfriend, Clio Aames. His hope was to preserve his memories of her within the body of a conceptual creature. This leads to his intentional release of a Ludovician—the most dangerous of the conceptual fish—on himself. He loses memories of his life as they are devoured by the Ludovician, but still the Ludovician pursues him until all is lost and he awakes as the Second Eric Sanderson. Eric is told by a psychologist that he has a dissociative condition known as fugue. However, the First Eric Sanderson, even as he was losing his memory, has left him with a large number of letters explaining Conceptual Fish, the death of his girlfriend, the Un-Space Exploration Committee, and other such things. When Eric Sanderson is attacked once more by the Ludovician, he decides to go in search of a doctor named Trey Fidorous, who is a member of the Un-Space Exploration Committee who may be able to explain what is happening to him.

Eric travels through Britain in search of clues, and ultimately finds one in a hotel he is staying in during a rainstorm. He is contacted by a mysterious figure known as Mr. Nobody, who is actually a part of a larger, internet-based intelligence called Mycroft Ward. Mr. Nobody attempts to subdue and control Eric with a smaller Conceptual Fish, but Eric manages to escape. Eric soon meets with a member of the Un-Space Exploration Committee named Scout. Scout and Eric have a close encounter with the Ludovician before venturing into Un-Space in search of Trey Fidorous. It turns out that Scout has a small bit of Mycroft Ward in her, but is not truly a part of the intelligence.

Eric and Scout develop a romantic relationship throughout their un-space journey. However, the relationship becomes turbulent after it is revealed that from the beginning, Scout sought out Eric and his Ludovician in order to destroy Ward. When they find Fidorous, they help him rig up a conceptual boat with which to hunt the Ludovician. The climax of the book takes place on a conceptual ocean, aboard the Orpheus, the shark-hunting boat. In a climactic encounter, a laptop hooked up to the Mycroft Ward database is thrown into the mouth of the Ludovician, destroying both. Trey Fidorous is killed in the sinking of the boat, and Scout is lost at sea.

Eric is then seemingly given a chance to return to the 'real' world through a postcard showing his house; he declines, choosing to remain in the conceptual world. Scout returns to the boat unharmed, and together with Ian the cat, she and Eric, now reconciled, swim to a "conceptual island" which resembles the Greek island on which Clio and the first Eric holidayed before she died. At this point, it is strongly suggested that Scout is in fact Clio, and that the first Eric Sanderson's plan to preserve his memories of and life with Clio via the Ludovician has succeeded.

The book ends with a newspaper cutting reporting that the body of Eric Sanderson was found not far from his home. The newspaper clipping mentions that a postcard from Eric was sent to Dr. Randle, but from Greece, just prior to the discovery of his body. The postcard is shown on the next page, and claims to be from Eric, stating that he is unhurt and happy, but will never return.

Negatives or un-chapters[edit]

The Raw Shark Texts consists of 36 core chapters bound into the novel itself, and an additional 36 "lost" sections, known as "negatives" or "un-chapters" which exist outside of the main printed text.[2] These extra 'un-chapters' (also written by Steven Hall) have been found periodically since the book's initial release, hidden either online or in the real world. Unique negative content has also been discovered in several translated editions of the Raw Shark Texts since publication of the original English language edition in 2007.

On 08/15/07 in The Raw Shark Texts Forum, Steven Hall wrote to following statement about The Raw Shark Texts negatives:[2]

For each chapter in The Raw Shark Texts there is, or will be, an un-chapter, a negative. If you look carefully at the novel you might be able to figure out why these un-chapters are called negatives.

Not all the negatives are as long as a full novel chapter - some are only a page, some are only a couple of lines. Some are much longer than any chapters in the novel. About a quarter of them are out there so far. (It’s an ongoing project set to run for a while yet) Not all of the negatives are online, some are, but they're hiding. Some are out there in the real world, waiting to be found. Anyone with the Raw Shark UK special edition will already have Negative 6/36 and anyone with a Canadian edition will have Negative 36/36 (and also a good idea of what some of the other negatives are).

The negatives are not deleted scenes, they are very much a part of the novel but they are all splintered from it in some way.

Several sections of the Raw Shark Texts Forum are devoted to the ongoing process of discovering and documenting the negatives.[3][4] Many negatives are still unaccounted for.

Characters[edit]

Main characters[edit]

Eric Sanderson

Eric narrates the story. He is a British man in his late twenties. Three years before the events of the story, Eric was travelling with his partner, Clio Aames, in Naxos, Greece. On this trip, Clio died in a scuba diving accident. Eric was overcome with grief, but organized her wake himself. During the next six months, however, Eric became involved with the Un-Space Exploration Committee. His hope was to find a Ludovician to preserve his memories of Clio so that she would never truly die. This, had it worked, would have been a process similar to that undergone by Mycroft Ward. However, Ludovicians eat memories rather than preserving them.

When Eric opened a Conceptual loop containing a Ludovician, thus setting it on himself, the memories were not preserved, but rather lost. Over the next two and a half years, Eric attempts to evade the Ludovician as he writes letters to his future self: the one that will exist when the Ludovician has eaten the last of his memories. The Ludovician attacks him eleven times before this happens. Eric awakes with no memories. Throughout the story, Eric appears rather awkward. He seems unsure of how to form a romance with Scout, though he clearly wants to. He uses the word "erm[disambiguation needed]" often, and mostly keeps to himself.

Scout

Scout is at times confident, and at times an anxious young woman involved with the Un-Space Exploration committee. In her youth, she was surfing the internet and began answering what appeared to be some sort of IQ test. In reality, this was a trap designed to turn people into new parts of Mycroft Ward. Fortunately, her sister disconnected the internet so Mycroft Ward could not completely take over her brain. Later, it is she who saves Eric from his second encounter with the Ludovician with her "Letter Bomb" (composed of typewriter keys attached to an explosive device). Scout has a good knowledge of Un-Space. At first she appears to have a romantic interest in Eric Sanderson, but then he begins to believe that this is just her using him so that she can be freed from Mycroft Ward. This turns out not to be true. Scout has a smiley face tattooed on her big toe, so that when she is dead and in the morgue, her toe tag will be funny - something that Clio Aames had also discussed doing.

The First Eric Sanderson

In all respects, the first Eric Sanderson is treated as a separate character from Eric Sanderson, though they are the same person. The first Eric's role in the story is mainly sending letters and fragments to Eric. These often cryptic documents slowly reveal Eric's past, how to defend oneself from a Ludovician, the taxonomy of conceptual fish, and other such things.

Dr. Trey Fidorous

Trey Fidorous is an expert on conceptual fish. He makes his laboratory home deep in un-space. It was he who was caring for the Ludovician that is now chasing Eric. At first, he is reluctant to help Eric, but eventually warms up to him and creates the conceptual boat the Orpheus.

Clio Aames

Clio Aames is the first Eric Sanderson's girlfriend, revealed only in the text through various letters and fragments. She, like Scout, is at times confident, at times vulnerable. It is revealed that she has suffered from cancer in the past but is in remission, yet her personality is brash, as she toys with the first Eric Sanderson, ironically gives human names (Ian and Gavin) to the couple's cats, sunbathes nude on the beach, impulsively purchases an underwater camera, and expresses a desire to have a smiley face tattooed on her big toe (so that when she dies, her toe-tag in the morgue will look funny). It is the underwater camera that eventually precipitates her presumed drowning, and Scout's tattoo which leads the second Eric Sanderson to contemplate a connection between Clio and Scout.

Ian the cat

A large cat of unfriendly temperament, who becomes the travelling companion of the second Eric Sanderson. Initially one of two cats purchased and named by Clio Aames and the first Eric Sanderson, Ian appears one morning on the second Eric Sanderson's window sill. It is never revealed what became of the other cat, Gavin.

Minor characters[edit]

Mycroft Ward

The original Mycroft Ward existed in the mid nineteenth century. His purpose in life was immortality. When he died, it was assumed he had failed. In truth, he had succeeded. He had found a new body, a young man, and hypnotically told him every detail of his own life. When Mycroft was done, the man thought, acted, and had the same memories as Mycroft, and was essentially a new Mycroft Ward. The original plan was for this man to find a worthy next Mycroft, but at some point, the plan went wrong. The self-preservation instinct within him became too strong and he began creating serial Mycroft Wards. At the time of the story, Mycroft Ward is an immense internet database that controls hundreds of Mycrofts world wide. Mycroft Ward is one of the antagonists of the story.

Dr. Randle

Dr. Randle is a retired doctor, presumably of psychology. She is the first contact Eric Sanderson has after the death of The First Eric Sanderson. Dr. Randle is convinced that Eric has a dissociative condition. Indeed, Eric's symptoms are similar to that of a dissociative condition, though some of them do not fit at all. For the first few months of the book, Eric Sanderson and Dr. Randle meet regularly. The book ends with a postcard from the supposedly dead Eric Sanderson to Dr. Randle, which she passes off as a joke in ill taste.

Mr. Nobody

Mr. Nobody identifies himself as an employee of Mycroft Ward, and attempts to capture the second Eric Sanderson. He is described initially as a well-dressed and confident man, though it becomes clear that he is no longer completely human. Ward has apparently devised chemical means, pills, to build up and maintain the aspects of Mr. Nobody's personality, while at the core he remains only the Concept of some former self.

Aunty Ruth

The owner of the Willows hotel, where Eric stays during a rainstorm. Though she is not actually the aunt of any of the guests, the guests generally use this term of endearment.

Awards[edit]

The Raw Shark Texts won the Borders Original Voices Award (2007),[5] the Somerset Maugham Award (2008),[6] and was shortlisted for the Arthur C Clarke Award (2008).[7]

Film adaptation[edit]

Screenwriter Simon Beaufoy (Slumdog Millionaire) has completed a Raw Shark Texts screenplay[8] for Blueprint Films. No director or cast have been confirmed for this project.

External links[edit]

Footnotes[edit]