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The Raw Shark Texts
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The Raw Shark Texts

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Author: Steven Hall
Publisher: Canongate Books Ltd., 2007
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Book Type: Novel
Genre: Science-Fiction
Sub-Genre Tags: Psychological
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Synopsis

Eric Sanderson wakes up in a place he doesn't recognise, unable to remember who he is. Attacked by a force he cannot see and confronted with memories he cannot ignore, Eric discovers he is being hunted by a psychic predator, a shark. This creature may exist only in his mind, but it soon starts making some very real appearances in his world. Loaded with letters from his past self, each signed 'With regret and also hope, The First Eric Sanderson', Eric embarks on a quest to recover his life.

A love story; an adventure; a psychological drama - this wild, touching, modern tale is cut through with an understated humour and warmth. The depths of love, language, memory and the inevitability of loss have never been plumbed with such deep-hearted imagination. It isn't all coming back to me. I don't know any of this at all. I felt that pricking horror, the one that comes when you realise the extent of something bad - if you're dangerously lost or you've made some terrible mistake - the reality of the situation creeping in through the back of your head like some pantomime Dracula. I did not know who I was. I did not know where I was. That simple. That frightening.


Excerpt

I was unconscious. I'd stopped breathing.

I don't know how long it lasted, but the engines and drivers that keep the human machine functioning at a mechanical level must have trip-switched, responding to the stillness with a general systems panic. Autopilot failure - switch to emergency manual override.

This is how my life started, my second life.

My eyes slammed themselves capital O open and my neck and shoulders arched back in a huge inward heave, a single world-swallowing lung gulp of air. Litres of dry oxygen and floor dust whistled in and snagged up my throat with knifey coughing spasms. I choked and spat through heaves and gasps and coughing coughing coughing heaves. Snot ropes unwound from my nose. My eyesight melted into hot blurs over my cheeks.

The shudder-hacking violence of no air then too much knocked me dizzy, sent the floor tilting away under my fingers. Static behind my eyes bacteria-swarming dangerously towards another black-out and, snow-blind and shaking, I pushed my wet mouth down tight into the palms of my hands, trying to pull controlled, steady breaths through my fingers -

Slowly, slowly-slowly, the world began to reappear in sickly greens and thumping purples and after maybe a minute, it steadied itself into a shaky-solid kind of balance. I wiped my hands on my jeans and gave in to a last scratchy cough before rubbing out the last of the tears.

Okay. Just breathe, we're okay.

I had no idea who or where I was.

This was no sudden revelation, no big shock. The thought had congealed itself under the gasping and the choking and even now, with my body coming back under control and the realisation fully formed, it didn't bring with it any big horror or fear. Against all that physical panic it was still a small secondary concern, a minor oddity at the corner of things. What mattered most to me - a million times more than anything - was air, breath, the easy lungfuls coming and going now. The beautiful, heavenly, angel-singing fact - I could breathe and that meant I would live. Pressing my forehead down into the wet carpet, I imagined breathing mile after mile of smooth blue savannah sky as the last of the shudders worked their way out of my body.

I counted to ten then I looked up from the floor. I propped up onto my elbows and when that seemed okay, all the way up onto my knees. I was kneeling at the foot of a double bed in a bedroom. A bedroom stocked with all the ordinary, usual things. There was wardrobe in the corner. A bedside table with a collection of water glasses of varying ages and an alarm clock with red digital numbers - 4.34 pm, a chest of drawers cluttered with deodorant cans and lids, a tub of multivitamins and the remains of a blue toilet roll, used right down to where the paper goes wrinkly, like bath fingers. All just normal bedroom things - but I didn't recognise any of them. None of it felt strange, but none of it was familiar either. It was all just there; unremarkable but alien stuff. The thought came that maybe I'd fallen and concussed myself, except nothing hurt. I felt around my skull to make sure, but no, nothing.

I climbed carefully up onto my feet but the new angle didn't do anything for my memory either. And that's when then first real stabs of worry started to land.

It isn't all coming back to me. I don't know any of this at all.

I felt that prickling horror, the one that comes when you realise the extent of something bad - if you're dangerously lost or you've made some terrible mistake - the reality of the situation creeping in through the back of your head like some pantomime Dracula.

I did not know who I was. I did not know where I was.

That simple.

That frightening.

Copyright © 2007 by Steven Hall


Reviews

The Raw Shark Texts

- Graham Vingoe
  (11/25/2013)

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