book-reviews

The Raw Shark Texts

by Steven Hall

Rating: ★★★

More promising in outline than in what it finally delivers. The idea of this book is complex, gripping, and playful in bringing together textual and subtextual horror. The conceptual shark is, conceptually, powerful and fascinating. The immortality-project-gone-horribly-right would be a potent threat to mankind for any surreal thriller. This could be a more dynamic and aggressive House of Leaves.

But these things fail to properly coalesce. Rather than a convincing shark formed of ideas, of potency and savagery of intent, we are shown a flipbook of sharks drawn in letters -- a cheap knockoff. The arch-villain never actually appears. Rather than intricately-woven tension, we get a cheap beach thriller movie which distinguishes itself only by referencing the higher ideals it fails to manifest.

If we leave aside disappointment over what could have been, what we get in the end, well, it's okay. It's vaguely interesting, keeps you reading, and delivers a few amusing concepts along with the pathos. The amnesia device starts off cliche, but ends up justified. The ending is unsatisfying, with a bunch of important loose ends left untied.