The Raw Shark Texts, by Steven Hall. Pub 2007
Like Wild Dogs, I’ve at last gotten to this long-ago recommendation. I can’t believe I waited so long. This book was fantastic – literally. Part The Matrix, part Griffin & Sabine, with definite shades of David Mitchell, this adventure paranormal mystery love story is a page turner. A bit slow to start, but once you get going you can’t stop.
In a nutshell (the plot is quite complex), the main character (Eric, grieving the recent death of his girlfriend) discovers that there are hidden worlds around us – one made up of data/information and one that exists in the spaces behind the spaces in our world. The data world is derived from all transmissions of information, including speech, letters, and everything online – published in 2007, one might almost see that world as a premonition of today’s social media world, where some people and things do not exist without the Internet. In this world, people, animals and environments are given tangible form, made from the information and data. The other world, the Unspace, exists in the abandoned buildings, tunnels, shafts, and other spaces that are real but no one goes in to or remembers are there. You know that door in the hall of your office building that is locked and has no name or number and no one ever goes in to? That’s an Unspace.
So, a conceptual rogue shark made from information and memories is hunting Eric, and he has to seek help from people who live in the Unspace and know how to move between the real and conceptual worlds. In reality, Eric is a patient with extreme emotional trauma suffering from depression and dissociative disorder. The conceptual world is very real to him, but it ultimately an expression of his disorder and trauma.
The idea of transubstantiation of words and memories into corporeal form, as an allegory for grief and mental illness, is intriguing and well developed in this story of love, loss, and mystery. And as with good stories, not all mysteries are solved at the end. What was real, what was delusion, neither are completely sorted, and as scary as the shark was, you are left hoping that something of that Unspace world can be discovered by looking hard enough for it.
I wish I had a hard-copy version, as some of the text-art work doesn’t translate well on to the e-reader.