A man wakes up in a house without any memory of his entire life. Directions and letters from his pre-amnesiac self guide him to regularly visit a doctor Dr. Randle and help him lead a normal life amidst society. As he slowly pieces his life together from scratch, he discovers that he is Eric Sanderson, a guy who traumatically lost his mind after the death of his lover Clio Aames during a Greek vacation. While building himself back a personality, he is one day violently attacked by a predator from his thoughts, a shark that feeds on human memories, named Ludovician. It is the quest to defeat this predator that inspires the book’s title The Raw Shark Texts.
Armed with his cat Ian and a set of dictaphones which create a loop (that evades the shark), Eric is on the run across England in search of a mysterious Dr. Trey Fidorous. This quest brings him to a Nobody, who traitorously leads the Ludovician right to him. Saved from the shark by a girl named Scout, he follows her on a long romp through the un-space to finally the world of Fidorous - built entirely from scraps of printed text. Scout and Fidorous convince Eric that the way to end his misery is by luring the Ludovician and driving a spear through its head. In a scene-for-scene copy of the Jaws movie climax, they design a fishing vessel named Orpheus, transport it into the world of memories, lure the shark and try to kill it.
What is interesting about the book is the alternate world of thoughts and memories, predatorial creatures swimming in it, and our hero’s quest through the un-space world of text to kill his assassin. Apparently, this book belongs to the genre of metafiction, which deals with this sort of concepts. But sadly I could not be bothered since the book did not feel unique, but like I experienced entire parts of Memento, Matrix, Alice in Wonderland and Jaws. There are whiffs of Murakami-like magic reality here and in its failings you realize how difficult writing is. I could have forgiven everything about this story, if only it were not so terribly long, verbose and repetitive. Especially parts 2 and 3, dealing with Eric’s quest and Fidorous’s world, were a real torture to wade through. It is the Jaws-climax in part 4 where the book finally gets fast and interesting, but also very unoriginal. This debut novel by Steven Hall has some great ideas, but I honestly cannot recommend it due to its length and tepidity.