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The Raw Shark Texts (Steven Hall)

January 5, 2011

My bother-in-law gave me this book for Christmas, and it was a completely unexpected and captivating read. I picked it up a couple of days ago and haven’t put it down since. You’ll probably notice I’ve tagged it as a magical realist novel. That’s something I debated about for a while. It’s magical realist in some ways (fish that feed on streams of human interaction, for example) and definitely sci-fi in other ways (a man who discovers a way to download his personality into other bodies to avoid death, for another example). But I felt like it was similar to Haruki Murakami’s novel Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World in its whole behind-the-scenes brand of “magic.”

Anyway, genre definitions aside, this was a really fun text to read. Hall does some very interesting things with the pages — like creating images out of letters and words, blurring things so they look as if the text is bleeding from getting wet, and more. Of course, I did some digging and found out that the original UK edition (which I just ordered, since I’m obsessed with stuff like this) has even more unusual and interesting formatting. Even still, this book has pages where sharks-made-of-words (like the one on the red cover pictured here) swim at you from the blank white space and remind this reader of books like Salvador Plascencia’s The People of Paper in the creative use of white space.

In any case, it’s definitely worth a read if you enjoy unusual books that blur the lines between theory, reality, and fiction. Another great pick from my brother-in-law!

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