Sunday, July 06, 2008
THIS FROM AUTHOR JULES OLDER
FIRST THINGS FIRST, STAY CALM
I've just read what could be the most innovative, paradigm-shifting novel ever. It’s The Raw Shark Texts by English author Steven Hall.
It’s his first novel. What’s it like? Moby Dick, The Magus, Snow Crash and the film Memento, all in one. Oh, and Jaws — note the title. Plus techniques and ideas not found in any of them, and, as far as I know, not anywhere else, either. The genre? Mix sci-fi, cyberpunk, character-driven, action-driven and what I'd call barrier-breaker — this may be a new genre, and it may just be a genre of one. Man oh man — it’s big! The protagonist — and don’t worry, I don’t spoil plots and endings — is Eric Sanderson, a guy who wakes up one day with no memory of his life before that moment. He finds a note.
Here's the note: First things first, stay calm.If you are reading this, I’m not around anymore. Take the phone and speed dial 1. Tell the woman who answers that you are Eric Sanderson. The woman is Dr Randle. She’ll understand what has happened and you will be able to see her straight away. Take the car keys and drive the yellow Jeep to Dr. Randle’s house. If you haven’t found it yet, there’s a map in the envelope – it isn’t too far and it’s not hard to find. Dr Randle will be able to answer all your questions. It’s very important that you go straight away. Do not pass go. Do not explore. Do not collect two hundred pounds. The house keys are hanging from a nail on the banister at the bottom of the stairs, don’t forget them. With regret and also hope, The First Eric Sanderson Thus begins the tale… In telling it, along with powerful writing, Hall uses computer-generated images, templates of keyboards and — boldly, bravely, audaciously — blank pages. This ain't artsy-fartsy or showing how out-there he is; every bold technique he employs advances the story. Some story — some book!
There are many ways to judge the power of a book. Here's mine: If a book is so engrossing that you sneak in daytime reads, that you miss your subway stop, that you shamelessly lie to your spouse who’s trying desperately to sleep, that, “I’ll just finish this chapter,” you have yourself a winner. The Raw Shark Texts passed all these tests plus the test of awe. I was awestruck. Let me know if you are, too.