This book was the debut novel of Steven Hall, released in 2007, and followed the story of our lead character, Eric Sanderson, waking up in a house to discover himself in a state of total and panicked amnesia. This sort of introduction is always exciting as you face the mutual journey of awareness and discovery, with the almost guaranteed assurance that memory loss of this severity has to have been the result of some horrible, dramatic and terribly exciting circumstance.
We then learn that he had actually foreseen this state of memory loss and, as well as arranging a time-staggered delivery of posted letters and parcels containing information designed to gradually bring our current Eric up into a better position of comprehension, left a letter in the house directing him to a therapist who knows Eric, and advises him that he is the victim of a rare and unfortunately reoccurring amnesia. She tells Eric that he recently lost a loved one, and in the interest of not triggering another attack of amnesia warns Eric not to open any of the post from his past self.
For a period of time he complies with her advice and gets on with scraping together the semblance of normality, until one night the floor of his living room is bizarrely transformed into an open ocean, and although he’s aware he’s still in the room he’s at the same time surrounded by the very real impressions of vastness and depth. Before long a creature appears, drawn to his thrashing around in this ocean, and is revealed to be a predator, a shark of massive proportions.
He barely manages to escape, with a terrified and fragmented thought process solidifying his surrounding and drawing him back into the reassuring reality of his living room, and this shocking experience forces him to ignore the therapists advice and open the letters and parcels in the hope for answers, and in a bid to better prepare himself in case another attack occurs.
We then learn more about the shark that attacked him, which is revealed to be a Ludovician, a primitive beast, a mix of voracious carnivore and philosophical abstraction, a beast comprised of words and concepts rather then flesh and blood, and we learn more about why it is drawn to him and will continue to hunt him until one of them either consumes or destroys the other. The story is now flipped around with a pace change and plot transformation.
I find this conceptual shark to be a enjoyably terrifying creation, and we now see Eric following the breadcrumb trail of clues, meeting new characters and minor villains who have a mix of ambitions, some working at cross purposes to Eric’s own desperate fight for life and flight to evade his hunter.
This is a wonderful book because as the reader your first encounter with the shark is both memorable and breathless. Steven Hall manages to introduce the premise of a world where information has power, a world where information can gather enough strength to become solid and tangible, and where primitive creatures are able to evolve into conceptual forms and take shape, feeding off of information, knowledge and memories.