Steven Hall | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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When Steven Hall's debut novel, The Raw Shark Texts (Canongate), was published in the UK last year, ecstatic reviewers compared it to everything from Donnie Darko to Moby-Dick, and Hall was hailed as Generation Y's answer to both Douglas Adams and Haruki Murakami. Now that it's out in the U.S., the question is inevitable: does it live up to the hype? It's undeniably very clever, highly intellectual but never highbrow, and surprisingly suspenseful for a novel that traffics in Big Ideas. The protagonist, Eric Sanderson, wakes up on his bedroom floor with amnesia, apparently a psychological response to the drowning death of his girlfriend, and soon begins receiving hundreds of letters of instructions--and warnings--from a correspondent calling himself "the First Eric Sanderson," who suggests that a cure to his fuguelike state lies not in therapy but with a mysterious Dr. Fidorous. Accompanied by his forbearing cat, Ian, and guided by a mysterious young woman named Scout, Eric sets out on a quest to find the doctor. Hall plays with ways the subconscious might be expressed, giving abstract concepts physical forms--like the Ludovician, the memory-eating shark that stalks Eric as he tries to untangle the mystery of his identity. It may take a while to figure out where he's going, but it's a thrilling ride even when you're not sure. a Fri 5/4, 7 PM, Borders, 830 N. Michigan, 312-573-0564.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Jerry Bauer.

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