Fans of David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest might enjoy Florida resident Chris Bachelder's new novel, Bear v. Shark (pictured). The author begins with an improbable premise: Given a relatively level playing field--enough water so that a shark could maneuver well, but not so deep that a bear could not move with its characteristic dexterity--who would win a fight between a bear and a shark? Set sometime in the future, this novel drops into the sovereign nation of Las Vegas for "Bear v. Shark II," a spectacle so popular that tickets are nearly impossible to obtain. Young Curtis Norman, with an essay titled "Bear v. Shark: A Reason to Live," wins a national essay contest and four tickets to the event. On the ensuing family road trip, the Norman family encounters Bear v. Shark fanatics, cultists and resisters. Written in quick-hit commercial bits featuring Bear v. Shark Internet, radio and TV coverage, the novel serves as a cheeky critique of our modern media environment. Bachelder will read from and discuss Bear v. Shark at Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh, on Jan. 19 at 4 p.m. Call 828-1588 for details.