... sometimes new works arrive, such as Eugene Lim’s strange, sinuous, highly memorable novel Search History that seem to herald some dawning technological epoch—one that might be called early posthumanism ... The fragmentary, asynchronous nature of Search History has roots in the avant-garde but also calls to mind the uncanny processes of artificial intelligence, which forge inexplicable connections and operate through weird skips in logic. It’s hard to tell, therefore, whether Mr. Lim is trying to disrupt expected narrative formulas or is anticipating the kind of machine-driven formulas that are on the horizon. A feeling of mournfulness accompanies these ambiguities. Discontinuity, one character points out, is always a reminder of death. It is the plangent (and often ruefully humorous) sense of loss saturating the novel’s contraptions that raise it from an academic exercise to a work of eerie and lasting power.
... out of this chaos emerges a vivid set of beings, beset by humanity’s common fears and passions, doubts and epiphanies, who also participate in a pulpish adventure interleaved with meditative moments ... This bricolage surprisingly coheres by the novel’s end into an authentic expression of a mind striving to comprehend the inexplicable cruelties of the universe and humanity’s most proper response ... Fans of Haruki Murakami’s melancholy, oneiric tales will also delight in Lim’s assault upon consensus reality. He encourages the reader to 'stop making sense,' in the Talking Heads manner, and experience the universe as a magical tapestry of events whose overall pattern is perceivable only by God — or maybe after one’s own death.
Lim’s novel, published earlier this year by Coffee House Press, proceeds by this logic, one that promises the disorientation of a house of mirrors. Some books aim to catalog their themes—to provide an accounting of the extent of loss or pain. This is useful in the cases where the existence of a thing remains contested; Claudia Rankine’s Citizen does this for the kinds of antiblack injustices suffered by a well-to-do Black person. But we do not need such a catalog—it would take no more than to watch the news or check the weather to understand the scope of our ongoing losses. Lim’s goal is more ambitious: not to be a cataloguer but to ask what genre of grief could ever serve as an adequate response. What language or gesture can respond to the scale of this loss? To its senselessness? ... Search History is contemporary, but it is the magic of a cassette tape that it would be virtually unplayable 'because then the cassette would become only a totem, some kind of emanating if impractical object.'