Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
Montage is the message in the elliptical, swirly latest from Lim (Dear Cyborgs), who delivers a post-human manifesto on loss, identity, and the transfigurative potential of art. Billed as "a murder mystery, an outdated owner's manual... a broken novel," this outing opens with a "dysthymic artificial intelligence scientist" experimenting with machines capable of creating poetry and prose on behalf of a galactic corporation while a robot named César Aira discusses cyborg aesthetics with his own ex-wife. A no less outlandish plot soon bubbles up in New York City. Based on an overheard conversation, a grieving friend of the late Frank Exit--outré pianist, drug aficionado, virtual reality explorer--becomes convinced that Frank has been reincarnated as a robot dog named Izzy and teams up with an amnesiac clown-school graduate calling herself Donna Winters, who is herself convinced that the dog holds the key to being reunited with her deceased mother, to steal Izzy from the enigmatic Doctor Y before they can escape by rocket to the far side of the moon. Meanwhile, a group of old friends gather at the restaurant they've dubbed "Inauthentic Sushi" to discuss dreams, ghosts, and the lives of Asian American entertainers. Also in the mix is an autobiographical interlude concerning Lim's mother, and a poet and nurse named Muriel. The resulting novel is profound and casually bonkers, featuring a drift of photographs, screen grabs, and an eclectic lexicon of quotations from W.G. Sebald, David Byrne, and more that reveal the shuffled heritage of Lim's distillation. This brilliant sui generis takes storytelling to new heights. (Oct.)
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Review by Kirkus Book Review
Reincarnation, mad scientists, and identity all play important roles in Lim's latest fiction. Here, as in his three earlier novels, author, librarian, and Ellipsis Press proprietor Lim asks big questions about identity while simultaneously taking substantial risks concerning structure. There's a vein of absurdism here--one of the events that sets the novel in motion is a drone enthusiast hearing a woman in a park tell a story about a dog. He comes to the realization "that the pet in the story was actually my deceased friend, Frank Exit." (Readers of Dear Cyborgs will recognize Frank's name, but the two novels stand on their own.) The fact that several sections of this novel are titled "Shaggy Dog" points to the more free-form elements of the novel's structure, which moves between subgenres at a moment's notice, alternating the enthusiast's encounter with the dog (and its aftermath) with ruminations on identity, fiction, and media. Lim is deeply aware of the literary territory he's working: One chapter title is an homage to Jorge Luis Borges, and one character is a robotic version of Argentinian surrealist César Aira. As befits a book dealing with death and rebirth, the novel oscillates between the uncanny and the philosophical. One moment you'll find yourself hearing talk of Doctor Y, who "had terraformed the far side of the moon and built a small fortress," while the next, the narrator will ask deep, searching questions about identity. "Wasn't my friendship with Frank foundationally based on the fact that we were both Korean American?" the narrator muses midway through the book. Lim's ability to balance the fantastical with the heartfelt is what ultimately makes this book resonate. It does cover a lot of seemingly random ground, but as the full shape of the narrative takes hold, it becomes thoroughly compelling. Lim brings together the mundane and the extraordinary to powerful effect. (This review is printed here for the first time.) Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.