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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

     

The Search

by
Geoff Dyer


general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the author

To purchase The Search



Title: The Search
Author: Geoff Dyer
Genre: Novel
Written: 1993
Length: 163 pages
Availability: The Search - US
The Search - UK
The Search - Canada
The Search - India

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Our Assessment:

B : enjoyably strange

See our review for fuller assessment.




Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Guardian . 19/3/2004 Elena Seymenliyska
Independent on Sunday . 12/12/1993 Candice Rodd
The NY Times Book Rev. . 22/6/2014 Clancy Martin
San Francisco Chronicle . 23/5/2014 Porter Shreve
Sunday Times . 28/11/1993 Lucy Hughes-Hallett
The Times . 18/11/1993 David Flusfeder
TLS . 3/12/1993 Alex Clark


  Review Consensus:

  Quite impressed

  From the Reviews:
  • "(A)n intoxicating road trip in the company of a man sleepwalking his way across an unmapped landscape." - Elena Seymenliyska, The Guardian

  • "What saves the book from pretentiousness -- it is among everything else a self-conscious commentary on the processes of fiction -- is sheer narrative prowess. (...) There are whole strata of metaphor about reality and illusion (.....) This is an ambitious and stylish book, but Dyer was right to keep it under 150 pages. Humankind can bear only so much teasing with archetype and myth, with penetrating but partial glimpses, with thwarted yearning and calculated anxiety." - Candice Rodd, Independent on Sunday

  • "When itís weak, the novel is written in a postmodern Paul Auster imitating Robbe-Grillet style, with overtones of Italo Calvino and the by now all-too-familiar í90s meditations on how life imitates art and vice versa. But when itís strong, the book is a pure foreshadowing of the Dyer to come, as the always walking, always searching hero stumbles into increasingly uncomfortable and barely explicable situations with ever more obdurate and tricky people." - Clancy Martin, The New York Times Book Review

  • "The Search might seem like a complete departure from The Colour of Memory, embracing plot over character, allegory over realism, but whatever mode he's working in, Dyer's prose and insights are extraordinary, even if his characters are still looking for who they are." - Porter Shreve, San Francisco Chronicle

  • "Geoff Dyer's novel begins badly but gets better and better. (...) Intricately designed, it is a novel for those who enjoy nouvelle cuisine, the literary equivalent of an exquisitely sculpted kiwi fruit." - Lucy Hughes-Hallett, Sunday Times

  • "(W)hat we do get from this book is an almost entirely satisfying mood of adventure and danger and strangeness, rendered in a flat, slightly squeamish prose." - David Flusfeder, The Times

  • "The number of genres and influence invoked, held up to the light and variously accommodated or dismissed, demands our constant vigilance, our readerly knowingness." - Alex Clark, Times Literary Supplement

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       The Search is a modern quest novel, neatly mixing influences and genres, with a strong existentialist bent. It begins as one might expect a Dyer novel to: protagonist Walker is invited to a party where he feels like an odd man out but meets an attractive woman, Rachel. Beyond that, however, it quickly moves into new and different territory.
       Walker has a past, and Rachel has a proposition. And the world they inhabit isn't quite our familiar one. It's not just the place-names, of this America-like country, though that's the first hint. This is also an alternate world where 'tracking' has become popular -- and now outlawed: with rewards offered for information about "the whereabouts of prominent figures who had gone missing", more and more people took it up, and more and more people kept disappearing. Now difficult to pursue legally:

tracking became one of the standard activities of the underworld. And this was the world Walker was being lured back into.
       (Dyer's presentation and use of this premise is the clumsiest part of the novel, especially with Walker annoyingly getting asked whether he's a tracker repeatedly along the way.)
       Rachel is looking for her husband. They separated two years earlier, but Rachel -- and others -- now have good reason to find him. In particular, Rachel needs him to sign some documents before anyone else gets to him, to secure her future. But husband Alexander Malory is an elusive figure -- "in a way he is in a state of constant disappearance", Rachel suggests -- and in setting out Walker doesn't even have a picture of him.
       Walker lets himself be convinced to take up Malory's trail -- but the fact that there isn't much of one makes it a tough task. He soon finds, for example:
Malory's movements were so random that perhaps he too should abandon any plan.
       Walker begins in good P.I. fashion, but what clues he find barely keep him on any sort of trail. But then this is the sort of quest/search where:
The right path might be, precisely, a culmination of mistakes, of detours.
       A sense of urgency occasionally comes up, because Walker isn't the only one after Malory and so he has to watch his back, as others are often hot on his trail, too.
       Walker travels far and wide, and things get even stranger, as this other-world he traverses turns out to be more other than it had initially seemed. With place-names like Despond and Nemesis, these aren't your usual metropolises and towns, and they also become increasingly unreal, from the near-inescapable to a place where time literally stands still. (Yes, Dyer goes into some weird territory here.)
       There's a lot of literary allusion throughout, from Walker being called a 'Lancelot' to him striding down a Via Dante. There's even a brief cameo by the author, reading Tom Jones. Much of the novel has the feel of pastiche -- from Chandler to Auster, Calvino, and Robbe-Grillet, even a touch of Beckett, as reviewers have suggested -- but Dyer does twist and move things in his own way, making the work his own.
       There's the suggestion:
The search was a matter of luck, a test of luck -- and luck was a test of character.
       Dyer has the good sense not to take his search too far, in any respect. It goes mighty far enough, agreeably puzzlingly, over its 160-odd pages, without getting bogged down (as this sort of thing easily can).
       It's an odd little novel, but enjoyable exactly for this oddness -- and as a glimpse of a road tested but ultimately not taken by writer Dyer, an early tangent to his career.

- M.A.Orthofer, 27 June 2014

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Links:

The Search: Reviews: Geoff Dyer: Other books by Geoff Dyer under review: Other books of interest under review:
  • See Index of Contemporary British fiction at the complete review

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About the Author:

       British author Geoff Dyer was born in 1958. He attended Corpus Christi College, Oxford. He has written several novels, a study of John Berger, and several books that his publishers describe as "genre-defying".

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© 2014 the complete review

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