Yet there is a commonality among the books—a bent toward examining both alienation and what makes us human. The Investigator's experiences clearly make him an outsider, someone so far outside that he is baffled by the Enterprise and the town. Do we simply fulfill a role assigned us in life? Are we defined by our function? The Investigator confronts these questions as well as the framework of his reality as he struggles to do his job and grasp his situation.
Yet the book's ultimate discussion of such issues descends too deeply into surrealism. If By a Slow River was inspired by Ophelia, The Investigation could be analogized to two surrealist artists. The majority of the book seems akin to the works of René Magritte, who tended to place realistic, ordinary objects in unusual contexts. The last 30 pages or so, though, invokes the hallucinatory nature of some of the works of Salvador Dalí. Granted, surrealism is an element of the Kafkaesque. Here, however, the striking contrast created by the last portion of the book throws a well-constructed work out of balance and overwhelms both the reader and the story.