In the beginning, Dear Cyborgs seems like a disjointed series of vignettes.
We learn about the narrator’s childhood friendship that included a love of comic books, a refreshingly shabby house, and one strange acid trip. Next, we jump to his adulthood and a visit to the library where a hologram educates him on nature of protests.
He meets up with a friend and acquaintance for dinner. Together, they share detailed stories about their relationships with art, both consuming and creating. Oh, and there are superheroes. And a fad food called milje worth murdering for.
Upon finishing this book, Dear Cyborgs still seems like a disjointed series of vignettes.
I kept waiting for the narrative to come back together. The closest it does is his career with his childhood friend, Vu. The meshing of super and normal lives, heroism tempered by everyday demands.
Admittedly, Dear Cyborgs has thought-provoking philosophical bon mots sprinkled throughout, like this:
“On the one side of the bus someone had spray painted: It is easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism.”
“So I think that a protest,’ she went on, ‘like a work of dance or a work of music, is something done, at least in part, by the protester for the protester.'”
The philosophical questions and observations bring a layer of depth to what could otherwise be a frustrating exercise in reading. But still, I feel like I’m missing something.
I checked in with my online reading buddies. One gave the excellent advice to think of it not as a linear book, but more patchy and cyclical. Very meta. Another recommended this excellent article from The New Yorker by Hua Hsu.
If you’re struggling, read the article.
It provides beautiful insight to Dear Cyborgs, such as this helpful bit:
“After a while, it becomes clear that what propels the novel isn’t an overarching plot or a conspiracy but anecdotes, episodes, and fantastical interludes that point to the book’s guiding ethos.” – Hua Hsu, The New Yorker
I get it now. And the point is that I’m not supposed to fully get it. It’s not meant to come together neatly. Just as the characters do, the book explores various ideas and realities.
It’s a novel idea that deconstructs books and the reading experience. For my mind that craves order in the midst of the unending chaos of life, though, it’s an experiment that doesn’t quite work.
It’s difficult to grasp and hold anything in Dear Cyborgs>/i> because it seems a jumble of ideas and storylines flying by at warp speed. It reminds me of my own mind when brainstorming. Thoughts swirl above me in a vortex until I reach up, pull them down, and pin them in place on paper. It feels like Lim never reached up and pinned his thoughts into place.
In the spirit of being meta, I realize that my review is probably proving the very point Lim was trying to make, and by that account, the book is highly successful in its endeavor.
There’s beauty to be found here, albeit in patches.