*Certain books are easier to review differently than in my usual format — this is one of them.
Title: Dear Cyborgs
Author: Eugene Lim
Page Count: 163
Publisher: FSG Originals
Original Publication Date: 2017
Genre(s): Adult fiction, Philosophy, Sci-fi
In a small town, in the giant cornfield known as Ohio (where I live), two Asian-American boys bond over their love of comic books, both reading and writing and illustrating them.
Elsewhere, perhaps in the future or a parallel universe, a team of superheroes fight supervillains, but also sit around drinking lemonade and pondering existence.
Wow. Make sense? Yeah, not really. Sorry, I really didn’t know how else to describe the novel. That’s a pretty poor synopsis. Check out the official Goodreads synopsis if you must, but even that doesn’t do the book justice. This isn’t a book you can easily summarize to your friend in 2 minutes, and it’s certainly not one that I can capture with only a paragraph. So, sorry, you’ll just have to read the book for yourself to really find out what it’s about.
The novel is told in—well, it varies, you see. It begins from the perspective of our nameless narrator, and I think it’s mostly from his perspective, but I can’t be sure. The chapters alternate, though I’m not sure how, exactly. One minute we’re in Ohio with the narrator and his friend Vu, and the next we’re somewhere else with someone else. It’s a lot of back-and-forth, though with whom I’m not sure. This sounds confusing, I know, but it’s not a bad thing. It’s true that I never really knew who was narrating each chapter, but I didn’t really care. Each chapter is about something different from the one before it, and it’s utterly captivating.
The novel is incredibly philosophical. It almost reads like Plato’s The Republic—a group of people in a room, taking polite turns listening to each other speak about life experiences and philosophical ideas. One character tells a half-chapter long story, and another retorts with their own similar-but-not story; other times, after a character’s monologue, no other character will chip in, and there’s a short silence, and suddenly the conversation completely changes. It’s fascinating, honestly. And entirely too difficult to explain.
I read this solely because it’s on the 2018 Tournament of Books shortlist, and it sounded more enjoyable than 80% of the other books on the list. I’m truly glad I read it. It was a deep read, and if nothing else, a book with an interesting structure and a bit of a mind-blower at the end. I enjoyed the chase scenes and black ops missions, but I also enjoyed the strange, philosophical banter between friends. Each story was engaging and had a unique meaning that really added to the whole framework of the novel.
I’m not sure I’m doing such a good job at selling this novel, but I do encourage you to read it. If for nothing else, at least you’ll understand why I’m so desperately struggling to summarize and review it. Too bad it was written after I took my terrible Asian-American Lit class in college—I would have maybe enjoyed the class had we read this one.
TOB Book 2 was a success—not as great as the first book, but definitely a pleasing read. On to book 3!
“I’d become overly intimate with and somehow comforted by my own rotting, and I had also come to see the illness as inseparable from myself…”
“I was alone then as I am now, but the difference was I didn’t know I’d always be. Those years were exciting because I was sure some friendship, some relief, was just around the corner. Hidden in the next book, whispered in tomorrow’s film or song.”
“Fucked alone. And if not alone, likewise fucked.”