In a small Midwestern town, two Asian American boys bond over their outcast status and a mutual love of comic books. Meanwhile, in an alternative or perhaps future universe, a team of superheroes ponder modern society during their time off. Between black-ops missions and rescuing hostages, they swap stories of artistic malaise and muse on the seemingly inescapable grip of market economics.
...[a] wondrous novel ... His writing is confident and tranquil; he has a knack for making everyday life seem strange—or, in the case of Dear Cyborgs, for making revolution seem like the most natural thing possible. His writing is transfixing from page to page, filled with digressive meditations on small talk and social protest, superheroes, terrorism, the art world, and the status of being marginal ... It all seems quite random, yet there’s an intoxicating, whimsical energy on every page. Everything from radical art to political protest gets absorbed into the rhythms of everyday life ... 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. There are no answers, just an uncanny sense of what it’s like to be alive right now: constantly distracted, bounding between idealism and cynicism, ever conscious of the fact that we may never bring the size and complexity of our world into focus ... Many ambitious novelists will regard the deep divisions of the present and try to describe the substance, details, and passions of our times. But Lim’s novel feels more like a meditation on the possibility and virtue of protesting forces that feel overwhelming—of our capacity to tell meaningful stories about ourselves when we feel like the outcome is preordained.
Dear Cyborgs is a novel of ideas, small, elegant ideas about art and protest, and one of the most striking literary works to emerge from the Occupy movement ... The possible futility, complicity, and co-optation of protest are the ideas Dear Cyborgs circles around without ever giving up on the idea that resistance is essential ... I had expected the decade’s wave of protests to yield a raft of conventional social novels — some earnest, some satirical, perhaps not a few reactionary — but in Dear Cyborgs Lim has delivered something far more idiosyncratic, intricate, and useful: a novel that resists and subverts conventions at every turn.
...a short but important novel...pushes the logic of Occupy further ... Lim, a Gen-X high-school librarian who lives in New York, shares with [Jonathan] Lethem (the novelist-template of Gen-Xism) an affinity for genre subcultures; Dear Cyborgs deploys superhero tropes and comic book culture as an extended joke, an ecstatic heightening of its character’s delusions of grandeur in a world of dwindling alternatives ... This experimental tendency makes Dear Cyborgs difficult to describe. A collection of loosely netted scenes—dreams that unspool for pages, superhero action sequences, descriptions of protests and riots and occupations, and, crucially, conversations between artists and friends—it’s told in a prose that retains the eerie calm of a pending suicide ... That these vignettes of political violence are recounted as mundane memories puts into relief Lim’s predictive aims: they are more narrative projections, arising from everyday life, of our despairing future. In this way, Dear Cyborgs’ blending of temporal signatures—and its suicidality—brings to mind Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five. But its politics, and maybe its premonition, belong to the defeat of the Occupy movement.