A childhood friendship marks a young Korean-American man’s imagination for life.
Lim (The Strangers, 2013, etc.) goes full meta for a twisty, often confusing, but entertaining reflection on art, resistance, heroes, and villains. It begins simply enough, with our nameless narrator describing what it’s like to be a preteen of Asian descent living in rural Ohio. The protagonist’s most important relationship is with his friend Vu, a cipher who disappears and reappears throughout the novel. In this opening chapter, Lim tosses in a throwaway line that turns out to resonate later: “Here is one lesson that Vu taught me. It maybe doesn’t seem on the surface to be about comic books, but it is.” But from here, things get pretty weird. Strange and somewhat vague interstitial messages, all starting with the titular greeting "Dear Cyborgs," serve as the pivot between different narratives—“When I say cyborgs, of course I mean us,” the book explains later. Following the introduction, Lim abruptly cuts to the narrative of cyberpunk detective Frank Exit, who is hot on the heels of a cultural terrorist named Ms. Mistleto. The hyperkinetic chapters focused on their conflict find the duo chasing each other in far-flung locales from Sri Lanka to the Himalayas. Yet other chapters find the primary narrator, a writer, deep in discussions with his sister and other friends on topics largely centered on the nature of art and protest and ranging from a Bangladeshi artist who commits suicide to the activist and Black Panther Richard Aoki. The villain Ms. Mistleto also becomes a flesh-and-blood character complete with an origin story. “Losing everything does gift you with freedom if nothing else,” she explains. “That’s a rewrite of a pithier song refrain.” It’s not always easy to follow; at one point, Lim randomly inserts a chapter from the detective novel that one of the book’s fictional characters is reading. But it is eerily reflective of our fractured times, darting from subject to subject with the speed of a mouse click.
A colorful meditation on friendship and creation nested within a fictional universe.