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Dear Cyborgs
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2018 TOB Shortlist Books > Dear Cyborgs

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message 1: by Amy (new) - rated it 2 stars

Amy (asawatzky) | 1737 comments so let's talk about it....


Kristin-Leigh (okrysmastree) | 58 comments I can't say I loved this one - I'm all for an experimental novel but the form seemed to overshadow the content, leaving me with not a lot of depth. Anyone love this one and want to talk about why?


Kristina (kristina3880) | 35 comments I had a hard time with this one. I enjoyed the first two stories that connected and then I started to struggle with it.


Janet (justjanet) | 647 comments Ugh, who knew such a short novel could be so painful. Someone must see something here that we don't. I'm halfway so I feel I've given it an adequate chance.


message 5: by Bob (new) - rated it 3 stars

Bob Lopez | 391 comments I was really unmoved by this book. Was it Cyborgs pretending to be humans?


Adam (adamstephenhall) I thought the concept was interesting and ambitious, and some of the anecdotes recounted were very moving. (I particularly like the painter's apprentice.) And the subject hits close to home as I'm wrestling with the the place social justice action has in my own personal life. Yet despite the apples-and-oranges comparison, reading The Animators immediately afterward reminded me how much I crave fully realized characters in fiction. The two books have widely disparate aims, Cyborgs being more of a deconstruction of the novel than the straighforward character-and-plot-driven work of The Animators, but I know which I prefer reading, no matter how much I admire the skillful execution of metafiction.


Melanie Greene (dakimel) | 241 comments I'm more of a plot/character person, too, and I listened to this today - after finishing The Animators yesterday.

It wasn't an oh, yay, I love this kind of book, for me, but I had fun with it. Sometimes metafiction stuff gets so self-conscious and labored, but Lim was totally chill about it. And even in audio, it had a feel of comic book panels to me (an amusing leap from The Animators, and interesting to have echos of talking about drawing and building stories in this one.) Somewhat like I'd picked up Issues 4-10 of an unfamiliar comic and was a little befuddled but happy to go along for the ride while it lasted.

Did anyone feel an undercurrent like we were searching ineffectively for Vu's missing siblings? There was a sense of lots happening off the page, of beginnings and endings we weren't privy to. All the forms of protest that might not lead anywhere, people and books lost, abrupt shifts. Yum.


Susanw | 21 comments I’m glad to hear others didn’t like this one. I read it for the Summer ToB and did not get it at all. I need it explained. I was a little worried everyone would love this and I’d be the lone outsider. I do give it credit for keeping me turning pages. I didn’t bail, mostly because I thought it all get explained in the end.


message 9: by Amy (new) - rated it 2 stars

Amy (asawatzky) | 1737 comments This book is filling the “The New World” slot from a few TOBs back - weird, experimental, and choppy. Im actually rather enjoying the telling of not events but anecdotes inside of the present - like all the characters are never really present, they are just vessels for past memories (or non-reality events like dreams). The stories themselves are not really grabbing me but the cumulative effect of them, alongside the small clues of the environments in which they are being told, is sort of working for me.


Bretnie | 504 comments I listened to this as an audiobook and felt like that might not have been the best format to read it. I always felt like I missed something, only to back it up and find that, no, that's how it went.


message 11: by Amy (new) - rated it 2 stars

Amy (asawatzky) | 1737 comments Bretnie wrote: "I listened to this as an audiobook and felt like that might not have been the best format to read it. I always felt like I missed something, only to back it up and find that, no, that's how it went."

did they use different voices for the changing POV's?? the POV changes so often, sometimes just for very short chapters and I had trouble keeping track. the size of the persons chatting together changes often as well - I thought it was a core group of 3 for a long time which added to the confusion.


Bretnie | 504 comments Amy wrote: "did they use different voices for the changing POV's?? the POV changes so often, sometimes just for very short chapters and I had trouble keeping track. the size of the persons chatting together changes often as well - I thought it was a core group of 3 for a long time which added to the confusion. "

Same person reading, but he did use a different "voice" like a different inflection or accent, so I could eventually tell who was talking, but a lot of times it took me a bit to figure it out. Like, by the time they finished their section. Seems like it was a bit confusing anyway and the audio version just made it harder to keep track.


Bryn (Plus Others) (brynplusplus) | 97 comments I just finished this one and found it very heavy going, I think largely due to the very flat, affectless voice. Usually I enjoy books that challenge me to identify who is speaking and how the different story fragments connect together, but this really didn't do much for me.


message 14: by Amy (new) - rated it 2 stars

Amy (asawatzky) | 1737 comments So I've given it a few days and while I was feeling ambivalent about it, I've decided that there really wasn't enough of a structure to hold this ball of wax together. It ends up feeling experimental due to the lack of narrative cohesion and that (I don't think) was the goal. Not sure how an editor let this one by. Also not sure what drew the shortlist committee. I like all the conversations or musings that happen (even the dream ones) but it wasn't enough for me and I've seen it done better. In fact... can i rave about Strong Female Protagonist. Book One here!? stupid title... really great conversations about ethics and philosophy using a former superhero co-ed as the vehicle.


Bryn (Plus Others) (brynplusplus) | 97 comments Amy, that is a good point -- many actual comics have already engaged with some of these questions about protest and power. Not that a novelist should not do so, but this reminded me somewhat of The Blind Assassin in the feeling that someone is recreating a genre in their work that they don't actually understand from the inside -- Lim is not saying anything about actual comics genres/tropes, he is just using it as a medium to express his ideas about the world.

I am grumpy about this one, I think; it was just so *boring*.


message 16: by [deleted user] (new)

It seems this one has few fans. It's obviously filling the "experimental fiction" slot in the tournament this year, but surely the committee could have found something better. It certainly doesn't measure up to last year's experimental entry, Grief is the Thing with Feathers.


Michelle | 155 comments I haven't been able to get a hold of this one but after reading some of your comments . . . Yikes! Maybe I'm better off left in the dark.


message 18: by Eric (new) - rated it 4 stars

Eric | 90 comments My first impression: like Milan Kundera writing for Marvel Comics.


Melanie Greene (dakimel) | 241 comments Eric wrote: "My first impression: like Milan Kundera writing for Marvel Comics."

I need the :lol: button


message 20: by Eric (new) - rated it 4 stars

Eric | 90 comments Reminds me also of Paul Auster.

I guess I occasionally like this sort of detached, existential stuff in controlled doses. To be fair, I like all the TOB books I've read so far, for their various charms. And there are quite a few styles and voices represented.


message 22: by Erin (new)

Erin Glover (erinxglover) | 101 comments The author got me turning the pages--I'm up to 40%--but I'm not satisfied. I put down Savage Theories and I'm tempted to put this one down as well. The End of Eddy is the last book on the TOB shortlist for me. With so many great titles, I don't know how I'll make it through this one.


Ellen H | 785 comments Well, I expected to hate it -- and didn't. There was a lot to like about it, even though I -- as a middle-aged plot-driven reader -- am clearly not the target audience. What lifted it above, say, The Book of Joan for me was that there was a significant amount of humor in it, and a light touch -- it didn't have the ponderous sense of self-importance that Book of Joan did. There was also a point at which there was a bit of revelation as to how everything tied together, which made me think, "oh, cool. I get it." Yeah, better than I thought.


message 24: by Ezzy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ezzy | 31 comments Ellen wrote: "What lifted it above, say, The Book of Joan for me was that there was a significant amount of humor in it, and a light touch -- it didn't have the ponderous sense of self-importance that Book of Joan did."

Seconded! I thought it was funny- and a book that makes me giggle always has an advantage with me- but nobody else here seems to agree.


Ellen H | 785 comments Well, you and I can just sit over here in the corner and high-five each other, then.


message 26: by Ezzy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ezzy | 31 comments Ellen wrote: "Well, you and I can just sit over here in the corner and high-five each other, then."

Consider yourself high-fived! Any resulting feelings of superiority are heartily endorsed by me.


Gwendolyn | 186 comments Add me to the list of supporters for this one! Thanks to the TOB for bringing this gem of a book to my attention. The publisher's description says something like "challenging the conventions of a novel." That's an understatement! I approached this book as a collection of insightful musings on modern life rather than a cohesive narrative, and as I was reading, I didn't focus too much on understanding exactly what was happening and to whom. This flexible approach really helped me to enjoy the set pieces, which were often amusing and insightful. Did I understand what was actually happening in the plot (such as it was)? Probably not, but I didn't worry too much about that. I don't think this "novel" is interested in plot. It's really more of a fictional examination of important ideas-like protest/revolution and fixation/addiction to electronic devices (hence the cyborg label).


Alison Hardtmann (ridgewaygirl) | 463 comments I'll join the supporters with a cautious thumbs up.

I do wonder how much the expectations we go into a book with and the conditions under which we read affect our reactions to a book, especially with this one. I struggled through Savage Theories and this was paired with that book in people's assessments of which were the difficult books of this ToB, and because of its size, this was the book I kept in my purse and read primarily in 20 minute chunks while waiting for school to let out. Reading in short, intense chunks worked well for this book. And I was prepared for this book to be hard work, so Lim's lovely and effortless writing style was a surprise.

I read this book with the expectation that few of my questions would be answered, and so the ways in which Lim drew the various threads back together at the end delighted me.


message 29: by Megan (new) - added it

Megan (gentlyread) | 67 comments Hello, fellow cyborgs. I liked this book, I've thought about it a few times since finishing it weeks ago, and it hasn't gone down in my estimation. I hope it gets a fair shot during the tournament.

I'm trying to find where I encountered this idea--in some review or interview, but I'm having no luck Googling it right now--but I definitely didn't think of it myself, though I had a moment of recognition when I read it: Dear Cyborgs is written in the style of the Internet. I felt a sense of that with those ping-pong monologues where you may not be 100% positive which character is speaking, which are prefaced with "I know precisely what you mean, the same exact thing happened to me!" except that it's NOT the same but it's still interlinked, still made in response. I felt like I've been a part of a lot of Internet conversations like that. And the passage about Richard Aoki and the footnote about Kiyoshi Kuromiya felt like falling down a rabbit hole on Wikipedia or Tumblr.


Ellen H | 785 comments Just to be clear -- I don't know that I'd call myself a wholehearted supporter of this book (in my personal brackets, I have Manhattan Beach winning), but I just not only didn't hate it, which I expected to, I actually kind of liked it.


Natalie | 51 comments I'm about a third of the way through this one, and I'm finding it absolutely delightful so far. It reminds me a bit of The Regional Office Is Under Attack!, my long list favorite from last year.


message 32: by Drew (new) - rated it 3 stars

Drew (drewlynn) | 425 comments Ellen wrote: "Just to be clear -- I don't know that I'd call myself a wholehearted supporter of this book (in my personal brackets, I have Manhattan Beach winning), but I just not only didn't hate it, which I ex..."

You can add me to the list of readers who enjoyed this.


Nadine in California (nadinekc) | 600 comments The lack of love for this book nearly put me off reading it, but the combo of being short, upcoming in the ToB, and a great title tipped the scale. And I loved it! What fun! I was going to give it four stars, but put it up to five for being the little engine that could. Experimental fiction generally can't hold my interest, but this one sure did.


message 34: by Nadine in California (last edited Mar 08, 2018 07:35PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Nadine in California (nadinekc) | 600 comments Natalie wrote: "I'm about a third of the way through this one, and I'm finding it absolutely delightful so far. It reminds me a bit of The Regional Office Is Under Attack!, my long list favorite from last year."

Yes it reminds me of that book, and also of the movie My Dinner with Andre. They're both odd little story-telling gems in just the same way :)


message 35: by Amy (new) - rated it 2 stars

Amy (asawatzky) | 1737 comments Natalie wrote: "I'm about a third of the way through this one, and I'm finding it absolutely delightful so far. It reminds me a bit of The Regional Office Is Under Attack!, my long list favorite from last year."

Huh. I wonder if that's a litmus test for Dear Cyborgs then as I was really excited about the premise of Regional Office and just could. not. get. into. it.
Always fun to me to see the divergence of literary tastes!


Natalie | 51 comments Nadine, that's fascinating! I wanted to like My Dinner with Andre but never made it more than 20 minutes in. (I found that I much preferred Wallace Shaun as Vizzini to Wallace Shaun as himself...)


message 37: by Eric (new) - rated it 4 stars

Eric | 90 comments It reminded me of the literary equivalent of an Edward Hopper painting. By that I mean to say I liked it.


message 38: by Ezzy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ezzy | 31 comments Amy wrote: "I was really excited about the premise of Regional Office and just could. not. get. into. it."

I really enjoyed Dear Cyborgs but hated Regional Office. Dear Cyborgs is funny, different, very clever. I found Regional Office to be derivative and not especially interesting. I see the comparison, since both are riffing on the superhero genre. Regional Office takes all the tropes and regurgitates them, but Dear Cyborgs made something weird and postmodern out of them.


Natalie | 51 comments Ezzy, I've mostly absorbed the superhero genre by osmosis, so I honestly have no idea how Regional Office compares to the rest of the genre. But I enjoyed the way that it played with chronology and used different kinds of texts to tell the story, and I found the characters engaging!


Natalie | 51 comments I have a spoilery question for those who have already finished Dear Cyborgs! So, BEWARE, SPOILERS AHEAD!



Was there a very meta modernist thing happening at the end or not? Namely, since we were told early in the narrative that Ms. Mistleto is Frank's sister, how did she also appear to the unnamed narrator (who helped Vu write the comic) at the end? Was she supposed to be a Flann O'Brien/Luigi Pirandello/Miguel de Unamuno-style character coming to life and taking her author to task for not finishing her story? Are the characters of Frank Exit and Ms. Mistleto based on real people in the narrator's life, so there are effectively two of each of them: the comic-book ones and the "real" ones? Was that ever explained? I've been turning this over and over in my head for several days now, and I am still so confused.


Nadine in California (nadinekc) | 600 comments Natalie wrote: "Nadine, that's fascinating! I wanted to like My Dinner with Andre but never made it more than 20 minutes in. (I found that I much preferred Wallace Shaun as Vizzini to Wallace Shaun as himself...)"

I saw the movie when I was in my early 20's so my mileage may vary now. My husband still raves about it - we've got to sit down with it again and see if the decades have changed us.....


Michelle | 155 comments Finished this one today just in time for the tob decision. This time around I let go of my presumptions and was able to get something meaningful out of this. After the past few days upset decisions I have to admit that I would be okay with this one advancing in the tourney.


Nadine in California (nadinekc) | 600 comments I haven't read Manhattan Beach yet because I get the feeling that it will be fine, but nothing special. Dear Cyborgs, on the other hand, gets more special the more I think about it.


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