Author: S. Qiouyi Li
Released: August 31, 2021
Warnings: Sibling death, foot binding, suicide, assisted suicide, body mutilation, abuse
In the Watchful City, by S.Qiouyi Li, is a captivating novella with so many delightful things in one. It is an Asian-centric adult queer blending of science fiction and fantasy. While that sounds like a mouthful, it is absolutely worth the read.
Ora is a complex futuristic city. They deploy extrasensory humans to watch over the citizens – and to maintain the harmony they are so proud of. Anima is one of those humans, and æ takes pride in the job.
Perhaps that last bit should be phrased in past tense. Something is changing in Ora. A stranger visitor has arrived, and the lessons they carry will forever change Anima’s mind and worldview.
“There is something that remains you no matter where you are when you are, what you are. So, I’ll ask you one question: Who are you?”
Wow. In the Watchful City is such a powerful and evocative read. It’s one of those books that takes you by the hand, leads you to a couch, and then forces you to stop and think about everything you just read and felt.
For that reason, I really do love In the Watchful City. Anima’s character and the situation were absolutely fascinating, though, at times, it may have been hard to digest or process everything that was going on.
On that note, I should really mention that as stunning as this novella is, it is also a heavy read. There are a ton of trigger warnings to go with it, including sibling death, foot binding (on page), suicide (on page), assisted suicide (on page), body mutilation (consensual but still graphic), and abuse.
I think the thing I loved the most about In the Watchful City, other than the novella itself, that is, is that the author describes it as ‘biocyberpunk.’ It’s such an eye-catching yet descriptive term for this novella.
Thanks to Tor.com and #NetGalley for making this book available for review. All opinions expressed are my own.