Cover Image: In the Watchful City

In the Watchful City

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Member Reviews

This novella seemed daunting at first glance. It is filled with stories upon stories upon stories. However it was not daunting but rather each story worked to fill in gaps that enriched my understanding of the previous stories. It uses neopronouns in a very interesting way and doesn't shy away from sensitive topics, though those topics are handled with care. At its core it was a hopeful story that I'm still trying to properly process. More to come closer to release.
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Tor.com has been killing it with their novellas recently and this one is no different. S. Qioyui Lu gives us a biocyberpunk dreamscape setting with unique characters and stories that are tinged with just the right amount of darkness. And while I found this to take a little time to get into, (I need more practice with neopronouns) once I really got into it I couldn't stop thinking about this novella. The stories that take place in this supposed utopia center around family, identity, choice, love, life, and trauma, but are written in a way that makes them feel like a dream even when unveiling various horrors of human nature.

This story is rich and complex. It's not going to be for everyone not only because of the various content warnings (please see them listed below) that need to go along with it, but also because it's not a straightforward story. Because Anima's story is woven in with the stories from the cabinet, the characters alternate regularly. So, if you aren't a fan of multiple POVs or stories within stories, this may not be for you. However, I enjoyed how these stories wove together to address the different themes that the author wanted to include.

Overall, I would recommend it for readers looking for an Asian biocyberpunk setting, with LGBTQ+ representation and themes that transcend time and space. 

CWs: On page suicide, Drowning, Mentioned attempted suicide, Violence, Body Mutilation, Blood, Family Abandonment, Foot Binding, Riot, Off page Execution, and I'm sure that I missed something.

Thank you to Tor.com and Netgalley for providing me with an e-ARC of this novella, however, all thoughts and opinions are my own.
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I requested this one because it might be a 2021 title I would like to review on my Youtube Channel. However, after reading the first several chapters I have determined that this book is not my tastes. So I decided to DNF this one rather than push myself to finish it only to give it a poor review.
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"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?"

This "biocyberpunk" (as described by the author) novella contains much more in 208 pages than I was expecting. We follow Anima, a node within The Gleaming who helps to keep the peace of aer world by having access to watch all the inhabitants and intervene to keep the harmony of this post-traumatic community when necessary. When a mysterious visitor, Vessel, appears, Anima is suddenly shown a world without borders and life full of possibilities even with its pain. 

This novella is many stories within stories. This along with it's repetition (a visitor showing up multiple times to tell a story) gives it the feel of a fairytale or some kind of folklore which always draws me in. As each story within the story unfolds, we are given a clearer picture of this world that Anima inhabits, supposedly a utopia in ways, and the lives of those throughout it as well as aer. The stories consider life, trauma, choice, identity, love, family, and heritage in ways that feel completely new and as familiar as any myth that's been told over and over again. The mix of futuristic and archaic imagery felt fresh and engaging rather than confusing. 

I loved the use of neopronouns (ae, se, e) throughout the story and the mix of how the story was told with different narration as well as how words were laid out on the page. 

CONTENT WARNINGS: completed suicide fully on page, attempted suicide mentioned, body mutilation, family abandonment. Take caution and care when reading if this kind of content will harm you. 

Thank you to NetGalley and MacMillan - Tor/Forge for my ARC in exchange for an honest review!
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Such a deep and raw sci-fi full of feelings and introspection. For a novella this book didn't lack information and details both of the characters and the stories told by the character called the Vessel.
I loved the narration and the use of neopronouns. After a couple minutes to get your brain sync with names and everything, the story proceeded way darker than I thought when I started it.
The stories narrated by Vessel were gradually harder and the life Anima faced in the Hub and while humping inside animals wasn't an easy one and it broke my heart.

The story was complex and may not be for everyone, but it's definitely a novella I won't be forgetting anytime soon.
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Very thin characterisation, which was disappointing. While the concept was intriguing, it needed more grounding in the framing narrative to keep my attention and engagement. Otherwise, it should simply have been a collection of short stories.
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<i> "Pick an item, and I will tell you its story." </i>

In A Watchful City follows Anima in ær job to watch the people of Ora. She later meet a mysterious newcomer Vessel with a box full of items, stories, and magic. This book is a novella, so its shorter than usual novels, but packed so much feelings and stories. One of my fav part is "A Death Made Manifold" as it was both magical and chilling, but the other stories is just as good.

Anima is a unique lead and ær story is amazing. I also love Vessel and her magical box! Overall, a very amazing read. It has a lot of potential for future stories :)

>> Thank you Tordotcom Publishing for e-ARC! The review is 100% honest. <<
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This is a really sweet novella with lots of weird ideas and interesting characters and is exactly the kind of sci-fi I want to see in the future of the industry.
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