Review – In the Watchful City

Posted May 18, 2022 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of In the Watchful City by S. Qiouyi LuIn the Watchful City, S. Qiouyi Lu

Received to review via Netgalley

Anima watches over the city. Ae is one of the “nodes”, people who are connected in a sort of biomagicmechanical way to all the life of the city. Ae is confined to a room, limited by the length of the cord that connects aer, but ae sees the whole city from that place, riding on the lives of rats and part-mechanical birds and stray dogs. Then Vessel comes and starts to tell aer stories of other lives, making Anima’s story a frame around several other stories which are set in the same world, letting Anima understand lives outside aer city. Slowly, we get a picture of the wider world, and a better picture of who Anima is, inasfar as she has an individual identity apart from the city.

I didn’t love the parts that aren’t in standard prose, because that’s not usually my thing, but it’s undeniable that those quick handfuls of images added up to a background for Anima that might not have been a straightforward narrative, but made ae’s life clear enough — more like looking at a painting than reading a book, in a sense. A quick intuitive grasp of it.

I thought each story was used to shape the plot, but not clumsily so: it’d take a while to say exactly what each story might’ve meant to Anima, how it shapes aer later decision, rather than being able to say simply “this story about rebellion taught Anima that ae should rebel too”. It’s more complicated than that, shaping Anima’s reactions and casting light on them, rather than directly causing them.

I enjoyed it quite a bit, and suspect that there’s a lot that I missed.

Rating: 4/5

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