S. Qiouyi Lu’s In the Watchful City comes billed as a novella, but that’s too neat for a book that seeks to push the limits of form ... In the Watchful City unfolds as a series of nested narratives ... Lu is an exhilarating writer ... exquisite.
... compact but deep and colorful ... The novella has a very nice, classic structure and engine ... The embedded stories are all richly rewarding and self-contained ... The organic interweaving of all these threads succeeds in many ways ... Tactilely and sensually, Lu makes their unique culture a living creation, with lots of vivid descriptions of light, food, surfaces, textures and such, as when Anima, running a dog, surfs through a fragrant bazaar.
S. Qiouyi Lu’s richly imagined debut novella In The Watchful City sings an intricate symphony, brimming with cleverness and ache ... In the Watchful City is a sharp, glittering jewel, each mirrored facet shining brilliantly. Thrilling, tender, and alive with possibility, it is a deeply rewarding read, and I’m very excited to read ær future works. This is a tour de force that strengthens Lu’s position as one of the most skilled writers of the speculative genre.
A blend of fantasy and science fiction animates S. Qiouyi Lu’s In the Watchful City ... it’s an interesting, challenging, and at points rather a dark story, if one that feels a bit scattershot ... In the Watchful City feels like a traditional fix-up: a fairly slender frame that ties together a collection of unrelated short stories ... One reason In the Watchful City is so striking is the way it dives into challenging themes ... In the Watchful City is full of stories that are obviously charged with meaning, and surrounded on all sides by drawers with more things to see—but the glimpses we get are so brief that it’s hard to feel their reality or understand their connections. I don’t doubt that these stories will resonate with some readers, and I wonder what other stories in this world are yet to be told.
In the Watchful City is a mosaic novella: for every object in the qíjìtáng that Anima observes, we get a glimpse of another story from the lands outside Ora. Some of these tales feel relatively disconnected from the main narrative, like "A Death Made Manifold," in which a man goes to extraordinary lengths to resurrect his late brother ... details could have been fleshed out in a longer narrative, and more than once I found myself wishing that certain events, like Anima witnessing the death of a stranger, had been given more room to breathe. But I suspect that, much like the effect the tales of the qíjìtáng have on Anima, In the Watchful City will linger all the more for being an incomplete picture.
Lu’s full-length debut [...] combines beautiful prose, a complex structure, and well-wrought Asian-influenced worldbuilding into a powerful, futurist work ... This masterful work positions Lu among the vanguard of contemporary futurism and speculative fiction.