Owlish often feels like a dream in which Tse does a masterful job of amping up the tensions ... While Owlish doesn’t boast a specific or obvious political agenda, it certainly raises vital questions about what it means to live under colonial and authoritarian rule—and how easy it is for many of us to ignore the rising specter of tyranny.
A darkly fantastical parable about totalitarianism ... For such a wildly inventive read, Owlish veers disorientingly close to reality ... Tse’s mordant humor and descriptive powers lift the narrative from unmitigated gloom ... Surreal, genre-bending.
Translated into a playful and sinuous English by Natascha Bruce ... Tse describes Aliss with characteristic slyness ... Tse’s interest in machines becoming people brings her back to the circumstances that turn people into machine.
Whimsical ... It’s tempting to call Owlish a fantasy, or an anti-fairytale ... In the last 20 or so pages, when the novel occasionally switches to the second-person perspective, some may find it tries too hard to tie up its loose ends. That aside, Owlish wittily captures a recent crisis moment in Hong Kong, exploring a discombobulating state caught between civilisation and its discontents. Tse writes poignantly in the afterword about waking, dreaming and memory.
A shimmering, fairy-tale city of glass towers where nothing is quite as it seems ... Hard to categorize exactly but there are parallels with the works of magical realism writers, especially Angela Carter. Tse uses many common tropes of that genre such as mirrors, magicians, clowns and other reality-twisting devices ... Fact is equally as important as fiction for Tse as she tends to keep the magical quality of her narrative anchored in realism ... The reader is left with the uncomfortable feeling that there’s more than a grain of truth in this fantastical story.