Book Reviews

Review: In the Watchful City by S. Qiouyi Lu

In the Watchful City pushes all the boundaries I’m used to in Adult SF and I love it. It’s an introspective SF novella that explores the meanings and values of life. The lines between self and community. Keep reading this book review for my full thoughts.


The city of Ora uses a complex living network called the Gleaming to surveil its inhabitants and maintain harmony. Anima is one of the cloistered extrasensory humans tasked with watching over Ora’s citizens. Although ær world is restricted to what æ can see and experience through the Gleaming, Anima takes pride and comfort in keeping Ora safe from all harm.

All that changes when a mysterious visitor enters the city carrying a cabinet of curiosities from around the world, with a story attached to each item. As Anima’s world expands beyond the borders of Ora to places—and possibilities—æ never before imagined to exist, æ finds ærself asking a question that throws into doubt ær entire purpose: What good is a city if it can’t protect its people?


(Disclaimer: I received this book from Netgalley. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)

TW: self-harm, suicide, feet binding

In the Watchful City is unlike anything I’ve ever read. Taking this idea of objects which tell stories and running with it, Qiouyi Lu delivers a thoughtful story about purpose. Pushing boundaries of what you might expect, In the Watchful City is like a kalediscope of stories within stories. Lives lived outside the fringes of what we know and holding secrets. It’s a testament for stories to reveal truths about ourselves. Even those that seem so far removed from our own, that end up whispering to the voices within us.

From wondering what it would be like to not lie confined by a body, to wondering what stories my belongings would tell, In the Watchful City is an experience from start to finish. It asks not only Amina, but readers too who we are at the end of the day. To questioning what our purposes are throughout each moment. While there was a portion of the story that I struggled to get through, overall I loved In the Watchful City and how thought provoking it remains.

(Disclaimer: Some of the links below are affiliate links. For more information you can look at the Policy page. If you’re uncomfortable with that, know you can look up the book on any of the sites below to avoid the link)

Find In the Watchful City on Goodreads, Amazon, Indiebound, & The Book Depository.


What is your favorite introspective SF story?

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