In the Watchful City by S. Qiouyi Lu, published 31 August 2021.
I went into this knowing it’s a literary SFF novella, with Asian-inspired queer narratives.
The story, sadly, didn’t make a lot of sense to me from the start. The MC, who can possess any animal living within the city limits, tries to apprehend a suspect by possessing the body of a raccoon – why a raccoon? Was this meant as comic relief? Okay, it was just the start, it’ll get better, I’m sure. At least that’s what I told myself.
Only to be confused by the three different gender neutral/non-binary pronouns used. They weren’t explained in any way, they were just there. And for the reader’s ease, there was only one representative of each of these pronouns in the story. Hence I still don’t know what distinguishes “æ/ær” from “se/ser” and “e/em” – and especially, what distinguishes these three from binary pronouns.
In a meandering way the plot made sense in the end, but the way to that sense wasn’t very cohesive. This lack of cohesion made following the plot very hard; you need to be watchful, so as not to lose the thread.
Summing up, the story does what it says on the tin: it’s exploring “borders, power, diaspora, and transformation in an Asian-inspired mosaic novella.”
TW: mutilations, death, self-harm, suicide, violence.