As technology transforms everyday life in ‘smart nation’ Singapore, the city-state’s most interesting writers are considering some creative consequences. Imagine, for instance, if all the animals at the zoo were discovered to be robots (so much more manageable!). Or if a secret, hyper-modern terminal was installed at Changi Airport to transport the gods, or if, owing to a mysterious breakdown in connectivity, Singapore simply disappeared.

These are some of the surreal themes of Lion City (Epigram, 2018), the first collection of short fiction by Singaporean writer Ng Yi-Sheng.

Well known in Singapore as a poet (his collection last boy won the Singapore Literature Prize in 2008) and an LGBT+ activist, Ng’s debut short story ‘outing’ is crammed full of subversive ideas on the nature of home and belonging. As Ng put it in an interview, “What I wanted to explore … was the idea that there’s still a beating heart of wildness alive under all that circuitry. Singapore’s lions aren’t extinct, they’re just hiding.”

While the stories blend genres from sci-fi and fantasy to political satire, they all have one aim: to delve beneath the highly managed exterior of the city-state and unearth its strange complexities and singularity. A must-read for anyone looking for a fresh take on Singapore as it undergoes rapid cultural change.

By Melissa de Villiers

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