An Existential Puzzle Unfolds in Seb Doubinsky’s ‘Missing Signal’

How do we know what is real?

Missing Signal Seb Doubinsky Book Review
Missing Signal Book Cover Missing Signal
City-States Cycle
Seb Doubinsky
Science Fiction, Novella
Meerkat Press
August 28, 2018

Missing Signal―a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside a government conspiracy? Agent Terrence Kovacs has worked for the New Petersburg Counter-Intel Department propagating fake UFO stories for so long that even he has a hard time separating fact from fiction. Especially when he’s approached by a beautiful woman named Vita, who claims she’s been sent from another planet to liberate Earth.

Described as a “riddle wrapped in a mystery inside a government conspiracy”, the latest novel in the City-States series lives up to its description, as Seb Doubinsky creates a paradox of his own in Missing Signal. Part science fiction wonder, part psychological thriller, Missing Signal is an existential puzzle full of cryptic messages, saturated in anxiety and loneliness, as narrated by Terrence Kovacs, a counter-intelligence agent.

This is an ARC review for Seb Doubinsky’s Missing Signal which releases August 28, 2018.

*Special thanks to Meerkat Press for allowing us to read and review ahead of publication.

Incredibly fast paced and packed full of vignettes, the shortest of which is just a sentence long, Missing Signal follows the mundane life of Terrence Kovacs, a man that has over fifty different aliases. Working for the New Petersburg Counter Intelligence Department is full of surprises, as Terrence must come up with new conspiracy theories involving UFO sightings in order to misdirect information, all while Terrence himself is being fed false truths under the guise of secrecy. As Terrence goes through the motions of his life – attending conventions, altering videos, and performing as someone else – a new secret emerges in Vita, a beautiful woman who claims to be an alien bearing a warning. As Terrence finds himself wrapped up in Vita, who may or may not be a government spy, Seb Doubinsky weaves mystery with paranoia to create his own conspiracy theory in Missing Signal.

Cryptic messages from an omniscient narrator and existential musings are interspersed in the more mundane, quirky and humorous moments of Terrence’s life, which in many ways, makes the latest novel, or dare I say novella, in Seb Doubinsky’s City-States series feel strangely similar to Haruki Murakami’s works of contemporary fiction. From the little details about Terrence’s habits and mannerisms, to the interority with which Doubinsky writes that allows readers to tap into his mind, there’s something incredibly satisfying about Missing Signal. Not only does Doubinsky appear to be a master in subtle detail, but his sentences hold an incredible weight as they urge the reader to think deeply about the world around them. What is real? What is fake? What does it mean to have an identity? Is the world we are living in truly alive? Or is it merely a figment of our imagination?

Was his life a series of paragraphs or a long seamless succession of events? Was his “I” a heavy solid object in the center or a split-up entity, shining different in 10,000 worlds? Was he passing through endless mirrors or was he stuck on a single reality plane? Was he an endless illusion or a limited materiality? Was he? Simply that: was he?

– excerpt from Seb Doubinsky’s Missing Signal

Missing Signal uses the guise of science fiction to expound on real world issues including fake news and the phenomenon of the internet, in which you can be anyone or say anything. Manipulation exists in every facet of life, and misinformation on the internet does not just refer to political scandals and unease, but rather the ease with which you can process anything – from news articles to personal identities. Online, you can be anyone or anything; you can discuss any topic under the sun; and not everything you read is the truth, no matter how believable it may seem. It is during these moments, when we witness Terrence taking on different identities, or spreading falsehoods via interview, convention, or conference, that we begin to question the events that take place in our own lives.

The advantage of being a fiction character: anything was possible. You just had to re-write your bio all the time.

– excerpt from Seb Doubinsky’s Missing Signal

Thought provoking and incredibly entertaining, Seb Doubinsky’s latest novel is a wonderfully quick read that is the perfect pick me up. Full of quirks, questions and complex puzzles ranging in length from a single sentence to a handful of pages, Missing Signal is the perfect getaway that will appeal to seasoned science fiction readers and newcomers alike.

Have you read any of the books in the City-States Cycle?

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Melissa Ratcliff
the authorMelissa Ratcliff
Senior Staff Writer
Reader, Writer & Translator. Cats, books and video games are my life.