Book Review : Seb Doubinsky - Missing Signal (2018)
Pre-Order Missing Signal here (released on August 28)
Let's face it: there are probably other intelligent life forms in the universe. There is no evidence they're smarter or more advanced than us, but mathematics want that if the universe is infinite, we're most likely not unique. So, the idea of alien invasion is one that's been keeping us up at night since we've known about outer space. Seb Doubinsky's upcoming novel Missing Signal is not exactly about aliens, it's about our obsession with potential alien life forms and concealed information. It's life being trapped inside a conspiracy theorist brain, if the said theorist had lived in the swanky seventies.
Missing Signal is the story of Terrence Kovacs, a counter-intelligence government agent in charge of propagating fake UFO stories among the true believers. Terrence's job has taken a toll on his identity and the line between reality and the elaborate fiction he's been living becomes hard to tell, sometimes. It becomes even harder when he's visited by a gorgeous woman named Vita, who's claiming she's been sent from another planet to save Earth from being overtaken by hostile aliens. Blindsided by this curve ball and by his own ravenous desire, Terrence will have to make an emotional choice, rather than a well-informed one.
So, this is not a novel about aliens. The characters talk about aliens a lot and Vita even claims to be one, but it doesn't really qualify as science fiction. It's a novel about the control of information and how it affect our lives on a personal and societal level. Terrence Kovacs controls what UFO conspiracy theorists believe by feeding them information to believe, but he's being fed (or denied) information by the government himself and later by Vita, which will dictate the shaping of his identity. Missing Signal is a series of short portraits of a man being fed or denied meaning to his actions, while he's seeking for it on his own.
Hence... you know, the title.
I guess you could call Missing Signal a postmodern novel. The protagonist (and the reader) are trying to build a cohesive portrait out of a series of short fragments that don't necessarily reveal greater meaning when put together. Doubinsky deconstructs two metanarratives here: counter-intelligence politics and the existence of alien life, and leaves up to his audience to build up something else with the jagged pieces that are the short chapters of Missing Signal. It's somewhat of a cerebral trip, more than a visceral, satisfying piece of storytelling, but this one will definitely appeal to fans of existential puzzles.
Seb Doubinsky's always been a critique of modern politics and the tyrannical fallacies of consumerism. Missing Signal is another addition to that nuanced, but powerful legacy as it's a novel about being told what to do and who to believe, which doesn't lead to any satisfying answers if you don't proactively choose your own path through a maze of make believes and misinformation. This kid of activism is probably too subtle for mass audiences to take notice and take control of their own existence, but this is why I talk about his books. Authors like Seb Doubinsky are fighting the good fight and the French professor is fighting it the correct way.
Missing Signal will be hit or miss with readers, but we might still be talking about it in 10, 20 or 50 years, depending on how fast the world changes.