Book Review : Seb Doubinsky - Omega Gray (2016)
To be honest, he actually liked being dead, even though it got a little too repetitive at times. And the paperwork was a real pain.
I've discovered French author Seb Doubinsky last winter with White City, a cold and terrifying dystopian novel about the true nature of oppression. Needless to say, it kicked my ass and hurled me into a parallel dimension that mirrors ours in disturbing ways *. Political genre writers like Doubinsky are a rare breed. He's obviously antiestablishment, but his writing is detached and analytical. Educating his audience about the processes of control and oppression is more important to him than seeking moral validation for his beliefs. That is why I wanted to pick up another book from Seb Doubinsky before the end of 2016. In a world where Donald Trump is president of the United States, we have to turn out political thinkers into rock stars. So I picked up Doubinsky's Omega Gray, which he published only a couple months after White City. I've enjoyed that book too, but it couldn't be any more different.
There are three interconnected narratives in Omega Gray. The first story chronicles the research of Professor Todd Bailer, a neurophysicist and scholar looking to challenge the immutable assumption that death is the ultimate stop for a consciousness. Bailer travels far into South America to meet with a shaman who claims to grant people access to the land of the dead. The second narrative involves Joe M. who Bailer meets on the other side. The other side of what? Omega Gray never really confirms that, but it's beside the point. Finally, the novella introduces George Warren, a real estate mogul with an unchallenged entrepreneurial vision looking for the biggest score of his career. And these three souls are going to upset the balance of the universe together.
I want to stress how different Omega Gray is from White City because it might confuse and frustrate readers who are looking to replicate the intensity of experiencing the latter. Omega Gray has a much more colorful tone. I would even use the word cartoonish here. Almost humorous at times. Two factors differentiate the afterlife Doubinsky portrays in Omega Gray from other times it's been done before in contemporary culture: 1) it doesn't take itself seriously and 2) it has no religious foundation whatsoever. The only allusion to Christianity you can find in Doubinsky's land of the dead is winged monkeys taking place of angels and they hilariously have no purpose outside performing menial tasks. If White City was inspired by the great (and still misunderstood) George Orwell, Omega Gray clearly influenced by the unbridled writing of drug-addled American visionary Philip K. Dick.
Omega Gray is a novel about the power of ideology over reality. It begins by making a statement and negating the most powerful idea in Occidental society: death is not the end of everything. It becomes a mere transition to a non-physical realm where reality is a construction of wandering souls. Seb Doubinsky's three protagonist each represent an ideology: Bailer embodies individualism. He only cares about his career and will do whatever it takes to protect his work and his credibility. Warren is neoliberalism, which is turning everything is comes across into profit and Joe M., while I couldn't qualify his philosophy, lives a life based on principles: balance, equality, integrity, etc. He's not unlike the ancient Stoics. He's an immutable presence because neither Warren's constructions and Bailer's ambition can take his principles away from him. Individualism feeds into neoliberalism which validates private liberties and the only rampart against such ideological poison is philosophical clarity.
Chuck Palahniuk said in Fight Club 2: "Human beings don't cultivate ideas. On the contrary...ideas cultivate us." Ideas have power to change reality because they dictate our behavior. Omega Gray explores the symbiosis between individualism and neoliberalism. Bailer's pursuit of an academic breakthrough helps a deluxe condo project in the land of the dead materialize, which is a great thing only to people who can afford it and a threat to the balance of everything else. Seb Doubinsky is not one of these authors who only try to entertain his audiences whenever he writes. He's a man with a purpose and he once again communicated his ideas brillianly in Omega Gray. While it did not have the emotional impact White City has on me, I've enjoyed the boldness of its allegory very much. Another relevant political novel by the Frenchman.