Missing Sig­nal

Foreword Reviews - - Reviews | Adult Fiction - SUSAN WAG­GONER

Seb Doubin­sky Meerkat Press (AU­GUST) Soft­cover $14.95 (206pp) 978-1-946154-11-8

In Missing Sig­nal, Seb Doubin­sky’s sly sci­ence-fic­tion romp, a coun­ter­in­tel­li­gence agent named Ter­rence Ko­vacs is tasked with spread­ing false UFO claims.

The strat­egy is de­signed to keep hos­tile gov­ern­ments per­pet­u­ally pre­oc­cu­pied. Since Ter­rence’s coun­ter­parts in en­emy city-states are up to the same thing, Ter­rence’s job in­volves iden­ti­fy­ing and neu­tral­iz­ing op­pos­ing dis­in­for­ma­tion. Ter­rence lives un­der fifty-seven false iden­ti­ties, some of whom have be­come celebri­ties in the ufol­ogy world, and fills each role so con­vinc­ingly that he’s all but lost track of his true iden­tity. It’s a never-end­ing chase down rab­bit holes un­til he meets beau­ti­ful, se­duc­tive Vita, whose claims of alien ori­gins he can­not dis­prove.

The story is told in terse chap­ters barely a page long. Though writ­ten in the third per­son, the view­point is al­ways—and only—ter­rence’s. Ini­tially, Ter­rence’s wide-rang­ing ru­mi­na­tions seem like men­tal fluff mixed with the para­noia of an over­worked mid-level em­ployee, but the skill­fully writ­ten snip­pets keep the pages turn­ing and even­tu­ally re­solve into a larger pic­ture.

Ter­rence’s view of the world is pro­foundly melan­choly, muf­fled by yearn­ing for the 1960s and 1970s. There’s no sense of a present time or a more re­cent era. Even Vita’s alien claims take on the feel of a 1960s sci­ence fic­tion movie: she pur­ports to be an emis­sary sent to warn Earth of an alien takeover, a mes­sage sweet­ened by sex and hal­lu­cino­genic drugs.

As Ter­rence’s seem­ingly in­con­se­quen­tial mus­ings take on heft, the story be­comes al­le­gor­i­cal, re­flect­ing con­tem­po­rary real-world feel­ings of iso­la­tion and mis­trust, is­sues like fake news, and fears that false per­sonae created for in­ter­net con­sump­tion have be­come more rel­e­vant than the lives be­hind them.

Be­neath the en­ter­tain­ing wrap­per of sci­ence fic­tion, Missing Sig­nal is a mas­ter­fully writ­ten work, both provoca­tive and re­ward­ing.

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