cover image The Invisible

The Invisible

Seb Doubinsky. Meerkat, $14.95 trade paper (206p) ISBN 978-1-946154-27-9

The gritty eighth novel in Doubinsky’s City-States series (after 2018’s Missing Signal) presents an intriguing mystery but underwhelms with a shallowly explored near-future Earth and a less-than-memorable hero. New Babylon is awash in a potent drug called Synth and City Commissioner Georg Ratner, a former cop, is looking into the source of the drug’s sudden popularity. Then Ratner’s old partner on the force is murdered. Ratner’s investigations into both the drug and the death are told in short, staccato bursts. Each section is titled after a tarot card, followed by a strange, associative string of descriptors with seemingly little bearing on each other or the larger plot: “The High Priestess: Love is in the air. The desire of gardening. Feeling superstitious. The possibility of understanding something not yet asked. A blowjob. Something divine.” This formal conceit is distracting at best and confounding at worst. And, while Doubinsky teases some striking changes that have occurred in his imagined future, he does little to develop them for those first entering the world of the series with this installment. Readers will be left unsatisfied. (May)