Book Review: The Invisible by Seb Doubinsky

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Note: I received an ARC copy of this book from Seb Doubinsky without any strings attached. I am a friend of Seb’s and he knew I was interested in reading it.

The Invisible, by Seb Doubinsky, will be released in May 2020. I had the good luck to receive an early copy and dive into Doubinsky’s New Babylon universe (The City-States Cycle).

The book was a godsend for me, as I had just had elective surgery and I needed something to distract me from a painful post-operative recovery. Doubinsky has a poet’s style to his writing, infusing poetry or poetic-prose where he can, and writing in an extremely lean, precise manner. And yes, it works. It carries vibrant descriptions, staccato-style scene changes, and a mathematical (yet natural) heartbeat pace. As is often the case, the author effortlessly marries his poetic prose with a rich noir setting and tone, an anarchist’s ear for politics (always triggered through a dystopian narrative), and an ever-present undercurrent of weird. The weird is the key for me – what makes his work particularly original, and which often maintains an uneasiness for the reader, even at a story’s conclusion – and most certainly in the case of The Invisible.

I will refrain from providing details of the plot as it is something that needs to be experienced totally fresh, but it is a delightful slice of his magnificent world building, allowing the reader to taste, smell, feel the grimy city of New Babylon, both on the streets as well as in the off-colour halls of power. There are twists and secret societies, betrayal and love and friendship. There were moments when I thought the love was too good, too well conceived, but I’m sure that this was deliberately constructed to add to the uneasiness of the reader, ever-wondering that there will be disappointment, adding empathy for the protagonist, Ratner. Masterful in my opinion. The story stands alone but is clearly only a stepping stone to the next book in the City-States Cycle – this too was well crafted, with the aid of a cat’s bum (you have to read it to understand).

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