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The Seep by Chana Porter

The Seep (original 2020; edition 2020)

by Chana Porter (Author)

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635306,034 (3.71)None
"Trina Goldberg-Oneka is a fifty-year-old trans woman whose life is irreversibly altered in the wake of a gentle-but nonetheless world-changing-invasion by an alien entity called The Seep. Through The Seep, everything is connected. Capitalism falls, hierarchies and barriers are broken down; if something can be imagined, it is possible. Trina and her wife, Deeba, live blissfully under The Seep's utopian influence-until Deeba begins to imagine what it might be like to be reborn as a baby, which will give her the chance at an even better life. Using Seeptech to make this dream a reality, Deeba moves on to a new existence, leaving Trina devastated. Heartbroken and deep into an alcoholic binge, Trina follows a lost boy she encounters, embarking on an unexpected quest. In her attempt to save him from The Seep, she will confront not only one of its most avid devotees, but the terrifying void that Deeba has left behind. A strange new elegy of love and loss, The Seep explores grief, alienation, and the ache of moving on"--… (more)
Title:The Seep
Authors:Chana Porter (Author)
Info:Soho Press (2020), 216 pages
Collections:2020, Your library
Tags:fiction, science/speculative, fabulism, e.t., post-scarcity, utopia, relationships, marriage, death, grief, adventure, macguffin

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The Seep by Chana Porter (2020)



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Showing 5 of 5
This book wasn't what I expected at all, but I liked it immensely. It's billed as alien invasion sci-fi but it's really more allegorical—an exploration of grief and loss, using the alien invasion as a vehicle. The story unexpectedly takes the form of an adventure/quest, and is beautiful and engaging. The introductory chapters are really evocative of the current, mid-2020 mid-pandemic moment—if the author had spent a little more time in that part of the story rather than skipping ahead she might have been accused of prescience. Though secondary, the nature of the aliens is also fascinating, and I wouldn't say no to sequels further exploring the new state of humanity, the effects of the symbiosis established here further into the future, the barely touched on human separatists—there's really a ton of material I'd love to see the author use to further explore the human condition. ( )
  bibliovermis | Jun 20, 2020 |
I would give this five stars except I thought this book had a fascinating premise but one not fully realized. I enjoyed the book and even liked some of the characterizations, but was left feeling as though something was missing - not sure what that is...At any rate, it's a quick read and definitely deals with some important issues that are not normally dealt with in sci-fi. Also enjoyed the amorphousness of the sexuality exhibited by some of the characters. Something about the book reminded me of the moodiness in the excellent independent film _Another Earth_. Overall excellent and recommended. ( )
  dbsovereign | May 2, 2020 |
This novella is stretched artificially to 202 pages by using a small-book format and near-double spacing, and the story itself feels artificially stretched, as well, like an outline of something that might have been good, with a little more of literally -anything- added to the pages: more event, more dialogue, more passion, more differentiation between characters, more of an idea of who these people are and why I should care about them.

It needed more editing, too. There is a lovely soft rhythm to the narrative, but the register never changes. The dialog, when it comes, is in a strange author-speak. People say things like "perhaps" and "a bit." Is their way of speaking being affected by "The Seep?" Or just evidence of a writer still looking for her voice? The characters feel somnambulant, which maybe in part can be explained by the premise of the novel, I suppose, of an alien invasion where the aliens seep into human minds and thoughts via the water and via "bodily fluids" (a phrase that reminded me of Dr. Strangelove, of course, but I don't think the author meant it that way). The characters came across as if they're stoned, and maybe this is also meant to be part of "The Seep" effect but it was hard to say for sure.

There is a very good premise here, which made me excited to read the novel, but the actual experience of reading felt more like reading a synopsis of a novel that is still waiting to be written. This is a pretty harsh review because I was really looking forward to a novel where trans-ness becomes effortless, not just along a gender spectrum but in many other ways, and where people are able to express themselves outwardly with any physical shape that makes them feel most themselves. I love that idea and I'm still looking for that novel. ( )
  poingu | Feb 22, 2020 |
Originally posted on Tales to Tide You Over

This is not an easy book to review. What makes it fascinating is both simple and so integrated that I struggle not to reveal what should come out as you read. Not every reader will appreciate the novel as, though it has action sequences, it’s more a personal and philosophical exploration than most science fiction despite the genre element being crucial.

The Seep explores the concept of utopia, self-identity, and immortality among other questions, but it isn’t a treatise or analytical. Instead, the novel begins with a lesbian couple having friends over to commiserate the beginning of an alien invasion. These hive-mind aliens have contaminated the water supply, already taking root in their human, and other, hosts. It’s the gentlest invasion ever, and no one is sure what this means.

The timeline advances rapidly from that point to another dinner party where Trina, the main character, learns one of her friends has made an ethically questionable decision using the aliens’ ability to manipulate matter into whatever the host desires. Learning this changes how she sees her friend, but it also makes her question what came before The Seep as now reinterpreted through the alien mind.

Then her wife makes an irrevocable decision, and Trina’s life falls apart.

It’s this point where the story changes from mundane (if alien-introduced horns and wings can be characterized as such) into an alcohol-induced vision quest Trina doesn’t even know she’s on. It can be hard to tell what is metaphor and what is reality, especially with the hive mind capable of transforming anything, but that matters little as Trina’s reactions hold the narrative focus.

The reader is invited to contemplate the theme questions alongside the main character, and I enjoyed that journey. I don’t have any more answers than I had before, but I have a better understanding of the framework behind my answers, and new questions to consider. The book stays near to the troubles of modern day from political and social to economic and environmental.

True to the themes, the cast draws from many races, sexual orientations, and gender identities. Despite this, until Trina revisits the Detroit of her past, the feel is rather middle class to me, odd when at least two of the original group are artists, though hardly starving. It reminds me of a comic I used to read about a lesbian couple living a rather ordinary life in the lesbian community, something as hard to attain as a profitable art career. It’s more the tone of sardonic humor than anything else. The book’s omniscient narrator stays with Trina but speaks from a knowledge greater than Trina can claim.

Though it is not tied to a specific religion or even preachy, the novel serves as a sermon of sorts. The story speaks to the importance of the past as it crafts us into the person we are today. Of how we need to treasure each moment because once it’s gone, we can never return. Either it or we will be different, changing the interaction. The book reads like a drug-addled stream of conscious at times, but one from which we rise a little wiser having asked questions about what is truly important and who we really are.

Besides, on the less philosophical side, the conceptualization of The Seep is fascinating. I enjoyed the personal relationships that revealed Trina as part of a complex community even when she believes herself abandoned. She also breaks into the traditional format with The Seep, revealing more of herself and the hive mind than before.

P.S. I received this Advanced Reader Copy from the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest review. ( )
  MarFisk | Feb 11, 2020 |
The Seep are aliens who come to Earth in the near future. They are seemingly omnipotent beings who are pure sentience. They are joined, united, and have no physical form which makes Earth and its humans fascinating. Humans “partake” of The Seep, absorbing them and with The Seep are able to self-heal, to transform their appearance, to be immortal, even.

The Seep permeates the earth, healing it of toxins and pollution, growing enough food to end all scarcity. Now that The Seep has arrived, there is no scarcity, no war, no poverty, no illness. The world is a Utopia, but not everyone is completely happy.

Take Trina Goldberg-Oneka, she misses the struggle. She has used The Seep for years but is using less and less. When she is exposed, she even drinks some charcoal water to get it out of her system. Her wife Deeba, though, wants to go deeper with The Seep, to be reborn as a child. She would love for Trina to be her mother, to experience Trina’s love another way, but Trina can’t process that and perhaps because she could not do what Deeba wanted, she can’t process her grief at losing her.

The second and third parts of the book follow Trina down to the depths of despair and her journey to save a young boy who grew up in a compound of people who have never accepted The Seep. It is also a long conversation with The Seep through her pamphlet, a self-help pamphlet that alters to the circumstances. She calls it Pam and while it seems hilarious at first, it gets a bit eerie and the conversations become much more existential. The Seep wants to learn from Trina and wants so much to make her happy, but really Trina and The Seep are learning from each other.

The Seep is wonderfully inventive. I love the idea of noncorporeal aliens who are as excited as can be about being embodied. I love the idea of ending scarcity and war, though I hope it is something we can figure out without alien intervention.

The surreal inventiveness of The Seep modifications, the humans with animal ears or tails like a Neko or the animals who gain consciousness and talk all reminded me of Second Life where people create avatars to embody their aspirational selves. If you imagine an avatar in the virtual world as humans, then the player behind the screen is The Seep and the avatars embody our sentience.

I loved how Trina and The Seep came to understand each other and the meaning of humanity. What makes us human? The Seep does not understand something that is fundamental to Trina and that mutual understanding is something it wants desperately.

The Seep will be released on January 21st. I received an e-galley from the publisher through Edelweiss.

The Seep at Soho Press
Chana Porter author site
https://tonstantweaderreviews.wordpress.com/2020/01/23/9781641290869/ ( )
  Tonstant.Weader | Jan 23, 2020 |
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