Title: The Seep
Author: Chana Porter
Genre: Science Fiction
It’s been twenty years since the alien entity called the Seep infiltrated human society. In the Seep everyone and everything is connected: no more capitalism, wars, diseases, even death. The Seep allows everyone to be who and what they want to be: it just wants humanity to be happy and content.
Trina was happy as well, until the day her wife Deeba started dreaming of being a baby again, and finally decided to move on to this new existence without her. Heartbroken, Trina embarks in an unexpected quest, a desperate attempt to overcome her grief and find a new purpose in life.
A closer look
Oh, where do I even start with this one?
The Seep promises to be a utopia, a social commentary, an alien story, an exploration of love and grief and the meaning of being human. If it sounds like a lot, it’s because it is, especially in a novel that is little more than 200 pages long.
The story starts at the beginning of the Seep “invasion”, when Trina and her wife Deeba throw a party in anticipation of the end of the world. If it’s the last day of your life, why not have fun until you can? I think the feeling is more than understandable.
What transpires in the next chapters, set twenty years after that night, is that the Seep has infiltrated life on Earth with the only purpose of helping humans to become fulfilled and be their best selves. Not only people do not necessarily have to work to live more than decently, it also provides the means for everyone to change their appearance in accordance to their personal taste. And that’s when the first conflict of the story makes an appearance.
Deeba starts dreaming about being reborn as a baby and growing with a loving family in this new, perfect world, to have a shot at a better life than the one she lived. Trina can’t accept the fact that her wife might want to leave behind everything they have built together, and so Deeba goes ahead by herself. Trina is left behind, heartbroken and alone, and we jump another five years into the future.
I think I can’t really delve deeper that this into the plot. Everything I said until now you can read in the synopsis of the book, and it takes up pretty much half of the story already. I believe the other half is what will make it or break it for the reader.
As for me, it broke it.
I wanted more aliens, more weird stuff, more questions about what is human and how much we can change without morphing into something new and different. I wanted the invasion, the changes, the new society to open in front of my eyes and show me something new and wonderful.
The story chose instead to cut those pieces out of the narrative, jumping years ahead more than once. We are told that the Seep is infiltrating Earth, but we don’t see the process; we jump twenty years in the future when everything is already settled and go from there. We are told that Deeba wants to make a big change, but we don’t see that either; after her final decision, we jump ahead again to focus on Trina’s situation.
So instead of the alien invasion I was hoping for, I got a story that kept to the margins all of that, and focused on Trina’s grief and her journey to overcome it. Which is more than fine, just not what I wanted from the book, or what I was expecting.
The story tries to weave the Seep’s presence throughout, but with mixed results. There’s an instance of the Seep splitting and forming a kind of conscience for the first time, but that development is pushed aside a few pages later and not talked about anymore, and I was really baffled by that. There’s also a scene that feels like a psychedelic trip, but it ends up being mostly confusing and what it brings about comes out of nowhere.
I wanted to see the consequences of Deeba’s choice, the way the Seep transformed society; but the direction the story took was one that would have worked perfectly without the addition of an alien presence. Deeba’s transformation is not a death in the true sense of the word, but the result is the same for Trina, so what is the point of calling it something else? It would have made sense if we had explored it properly, but we didn’t; locked into Trina’s perspective all along, we only experience it as if Deeba was truly dead.
Together with everything I already listed, the story also tries to throw in a discussion about race and appropriation, but almost in passing – as if the author needed an excuse to send Trina on some kind of adventure. I honestly didn’t care one bit.
So to sum this all up, I did enjoy the writing, the setting and the ideas behind this story; unfortunately, the direction taken by the plot was not what I wanted from it, and I feel like the resolution was not entirely earned by the protagonist. She had a weird experience and from a moment to the next decided that she had to get over it, and that was pretty much the end of the story.
I’m sure this is the perfect story for some readers, and maybe my expectations got in the way of my enjoyment, but I was a little disappointed by it. I wish I could have closed my reading year with a new favourite, but apparently I’m not that lucky.
Oh well, next time I guess.