The Seep, Chana Porter
By Natasja Hellenthal
Trina Goldberg-Oneka is a trans woman whose life is irreversibly altered in the wake of a gentle—but nonetheless world-changing—invasion by an alien entity calling itself The Seep. Through The Seep, everything is connected. Capitalism falls, hierarchies and barriers are broken down; if something can be imagined, it is possible.
“I’ll tell you a secret. This is something no one else knows. But you’re my oldest and dearest friend and I want to share this with you. This isn’t my real face.”
To me, a good book has to have a few essential things apart from style and it being well-written: believable characters with flaws and emotions, a good plot that is going somewhere, good world-building, and above all a powerful change. A change that has lessons to learn from.
I have come across books that have all of the above, they just tick all the boxes, but that book list however will only fit on one-page maximum despite all my reading. It’s like love affairs! The difference between flings, infatuations, and true lasting love!
THE SEEP is one of those rare finds that have become one of my favourite top reads to cherish already and I couldn’t stop talking about it for days! It’s a book that is already recognised by the literary world and it has received numerous awards since its release last year.
Everything is just right with this book: the feelings portrayed by the main characters, the style, the dry humour, the raw emotions of loss and not wanting to let go of what is familiar and safe, a study of what identity is, and the impossibility of perfection.
It is a utopian near-futuristic novella and weird at times but all in a good way. This is our life and this is what could happen if presented with this kind of experience to people. That is why I love speculative fiction so much. It explores all possibilities.
The main character is Tina, a fifty-year-old Native-American transwoman and likable and easy to identify with regardless of the reader’s own gender or sexuality. She has been married to Deeba for a while and lives a good life with friends. They drink, they party, they have meaningful conversations.
When alien beings without a physical body come to Earth in the form of a substance that can enable psychic bonds between all living matter, humans can turn into other species, or give themselves animal-like qualities like horns and scales and wings. They can become other genders or ethnicities, and they can even take on the very faces of people they know and admire.
A great many people are concerned about what that might mean for the world and the human way of life. Some people choose to live in special compounds, co-created by the humans and the benevolent aliens who are known as The Seep, who only wished to give humanity as many different choices in life as possible.
Suddenly, our planet is peaceful, blissful, capitalism is gone, hierarchies are broken down, violence is gone, separation is gone and all things are possible… but instead of Earth becoming a utopia, it becomes a orgiastic love fest where everyone is just part of a seething mass of modified bodies writhing together towards some hazy idea of what is good.
The concept is clever, even the execution of it. It reminded me of the sixties hippies on drugs raving about transcendence without really grasping it, but rather losing themselves.
Tina is one of the rare people who still, twenty years later, doesn’t really fully embrace this new change especially as her wife of many years announces she wants to become a baby (!) and leaves her to begin her new life in the South of France with Persian parents. We follow Tina as she grieves like a widow and slowly tries to find herself again amidst a world that has turned upside down.
I loved the pamphlet The Seep talks through and that could read her mind. It is the closest we come to talking and understanding the aliens.
Above all the story is an exploration of what it really means to be human as explored through the eyes of an entity that is not.
It’s great to see a science-fiction work that features an older woman of colour who is LGBT+, as a lot of popular science-fiction books tend to feature younger, heterosexual white heroes and heroines.
I was also happy to find a short story at the end of the main story, so make sure you read that one if you want to find out more about one of the young protagonists mentioned in the main story called Aki, and his escape from one of the compounds.
You don’t have to be a fan of science fiction to enjoy this book. This is a book for our times. Read it!
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