Sunday, January 5, 2020

The Seep by Chana Porter



"People need to give each other space to make choices. We can't live solely for other people. Even if it hurts them. Even when it breaks your heart" (174).

I really enjoyed THE SEEP a lot! In some ways, it reminds me of a more sophisticated version of Stephenie Meyer's book, THE HOST. Set first in San Francisco, THE SEEP is about a "soft" alien invasion in which aliens, I guess in liquid form, infect the water supply and other host bodies via secretions, giving them a drug-like high but also allowing their hosts the ability to modify their bodies. Humans can turn into animals, 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.

The heroine, Trina, is a middle-aged Native American transgender woman, and since identity is so focal to her experience, especially as someone who is in three marginalized groups, she is horrified by what she sees as a tremendously insensitive act of mass appropriation. Identity, she points out to someone (and I'm paraphrasing here), shouldn't be something that can be taken on and off like a pair of socks. But of course, this isn't something that the aliens can really understand with their hive-mind and laughably new age-like hippie mentality.

When Trina's partner buys into the Seep's philosophy of renewal and decides to turn herself into a baby, Trina effectively becomes a widow, and ends up turning to alcohol in her sorrow... until she sees a young boy who is untouched by the Seep and ends up thinking of a person she knew when the invasion first began-- someone else who bought into the system and is using it for his own illicit gains. And that's where the story, and Trina's quest, really kicks off.

THE SEEP is a slow-moving work of speculative fiction reminiscent of Sheri S. Tepper and Ursula K. Le Guin, especially with the themes of female empowerment, LGBT+ identity, and explorations of what it really means to be human as explored from the lens of an entity that is not. The book is very short but it doesn't feel short-- and the writing is gorgeous. It's great to see a science-fiction work that features an older woman of color who is LGBT+, as a lot of popular science-fiction books tend to feature younger, heterosexual white heroes and heroines as their leads. There are so many great themes explored in this work and it feels very literary. What could have been dark is lightened by some humor and a surrealistic, fantasy-like environment that swirls around you like a Dali painting.

I would read more by this author in a heartbeat-- and by the way, big ups to whomever designed that cover because it's gorgeous. I love the flowers.

P.S. The quote I cited above may differ in your copy in form or by page count because this was an uncopyedited ARC.

Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review!  

4 out of 5 stars

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