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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


The Seep

Chana Porter

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To purchase The Seep

Title: The Seep
Author: Chana Porter
Genre: Novel
Written: 2020
Length: 200 pages
Availability: The Seep - US
The Seep - UK
The Seep - Canada

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Our Assessment:

B : fairly engaging story-cum-thought-experiment, within (its) limits

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Publishers Weekly . 30/10/2019 .

  From the Reviews:
  • "Porter employs profound compassion and gentle humor to convey Trina’s fear of change and distrust of complacency. Readers will delight in the eerie disquietude and optimism of this well-calibrated what-if." - Publishers Weekly

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       'The Seep' of the title is an alien invasion, an entity that reaches earth and transforms life as we know it, sometime in the near future. Their arrival did cause some end-of-the-world panic, but the incorporeal presence that is The Seep seems to have come essentially and entirely in peace. Those who made contact with it: "felt fine about the extraterrestrial invasion" -- but it was also possible to keep one's distance: there are places, specifically 'the Compound' which cut themselves off completely from The Seep and everything it offered, continuing to live the old-fashioned way.
       The Seep is in the water, and elsewhere; humans can to some extent dose how much of a connection they want. Overall, it seems like a pretty good deal: The Seep is enabling, and like the ultimate feel-good drug. Amazing things are possible with it, from personal physical transformation on; human capacity is suddenly almost unlimited. And The Seep doesn't ask for much in return:

The Seep loved giving you everything you wanted, in exchange for information about being human.
       Having come to earth without: "corporeal forms, a concept of linear time, or even emotions", they're eager to experience this previously unknown; they seem to sort of live vicariously through humans, while also enabling humans to transcend traditional physical limits.
       It's a neat concept for an alien invasion -- and also allows Chana Porter to be appropriately vague in her descriptions of it, since it barely takes on any tangible form. The Seep is simply a presence, more than anything else -- though it can also communicate in the most archaic way, in written form, as it does on pamphlets here (a sort of e-reader in function). Apparently, it could do more too -- but, for example, when a pamphlet starts talking to one of the characters that really creeps her out, a rare instance where The Seep's sense of just how much and what humans can handle is a bit off.
       The central figure in The Seep is Trina FastHorse Goldberg-Oneka. She is long happily married and deeply in love with Deeba, and they've adapted well to the alien-informed changes. But then, after twenty-five years of being together, Deeba decides that she really wants a do-over of the kind The Seep now makes possible: at forty-six, she wants to start over again, as a baby -- "With good people this time. Get the parenting I deserve". She even wants Trina to take on the mother-role, so they can stay together. But Trina isn't on board. When Deeba goes through with it, Trina's world collapses -- and she isn't quite as willing or eager to turn to The Seep to immediately feel better about everything (as she could).
       Trina's self-destructive spiral is at odds with the world around her; an encounter with a youth who is new to the world of The Seep leads her on a quest of sorts, exposing her to more of what has changed (as well as some blasts from the past). The hive-mind nature of The Seep -- on some level, a Borg-like entity -- becomes even more apparent -- with Trina refusing to and unable to fit in. As she comes to argue:
I feel like you're breaking the deal you have with us. We're supposed to have free will. That includes being unhappy. That includes making the wrong decisions and getting hurt, or even doing something terrible. We're on this planet to grow and change, and sometimes that con only happen through struggle.
       The Seep makes for a reasonably interesting thought-experiment, offering a world where everything positive seems possible, and where mankind is achieving a (near-)universal communal state; The Seep is facilitating a technologically-enabled (i.e. near effortless) Fourier-utopia. Trina's heartbreak and odyssey -- along with a well-placed focus on (food- and liquid-)consumption (with the novel bookended by dinner-party tips) -- makes for a fairly effective way of considering the philosophical questions posed by these unusual conditions, where almost every desire can be fulfilled and everyone starts to come together. Still, it perhaps doesn't permeate quite as deeply and intently as it needs to. Porter admirably doesn't over-write or -explain (as science fiction often tempts its authors to do), but the short three-part novel isn't really saturated fully enough: it's fine that it doesn't overtly try to really pack a punch, but the alternative surely requires much more pervasive seepage.

- M.A.Orthofer, 6 February 2020

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The Seep: Reviews: Chana Porter: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       American author Chana Porter was born in 1984.

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© 2020 the complete review

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