Seriously Though This is a Book about Grief: A Review of The Seep by Chana Porter


The Seep

By Chana Porter

Rating: 5/5

Genre: Sci Fi/Spec Fic

QUILTBAG Main Character: Yes! 

QUILTBAG Minor Character: Yes!

POC Main Character: Yes!

Bechdel Test: HELL YES

Summary: Years ago, the soft invasion occured. An alien entity known as The Seep arrived on earth and, in short order, changed the entire planet. Now everyone lives in perfect harmony, their needs provided for by The Seep. There is no more war, there is no more death, there is only humans and The Seep. Trina, a fifty-year-old trans woman and her wife Deeba are both former activists and artists. When Deeba decides to be reborn as a baby, Trina is left behind wondering what to make of this new and lonely existence. Who is she without Deeba? Who is she now that she might not be as interested in life with The Seep as she once was? And will she be able to figure all of this out, or will she decide life just isn’t worth living anymore?

Let’s Get A Little Deep:

I have never had so much fun reading a book about grief. The Seep is a wildly imaginative novel that asks important questions about what it means to be a human and what grief and loss does to a person. It asks you to consider art in a completely (almost oppressively so) peaceful world. It wonders aloud if art that matters can only matter in a world where there are great pains and sorrows to overcome.

And also there is a talking bear and a telepathic pamphlet named Pam.

Picking up this book I was expecting the heavier content. The jacket sleeve assures you that while it is just about 200 pages, the content within weighs more than the book itself. Porter uses Trina’s story to discuss how memory defines us. Our personal histories, big and small, create the adult beings we all become. The Seep is also a novel about grief, about how the loss of a loved one pushes us both towards action and away from action. It explores the dangers of seeing lots of who you are as it is tied into another person. 

Which makes it sound like it would be a downer of a book. Did it make me cry? Certainly, yes. But it also made me think and, delightfully, it made me laugh. Porter knows that life is not a constant stream of tears and heartache. Sometimes those tears and heartache are juxtaposed with laughter and sweetness. This is not to say that The Seep is a comedy but rather that it uses comedy in the right moments to soften the blow of the sorrow Trina feels.

The results are a book that is cathartic and moving. Reading this book felt like speaking deeply with a therapist or trusted friend. It reads as personal and affectionate, even as we watch Trina have a conversation with her pamphlet Pam or watch her navigate around a woman eating fish while she sobs about how sad it was for the poor fish to die in the first place. Porter knows how to touch the reader in ways that we will connect to, even in a world that is so different from ours. 

The Seep is a truly unique and wonderful world. I could write several more blog posts detailing the world building Porter sets up or the way that she subverts reader’s expectations about utopias and alien invasions. I found myself taking many notes while reading this and highlighting more often than not. It is an early pick for some of my favorite sci-fi of the year.

Thanks for going a little deep with me! I post reviews every other Thursday. Did you love The Seep? Leave a comment telling me what Seep modification you’d give yourself. You can also find me on Twitter @gwasserst! Special thanks to Yasi (@yasaminnb) for editing my posts.

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