Trina Goldberg-Oneka is a fifty-year-old trans woman whose life is irreversibly altered in the wake of a gentle—but nonetheless world-changing—invasion by an alien entity called The Seep. Through The Seep, everything is connected. Capitalism falls, hierarchies and barriers are broken down; if something can be imagined, it is possible.GOODREADS, SYNOPSIS
Imagine a perfect world. No class divides, no racism, no inequalities, no injustices, no unhappiness. You can be whoever– or whatever— you want to be. This is the world that The Seep provides. A symbiotic alien life form has worked its way into humanity’s water supply, and those who ingest The Seep feel an initial rush of euphoria as The Seep collectively guides people towards a better society.
“But were humans still human without their worries?”The Seep by Chana Porter
In this alternate future, The Seep provides everything humanity needs. As an idyllic socialist utopia, there is no more need for ownership of property or the need for labor or trade or currency. Every need a person has is immediately cared for and provided by The Seep, or people working under The Seep’s influence. Art then becomes the major focus of humanity, and art under euphoric influences takes a very different approach than art under existential human suffering. Due to The Seep’s ability to alter reality on a molecular level, cell disintegration is a concept of the past and people can be essentially immortal if they choose. Oh and, if anyone wants aesthetic enhancements added to their bodies like wings or a snake tongue, that is possible too. People constantly push the limits of this type of change, forming themselves into animals or other people or even restarting their lives as newborns.
Of course, there is The Compound, where humans who have chosen not to ingest The Seep live as well as they can, holding onto the past.
A philosophical exploration ensues when Trina, our main character, embarks on a soul-searching expedition after her wife has chosen to alter her form and leave the domestic life they had built together. Trina’s grief is constantly invalidated in this society’s need for happiness and euphoria all the time. She wrestles with philosophical and ethical questions as she tries to process her grief as much as she can.
I really enjoyed this book. It was recommended to me by a friend who knows how much I love philosophical and existential explorations through science-fiction, and this was exactly up my alley. Some content notes to be aware of are: suicidal ideation, substance/alcohol abuse, and some instances of violence. Those familiar with NBC’s The Good Place will see some similar threads of thought during the conversations of death and meaning and human suffering. In addition, those who enjoyed the surreal experiences of Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach trilogy would probably appreciate the surrealistic utopia that The Seep provides. I really appreciated the main character’s perspective as a middle-aged, Jewish Native-American, trans woman doctor whose every aspect of her life has been put into question by the nature of The Seep. In a society without struggle and continuously changing identities, the meaning of race and culture and identities begin to find less significance. There are a lot of questions asked around these subjects and very little discussion or answers given in true existential form. Overall, it is a beautifully atmospheric story that leaves an emotional impact at the ending.
“All I have is my uncertainty. And really, that’s all I’ve ever had. Everything else was a lie.”THE SEEP BY CHANA PORTER