Danika reviews The Seep by Chana Porter

The Seep by Chana PorterThe Seep is a weird fiction novella (200 pages) exploring a “soft” alien invasion utopia. It begins with a section titled “Tips for Throwing a Dinner Party at the End of the World.” Earth is being invaded by a disembodied alien species–which turns out to be a good thing. The Seep forms a symbiotic relationship with humans. They get to experience linear time and human emotions, and in exchange, well, they solve basically every problem people have ever had. Illness, inequality, capitalism, pollution and climate change all disappear. People develop intense empathy for everyone and everything in the world. Everything and everyone is connected, anything imagined is possible, and everyone is immortal to boot.

A utopia may seem like a set up for a boring book: where’s the conflict? But although The Seep just wants everyone to be happy, it doesn’t understand human complexity and why we might like things that are bad for us. In fact, despite having every opportunity imaginable, Trina is miserable. She is grieving, and she’s tired of this new world: everyone is constantly emotionally processing and high on The Seep. She finds herself nostalgic for struggle and purpose. She’s trans, and after fighting for so long, she’s at home in her body and vaguely irritated at people who treat changing faces and growing wings as a whim.

Despite the big premise, the real story is about Trina’s journey through grief. Her relationship with her wife is over (I won’t spoil why), and no amount of The Seep wand-waving will fix it. This alien species of superior intellect, power, and empathy can’t grasp why she would choose to feel pain, to poison herself with alcohol, to neglect her home and relationships. This novella shows what being human really means, and how no world, no matter how idyllic, really can be without conflict–but that’s just part of the experience of being alive.

I loved how queer this is. From the beginning, Trina and Deeba are having a dinner party with two other queer couples. I liked the discussion of what race and gender and sex mean in a world where you can change your appearance effortlessly. Trina and Deeba are both racialized women. Trina is Jewish and indigenous, and other Jewish and racialized characters appear as side characters. I appreciated this focus, but I acknowledge that I am reading this from a white, non-Jewish, cis perspective, and although the author is bisexual, this is not as far as I know an own voices representation of any of the other marginalizations that Trina has. I would be interested to read reviews by trans, Jewish, and indigenous readers.

If you’re looking for a short, thoughtful, and weird read–definitely pick this up. I loved the writing and the characterizations (there are so few good bear characters in books, you know?), and I look forward to picking up anything this Chana Porter writes next!

Lauren reviews The Size of the World by Ivana Skye

the-size-of-the-world

In The Size of the World, Theia is intent on traveling across her world until she reaches the Darkness. She travels across many lands, lands where people welcome, help, and feed her without prompts; where people eat fallen stars; where walls are icy-hot and made of waterfalls; where goods and services can be paid for with words. Along the way, Theia meets Tellus, a woman with many names. Tellus transforms Theia’s journey into one of self-discovery.

This book has an appealing interior, which is matched by a lovely rhythm that amplifies the storytelling. I especially enjoyed the subtle interactions between Theia and Tellus, which are captured in lines like:

Inside my dreams, light is still scattering through the sky, and each pinprick is one of [Tellus’] names.

The Size of the World is a utopian fantasy novella. This fact, however, didn’t curb my desire for the thrills of an alternate universe. So, there were moments that I wanted Theia to run into trouble— especially after she crossed the Third Sea and reached the Fourth Tributary. I wanted the inhabitants of this land to introduce the setbacks I was waiting for, setbacks that would stall or change the course of Theia’s travels. I wanted the Fourth to take matters into their own hands in order to fulfill (their) prophecy.

My desire for threats was not simple, wishful thinking. It’s the result of a well-written and poetic story that drew me in, prompting me to imagine exchanges between Theia and the lands of people she would encounter as I flipped through the pages of her journey.

This is a story that allows readers to linger in words and colorful settings, and to apply meaning to various layers of symbolism. Take ivy for example. Tellus likens Theia to ivy. Ivy grows aggressively… it is persistent. Ivy can grow in all directions… it travels. It can cover any structure… it transforms. Ivy trails the pages of this story, a story that will stay with me (and hopefully you) for days to come.

Lauren Cherelle uses her time and talents to traverse imaginary and professional worlds. She recently penned her sophomore novel, “The Dawn of Nia.” Outside of reading and writing, she volunteers as a child advocate and enjoys new adventures with her partner of thirteen years. You can find Lauren online at Twitter, www.lcherelle.com, and Goodreads.