What Are We Reading?: Celestial Seepage, by Brian Fatah Steele
3.5/5 Godlike Interventions
Give me the short version:
Epic powers have been simmering beneath the town of Ellesmere, where a hidden evil is scheming to break free.
I'm going to state up front that happy endings don't often thrill me, which puts me in a readership minority. If you like nice endings please mentally update the rating to a solid 4 before reading on.
Celestial Seepage boasts a large cast and is classic Mr Steele in that he takes the time to deftly introduce each character, ensuring we recognise their humanity (or otherwise) and care about them. Small personality vignettes such as Elizabeth breaking her banana into pieces rather than "eating it in some perverse sexual manner" litter the text and are utterly delightful.
The mood and history of Ellesmere is as much a character as any of those walking about, and Steele excels at tying modern tensions to the town's murky history, hinting at fated disaster on the horizon.
Of course, given the author's stellar track record of epic narratives it quickly becomes evident that the danger is bigger than the concerns of one small town.
I guess, for the above-mentioned reasons, the wrap-up didn't work as well for me as the rest of the story did. Sean's abrupt exit in an eight word sentence felt jarring given chapter 22 had worked so hard to get me to like him. And I guess the epilogue seemed like it invalidated the suffering characters went through, by eliminating much of the consequence. Which in itself is testament at how good Steele is at drawing you in and making you care about his creations.
"Harper sat down in one of the stalls and frowned to see there was dust on the toilet paper. Vickers likely used the other one, the same one, every day. Did toilet paper go bad? Guess she would find out. As this thought crossed her mind, she heard movement in the bathroom. Feet on the tile floor. The door hadn't opened.
'Hello? Is someone there?'
She sat perfectly still, listening. No sound, only ... something. A weight she could feel, outside the flimsy door. Beside the sink, motionless, waiting. Was it breathing? Did the air change with each inhale and exhale? The sensation that something lurked outside filled her, consumed her. Tears began to well up in her eyes.
'Hello!' she exclaimed, banging her fist on the side of the stall."