Publisher – Dead Ink
4 out of 5 stars: This book was gutsy and disgusting. It made me shudder and cringe yet I couldn’t put it down and was compelled to keep reading. It is a short novel that packs a huge punch as an allegory for our modern, wasteful and ignorant society and the possible results. Disturbing all of the time, the book twists things which comfort, into those which are grotesque and gruesome.
I received this from Dead Ink and promised an honest review for the privilege. It is never a book I would have been attracted to in a bookstore, nor one I would have usually chosen, but after watching A Quiet Place, I really wanted to give it a try. I wasn’t disappointed and would definitely recommend.
A disease is going unnoticed and unacknowledged within the polluted city. The government’s solution is to sweep it under the carpet, attribute deaths to other factors, gather people in rehousing camps that they can never again leave. Struggling with the epidemic, the poor, and the unacknowledged, these camps are a permanent threat. It is against this backdrop that Alice – grief struck, pregnant and called paranoid – tries to make a new home with boyfriend Pete, and start again. But Alice just can’t leave the city behind, or her concerns about the disease that no one else seems to see. It’s not paranoia if it’s true…right?
Sealed is disturbing. The idea that your own skin can become not your protector, but your nemesis is a disgusting image that doesn’t leave you easily. It made my skin itch and had me checking my eyes and ears and nose. The disease is truly gruesome, and some of the descriptions are downright sickening, yet it is important. This is a protector… not something aiming to kill you, but something aiming to combat the horrendous damage that we are doing to the environment and our own habitat. This idea is explained extremely well in the novel. The high levels of pollutants have caused this – not our bodies or skin itself – this disease is a mutation of our nature which is attempting to fight back against the toxins we have been pumping into the air, food, water supply, etc. If you weren’t concerned with the environment before (and of course you should be) this horrific ecohorror would do it.
The protagonist, Alice, has a great voice. She seems at once honestly paranoid, emotional, and overwhelmed, but also determined. Even though it is told from her point of view it is clear that she is being honest with the reader, even in things that may be hard for her to acknowledge. I really liked Alice and knew that she was right all the way through the novel. Pete on the other hand? Oh, Pete… I hated Pete, who I just thought was awful. He gave no support, was entirely self-centred and everything I learned about him just made me hate him more. I think you’re supposed to though.
The novel is an incredible allegory about how we treat our poor, and how we so easily sweep things away when they don’t directly affect us. If the food is bad, call something ‘protected’ or ‘organic’, hike up the prices so only certain people can afford it, and then pretend that it isn’t the food killing those without money, those people on the edges of acceptable society, those people who are struggling and working but who we seem happy to pretend do not exist. If it is still a problem, shove them in camps and pretend they aren’t there. Look … a playground … isn’t this place lovely? The comparison of the world of Sealed and our own is appalling but heartbreakingly true.
Overall, this is a very short little novel that is disturbing and important. It sends a clear and vital message to society while packing quite a punch on the horror front. Definitely one to read.
If you liked this…
I would suggest Snuff by Chuck Palahniuk, also extremely gruesome but something that is extremely hard to put down. Or, The Passion of New Eve by Angela Carter.