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  • TITLE: The Sea Came In At Midnight
  • AUTHOR: Steve Erickson
  • AWARDS: Shortlisted British Fantasy Society


    The spectacular disintegration of everything was too exhilarating, and now everyone existed just to be exhilarated.

    — (Bard, ISBN 0380977664, 1st trade edition, 1st printing, c.1999, p.64)

    This is not a stupid book. But, regarding it, I am a stupid reader. I must be, since a lot of top critics run Erickson with post-modern racehorses like Pynchon, DeLillo, and Gaddis, and I consider these guys my friends. I am constantly whining for prose that turns the mundane into the profound, makes a conscious effort to theme philosophical thought, and does it all so effortlessly as to not sacrifice characterization, plot originality, or poetic stylization.

    Well, supposedly, here it is, in this author's 6th book: a study of the current millennium turning into the Apocalypse behind our backs and before our eyes, with the seismic tremors of random Chaos radiating from the LA basin—the “city of vicarious dreams . . . had the urbanscape literally transformed into one vast projection room” (p.188)—to Tokyo and Paris like an Escher inking of incongruous time and space, receding and expanding exponentially around Kafka-esque characters who dream or not dream Borges dreams, while wandering the woozy landscape of moments and remembrances from revolving Japanese memory hotels, pornographic snuff dens, time capsule funerals and aquariums, black ops satellite dishes, mass lemming-like suicides, and an Apocalyptic Calendar charting “nihilistic derangement” (p.51) merging with the Maps of the Subconscious City and Unrequited Love (p.181). It is a vast, intellectual cornucopia exploding from the wasteland of an over-abundant, gluttonous and greedy society trying desperately to understand and answer the only relevant question left: “what's missing from the world?” (p.187).

    To my addled mind, this seems like an appropriate evolution from last mid-century's Rubik's cube of a question: what's worthwhile doing? Unfortunately, Erickson's answer seems pretty standard, especially considering all the gyrations he puts us through. My main problem is that I just barely see the characters and I can't remember what they're doing when I leave them. It's almost like they've done things I don't know about when I return. There is also not much sense of place, as the settings' colors, smells, and textures seem to fade into forgotten dreams.

    But then, 1) this is my first perusal of a complex work and 2), I don't really understand one of the pivotal statements, “a dream's only a memory of the future” (p.12). Plus, I admit it, I'm not ready to temper my Sartre with Kierkegaard's “leap of faith”. Add just two more dates to the Occupant's sky-blue mural—20.04.1999 and 11.09.2001—and see if you can still summon any morality to existence whatsoever.


    Other minds disagree:



    © copyright 03/15/2008 by Larry Crawford

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