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Sea Came In At Midnight [Paperback]

S Erickson
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)

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Book Description

April 24 2000
Steve Erickson is a visionary novelist whose time has come. Considered by many the secret heir to Pynchon and DeLillo, he has steadily acquired a passionate following of readers over the course of five previous novels. Now, with The Sea Came at Midnight, Erickson delivers a masterwork of intense feeling, scope and power--an intimate epic of late twentieth-century civilization in free fall, an unforgettable young woman's revelation amid the ruins.

In the final seconds of the old millennium, 1,999 women and children march off the edge of a cliff in Northern California, urged on by a cult of silent men in white robes. Kristin was meant to be the two-thousandth to fall. But when at the last moment she flees, she exchanges one dark destiny for a future that will unravel the present.

Answering a cryptic personals ad for a woman "at the end of her rope," Kristin finds temporary haven in the Hollywood Hills with an older, unnamed man as obsessed as he is spiritually ravaged. In a locked room at the bottom of his house, he labors over his life's work: a massive blue calendar the size of a tsunami that measures modern time by the events of chaos and pinpoints the true beginning of the new millenium as not midnight December 31, 1999, but the early hours of one May morning in 1968. This calendar is shot through with the threads of other lives-those searching for a small measure of redemption and an answer to the question, "What's missing from the world?"

From a ritual sacrifice in the name of salvation to a ritual sacrifice in the name of pleasure, from an ancient haunted Celtic tower in Brittany to the revolving memory hotels of Tokyo, from a cinematic hoax in Manhattan that costs five women their lives to a mysterious bloodstained set of coordinates tacked to the wall of an abandoned San Francisco penthouse, The Sea Came at Midnight is a breathtaking literary dance of fate and coincidence. And, unknown even to her, at the center of that dance is the seventeen-year-old.

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From Amazon

God invented millennia for writers like Steve Erickson. Erickson's previous books have buried L.A.'s freeways in sand, set bonfires in Paris streets, and hitched along for the 1996 presidential campaign. In terms of madness, doom, and sheer human folly, what could possibly be left? Plenty, as it turns out. As The Sea Came in at Midnight opens, 17-year-old Kristin works in a Japanese "memory hotel," where despite her so-so looks she's in high demand. As an American, "Kristin represents the Western annihilation of ancient Japanese memory and therefore its master and possessor, a red bomb in one hand, a red bottle of soda pop in the other." After one of her best clients expires in the booth, she finally tells him her own story--which turns out to be quite a tale, involving escape from a millennial suicide cult and nude solitary confinement at the behest of a man known only as the Occupant. Add in the novel's other threads, which span 40 years and include a dream cartographer, a chaos-based calendar, time capsules, and both real and faked snuff films, and you have a heady mixture indeed. Fans of Erickson's unsettling, dreamlike style are legion, and they won't be disappointed in his latest take on the End Time, Blade Runner-style. But in a way, the millennium is beside the point; with a plot like this one, a mere flipping of digits seems so much apocalyptic icing on the cake. Combing a lyrical surrealism with a jittery, jump-cut technique, Erickson writes like the 21st-century heir of Pynchon and DeLillo. --Chloe Byrne --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Strip clubs, sexual slavery, Paris dreams, New York horror and California misery catastrophically define and entrap the troubled margin-dwellers inhabiting this penetrating dream vision of the post-nuclear world. At the center is Kristin, who escapes her fate as the last of 2000 women and children sacrificed in a millennialist cult ritual only to become the sex slave of a self-proclaimed "apocalyptologist" she knows only as the Occupant. The Occupant is obsessed with mapping out the world's increasingly bizarre eruptions of violenceAmany of which have shaped and twisted his own lifeAon an unconventional calendar that soon has Kristin at its epicenter. Another agitated, tormented character is Louise Blumenthal, aka Lulu Blu, the screenwriter of the world's first snuff film, a hoax that subsequently spawned actual murders. Louise seeks to absolve herself of her crimes by trying to save future snuff actresses and ritualistically vandalizing satellite dishes in L.A. Erickson (Days Between Stations; Amnesiascope) sends his agile prose careening ever deeper into these intertwined lives, their disturbing memories and often tragic choices following a kind of grim logic. This provocative novel is often funny but always serious and lush with insights that make its often outlandish elements eerily familiar. The razor-sharp narrative balances a nonchalant chaos with an unrelenting stream of violence and tenderness; even the most monstrous psyche in Erickson's ensemble of stoic na?fs, murderous sadists and the sexually plundered is brilliantly rendered as not only sympathetic, but honest, vigorous and enduring.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars So good it�s scary Feb. 6 2001
'The Sea Came in at Midnight' is so good it's scary. I'm worried that it will be a long time before I read another novel that is so accomplished and successful in its intent. Maybe I shouldn't worry...maybe I only have to wait until I read another of Erickson's novels before I encounter such mastery again.
For me, the most enjoyable aspect of this novel was the elliptical paths the characters took. The way they crossed and re-crossed paths, never knowing the significance of the other in the way their lives have been shaped. Erickson manages this without forcing the relationships or situations in an artificial way.
The story itself, though, is artificial and contrived - but I mean that in a positive way! Erickson's settings, the novels events and the characters motivations are grandiose and on an epic scale. He wants you to be confronted by his themes - the decay of society, the power of redemption and self-belief - so they are enlarged and made more bold by their scale. 'The Sea Came in at Midnight' is a novel that trades in challenging the reader and the reader's perceptions. You will never forget the desperation of some characters and the despair of others. Never forget the hyper-realistic imagery - Tokyo memory hotels, the mass suicide, the shattered aquarium. And finally, never forget that you have been privileged to read a novel of truly stunning accomplishment.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Luminous. Does the work that tragedy should... Oct. 6 2000
In 1991 I read Erickson's *Tours of the Black Clock*, and came away touched to the core by his reckoning with evil, loss, and the secret history of the Twentieth Century; I felt in finishing the book as if I had been given an incredible gift. He was definitely going to be one to watch.
Well, I devoured *Amnesiascope* and *Arc D'X* and *Rubicon Beach*, but despite the appearance of the same tropes (like J.G. Ballard, Erickson obsessively redeploys the same imagery, in his case fractured time, deserted Chinatowns, flooded cities) they didn't bring me off quite the way *Tours* did.
Now *Sea* does, again. It's a haunting and beautiful meditation on time, loss, evil, and redemption - call it a scruffier alternate take on DeLillo's *Underworld*, for post-boomers. It's uneven in spots, but it did the work that all great writing is supposed to do: it triggered the simultaneous grief, acceptance, and joy in that acceptance that means you've arrived, at long last, at your own life. You should buy this book.
Oh, and: thanks, Steve.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating but Flawed May 14 2000
Steve Erickson is one of the most challenging and visionary of all contemporary American writers and the fact that many of his books are going out of print is certainly cause for alarm. While some critics have compared Erickson to Pynchon and DeLillo, and there may be some similarities, "The Sea Came in at Midnight" shows Erickson moving past such comparisons and developing a style and technique that is very much his own. "The Sea Came in at Midnight" is certainly his finest novel to date but it is, unfortunately, plagued by some of the same inconsistencies of his previous work.
The thematic and stylistic elements of which this novel is composed are the stuff of undeniable brilliance. The innovative structure of the novel is also an asset through most of the novel but by the time we near the end it has become one of the most problematic elements. In this novel Erickson tells several stories at once, weaving each into the others with intricacy and skill. Among the many plots that emerge are a teenage girl's attempt to dream, a madman's attempt to document the world's slide into apocalypse and another teenage girl's brush with death on film. Each plot thread makes for engrossing reading and as I read I was constantly surprised by how Erickson managed to tie one plot thread to the others.
The problem is that by the time the end of the novel approaches, which is far too fast, none of the plot lines actually terminate, they just trail out into space. It is possible that Erickson tried to do too much in too small a space - just over 250 pages. This novel might have been better if it had been a hundred or so pages longer and Erickson had been able to bring everything together and create some sort of closure.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Left Hanging May 2 2000
By A Customer
I read the glowing reviews of this book before reading it, and I just felt that someone should balance out all of this gushing Erickson worship. I've read him before (Arc d'X) and thought that he was very original and his stories are very compelling. He walks a very thin line with his interwoven plotlines, making them confusing in a way that strings you along without being so obtuse that you wind up throwing the book away in disgust. And his characters are memorable and you do care what happens to them, which for me is the sign of a good writer. My complaint then about this particular book is that it brings together the interwoven lives of a dozen very interesting people--a la Don Delillo's Underworld, which is a better book, in my opinion--and ultimately gives us nothing. There's no closure to any of the stories. One major character's demise occurs offstage and can only be surmised from what happens forty years later to another character a couple of chapters later. There's an awful lot of obsessing about a time capsule, and when it's opened, we're left to guess at the contents. And in the final pages of the book, Erickson almost completely abandons storytelling for some over-the-top, self-consciously arty prose that only clouds up what should be a much more satisfying ending. In other words, after a promising start, he just leaves you hanging.
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