Some imaginations are almost too much, even for me, and for that, it is impossible for me to give "Steps" a rating higher than two stars.
However, this book did not win the National Book Award on accident.
Kosinski's work is so good, it's almost hypnotic; and, as you read through each dark episode, it seems almost certain that this author weighed each word to produce the exact amount of tension for each scene. The language and structure is poetry, and Kosinski's choice of the erotic and the sexual adds as a certain amount of chaos to his text, enabling him to construct his book without any sense of time. Additionally, by focusing on sex, he chooses a subject that is universal and knows no divisions of class, gender, religion or race. The totalitarian government and the victim, the oppressed and the oppressor, are therefore merged.
What is this book really about? The passage where I think Kosinski best answers this is when he writes, "Many of us could easily visualize ourselves in the act of killing, but few of us could project ourselves into the act of being killed in any manner. We did our best to understand the murder: the murderer was a part of our lives; not so the victim." Could Kosinski have written about this same topic without the bestiality or the rape? Of course. Would it have been as effective? Would you remember it? Probably not.
This book was written to stir up uneasy images. It is meant to disturb you. And I think that in this, at least, it succeeds.