Kevin's Reviews > The Sea Came in at Midnight

The Sea Came in at Midnight by Steve Erickson
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M 50x66
's review
Jan 15, 2011

it was amazing
Read from December 03, 2010 to January 15, 2011

For me, the magic of Steve Erickson is this: every single one of his novels has been a genuine page-turner. Many have written about the strangeness of his books, but it is also possible to look past the fantastical elements and dream logic and appreciate the powerful narratives and universal themes that they serve. What I found in this book was a timeless dramatic structure, classical in how events escalate into conflict, and how conflict inevitably leads into satisfying resolutions. It is a true mark of craft among authors, however, to achieve this with a plot built more upon introspection, emotion, and catharsis than tangible events and action.

Of course, The Sea Came in at Midnight is far from being a straightforward book; in a book interwoven with coincidental events, there are numerous crucial connections that become clearer upon re-reading, as well as upon comparison to both Erickson's earlier and later books. However, it is perhaps more overt and more straightforward at highlighting its themes and central conflicts than those other books. The central theme is easy to identify: it is a story in which one resigns to nihilism, giving in to despair at the atrocities of the modern age, only to emotionally travel to the precipice and discover that reason and morality can prevail after all. Yet despite the web of coincidences and the dream logic that often pervades, every one of those devices nevertheless serves the storytelling with clarity, to give the themes voice and to bring them to light. Even when things appear to happen for no reason, they are always easy to understand on this basis.

There are some odd moments where the story takes a turn into satire and black humor, which didn't altogether work for me; not only does the authorial voice suddenly sound jarringly different, as though Erickson were knowingly lampooning specific targets, but the combination of fantastical elements and black humor is altogether too easy a target for writers these days. Nevertheless, the story promptly swerves out of these moments and returns to full stride in no time.

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