Cover image for The sea came in at midnight
The sea came in at midnight
Erickson, Steve.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Bard, [1999]

Physical Description:
259 pages ; 25 cm
General Note:
"An Avon book."
Format :


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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 fivewomen 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.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

From the initial quotations in the front matter pairing existentialist Kierkegaard with hipster songstress Bjork, Erickson surprises and continually amazes in this novel of mythic circumstance. On New Year's eve, 1999, 2,000 members of a California cult plummet to their deaths in an apocalyptic ritual mass suicide. Eighteen-year-old Kristin, the would-be 2000th to plunge, flees the scene, pursued by men clad in white robes. In desperation, she answers a personal ad and, by accepting the arrangement of the man who placed the ad, continues her fantastic journey. Soon she finds herself in the middle of a world of bizarre personal histories, fatalistic games, and enigmatic stories. Characters are intermingled and often interconnected; their stories traverse the globe--encompassing such diverse worlds as the radical Parisian intelligentsia of the 1960s, postmillennium Tokyo "memory hotels," and the urban sprawl of Los Angeles, where satellite dishes mysteriously turn black during the night. Kristin's life has taken her across the bleak landscape of lost memory and collective indifference, all of which had been leading up to a millennial moment--or so she thought. Erickson's writing is ambitious and near flawless--he perfectly contrives this modern myth of the fast-approaching millennium by creating a world where everyone is in search of her or his own millennial moment of salvation. In doing so, he may well have secured himself a place among the best of contemporary fiction writers. --Michael Spinella

Publisher's Weekly Review

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 violenceÄmany of which have shaped and twisted his own lifeÄon 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. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

In some bizarre cultic rite, 17-year-old Kristen was supposed to leap off the edge of a cliff with 1999 other women and children as the millennium ends. But at the last minute she reneges, fleeing to Tokyo and working as a memory girl who listens to other people's stories. Her own memories are pretty unsettling. Hard up for a roof over her head, she accepted a job through the personals with a man simply called the Occupant, a deranged sort looking for sex without connection in whose house she remains, naked and increasingly perplexed. The man is in fact an "apocalyptologist," and in a locked room he keeps a huge calendar charting events surrounding the advent of the new millennium, which he claims started in May 1968. Kristen has her own ideas on when the millennium began, having to do with her radical poet father, and other characters turn up with their own ideas. That we all have personal millenniums is a terrific concept, but it doesn't work here; Erickson (Amnesiascope, LJ 5/15/96) can be a fine writer, polished and gleaming as chrome, but the effect is ultimately of bad sf, with too many subplots and a forced, self-consciously disaffected tone. For collections with cutting-edgeÄeven over the edgeÄfiction.ÄBarbara Hoffert, "Library Journal" (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.