Literary Saloon
Site of Review.

Trying to meet all your book preview and review needs.

the Best
the Rest
Review Index


to e-mail us:

In Association with Amazon.com

In association with Amazon.com - UK


the Complete Review

A Literary Saloon and Site of Review

Steve Erickson
at the
complete review:

biographical | bibliography | quotes | pros/cons | our opinion | links


Name: Stephen Michael ("Steve") ERICKSON
Nationality: USA
Born: 20 April 1950
Awards: Samuel Goldwyn Award for fiction, 1972

  • Attended the University of California at Los Angeles (B.A., 1972; M.A. 1973)
  • Arts editor, Los Angeles Weekly, 1989-1991

Return to top of page.


Highlighted titles are under review at the complete review

Please note that this bibliography is not necessarily complete.

Return to top of page.


What others have to
say about
Steve Erickson:

  • "Erickson is still the very wild young colt, feeling his oats, etc., etc., not quite broken to the various disciplines of the conventional. He often tries ambitious hurdles that he sometimes does not quite clear, but his power, his strength, are undeniable and fascinating. Erickson resists "training"; he doesn't appear to want to go along with other writers. Even the avant-garde appears to hold little attraction for him. His vision, his "message," is unique, insistent, sad, original." - Carolyn See, The Los Angeles Times (8/9/1986)

  • "There is no question that he is a young writer to be watched." - Paul Auster, The New York Times Book Review (21/9/1986)

  • "Erickson has a voice that needs to be heard and a vision that needs to be seen. He deserves the time it takes a reader to make it from cover to cover, if only for the ride. Because you never quite get back to where you started when you started reading." - Schuyler Ingle, The Los Angeles Times (19/5/1996)

Return to top of page.

Pros and Cons
of the author's work:

  • Good, wild stories
  • Imaginative and unusual presentation
  • Interesting vision

  • Post-apocalypticism everywhere
  • The novels often have several very disparate strands (though these do tend to come together at some points)
  • Writing occasionally lumbering
  • Odd romanticizing of America
  • Los Angeles focus
  • Some elements can be confusing -- time and personality shifts, etc.

Return to top of page.

the complete review's Opinion

     Steve Erickson is a writer of some promise and some talent. He writes on the edge of science fiction: his novels tend to feature slightly altered (un)realities, dystopias that are closer to us than we care to imagine. The most unreal city (Los Angeles) in the most unreal country (America) is a favoured setting.
     Erickson writes quite well. He sets his scenes fairly well, using his post-apocalyptic visions effectively while rarely losing himself in the details of his imagined worlds. And he has some decent stories to tell. Many have a hallucinatory feel to them: his characters (especially his narrators) tend not to be on too solid footing, unsure and unclear about the world around them.
     There's a writerly focus: his main characters are often writers, and story-telling, capturing (or losing) the past (or present or future), and similar writerly concerns tend to be fairly prominent. Too often his characters are also lost souls or very independent souls. The relationships with women, especially, are weak, the books filled with seductive mystery-women who don't really convince. Still, Erickson generally does enough with his characters to entertain the reader.
     Erickson's books are full of crafty invention. He particularly likes to tackle history -- with varying success. Tours of the Black Clock (see our review) is a neat alternate history, while in the disappointing Arc d'X he bumbles in retelling the story of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemmings.
     Los Angeles is a problem for Erickson. He has gotten bogged down in it, even as he destroys and recreates it in almost every book. Between Erickson and James Ellroy readers can find all the L.A. clichés they could ever want (and more).
     Erickson's writing can get tiresomely sententious. He can't quite escape the weighty philosophy and thoughts, the grand pronouncements that his tales can't quite support. Still, much of the writing is very good, especially what is casually observed (i.e. when he isn't trying too hard). His style also works to good effect in his non-fiction -- see American Nomad (see our review) or some of his articles at Salon.
     Erickson seems mired in his post-apocalyptic dystopian vision, stuck on that one track. He's done some good things with it (and some pretty bad things). One hopes he can -- and will -- try something more.

Return to top of page.


Steve Erickson: Steve Erickson's books at the complete review: See also:

Return to top of page.

© 2001-2009 the complete review

Main | the New | the Best | the Rest | Review Index | Links