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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Rubicon Beach

Steve Erickson

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To purchase Rubicon Beach

Title: Rubicon Beach
Author: Steve Erickson
Genre: Novel
Written: 1986
Length: 300 pages
Availability: Rubicon Beach - US
Rubicon Beach - UK
Rubicon Beach - Canada
Rubicon Beach - Deutschland

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Our Assessment:

B+ : intriguing if somewhat meandering tripartite tale of America

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The LA Times A- 8/9/1986 Carolyn See
The NY Times Book Rev. A- 21/9/1986 Paul Auster
San Francisco Chronicle A 25/1/1987 Jeffrey Rodgers

  Review Consensus:

  A few mild reservations, but on the whole very enthusiastic

  From the Reviews:
  • "A grumpy reader might want to know more, but Erickson trusts in the power of his prose to tell you what he "means." " - Carolyn See, The Los Angeles Times

  • "The strong passages attain a stirring lyrical intensity; the weak passages are by turns leaden and bombastic. One is inclined to forgive Mr. Erickson for his lapses, however, since he has taken on some ambitious themes, and such boldness can often lead a writer into dangerous waters. That he has largely managed to keep himself afloat is very much to his credit. (...) Imagery is far more important in this novel than plot, and Mr. Erickson is at his best when he allows his images to speak for themselves." - Paul Auster, The New York Times Book Review

  • "Almost forgotten pieces of the stories return unexpectedly and spin Rubicon Beach into a single thread; as the three narratives converge, so do the themes of the novel. Throughout, Erickson maintains a compelling narrative and specificity of detail, while roaming freely through dream space, in a way that reminded me of some Gabriel Garcia Marquez stories." - Jeffrey Rodgers, San Francisco Chronicle

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Rubicon Beach has three parts. The first is set in some vague post-apocalyptic time, in and around Los Angeles, told in the first person by Cale. Recently released from prison, he has been sent to work in a library. He is an outsider, remaining apart. As he explains: "I'm not good at becoming one of things."
       The second part, narrated in the third person, is set vaguely in the present and centers around a girl called Catherine. She too is an outsider. A long odyssey brings her to America. A stunning beauty, she makes a great impression on people. Unable to communicate, she also continues to seek.
       The final part centers on Jack Mick Lake, told in both the first and third person. "There is a number for everything", he begins, and his numerological quests also lead him farther than he might want.
       Needless to say, the three stories and the various lives intersect. But Erickson doesn't go for easy plot twists. Rubicon Beach is eerily convoluted. The largely straightforward and distinct plots each take their own peculiar twists. The meetings of minds and men are unexpected.
       Each of the characters is lost. America has been rent asunder in Cale's world, divided into America 1 and 2. Cale does not know his place. He was a political prisoner. The Los Angeles he is released into is water logged and filled with music. The buildings sing. Radios are illegal.
       Cale is under police supervision: they still follow him around and keep close tabs on him. "You're the one everyone's looking for", he is told, but he doesn't understand why. And he has odd visions of decapitation and murder. And one of the murder victims turns out to be ... a very unlikely victim.
       Catherine's tale is in some ways simpler. From her South American tribe she makes her way up to America. Water again dominates the scenes. Catherine's unique qualities and her beauty are both an advantage and a burden. She is kept prisoner, held back -- but she always escapes. She winds up becoming a domestic for a failing Hollywood screenwriter, Llewellyn Edgar, and his family. It isn't an ideal arrangement. She escapes this too.
       Lake also is looking for answers. There is a river for him to cross. Burdens for him to bear.

       It is an odd but often gripping novel. Erickson offers good stories throughout: almost each smaller episode is intriguing and entertaining, and often well-related. The mystic broader picture is somewhat less of a success.
       Much of the writing is overly-earnest and occasionally even ponderous. It can be tiresome reading the account of someone who doesn't know what is going on (like Cale). And the abrupt shift from one story to the next (especially from the first to the second part) is also disorienting.
       Still, it is a decent read. Erickson does manage to hold the reader's interest almost the entire way. And some of the pieces are very nicely done indeed.

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Reviews: Steve Erickson: Other books by Steve Erickson under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       American author Steve Erickson was born in 1950. He has written several fairly highly acclaimed novels.

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