Book Review – Calibration 74: Experimental Fiction That Sticks With You

Calibration 74: An Experimental Novella by [William F. Aicher]

It took me a while to figure out how to write this review because there’s just so much to think about packed into a relatively short book. I think I could read it over and over again and come away with something new each time. I’m going to try to focus on a few thoughts:

First, there are so many nuggets of truth, of wisdom scattered throughout the book. I could write a whole list of favorite quotes or lines I still think about. The book is a journey through the unnamed narrator’s mind as he searches, as he says in Calibration 42, for the answer to the ultimate question: “Life. The universe. Everything.” There are so many explorations of reality – what is reality? Is it perception? Is it mental? Not surprisingly since it was written during this pandemic, the book is so timely in a world where we’re increasingly living virtually, disconnected and yet hyperconnected.

Second, while it’s at times evocative of mental illness it’s not ABOUT mental illness. I identified with the narrator from the start, reflecting multiple times in early Calibrations that my stream of consciousness often mirrored his. At first this was comforting—maybe I’m not so strange after all!—but it eventually became slightly disturbing and I started to wonder whether I wanted to identify with this guy… I mean, there has to be something wrong with a guy who peeps in a woman’s window and boils skulls! I think, ultimately, that’s part of the exploration of reality, of humanity. Of how fine the line often is between being okay and not being okay.

Finally, I really liked that I never knew what to expect from the next Calibration. By the end of the book especially, it’s like reading a dream sequence. Things seamlessly change and morph in a completely nonsensical way that at the same time seems perfectly natural. Reading it felt like when you’re recounting a dream to someone – it all makes sense but then you say it out loud and you realize it makes no sense at all but it FELT like it made sense when you were in it. It’s trippy, but it works. Really well.

I didn’t know what to expect when I picked this up, but I was thoroughly pleased and impressed. It’s philosophical, edgy, and very different from anything else I’ve read. I’m so thankful to have had the opportunity to read this book and will definitely look forward to Aicher’s upcoming work!

Thank you to William F. Aicher for gifting me a copy of this book! Get your copy here – you’ll be glad you did!

***** Five stars (and you know I don’t give those out lightly)

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