Author Stephen Kanicki updates a classic—and compelling—theme that goes back to Marlowe’s Dr. Faustus: how does an ordinary individual handle access to extraordinary power? In Kanicki’s telling, main character Gary Miller is offered the keys to power by his friend Bob Harris. Both are academics: Gary is a religion and philosophy professor at a small college and a part-time pastor. Bob, a brilliant scientist, offers Gary the potential to make all his dreams come true through a series of seven progressively challenging exercises. At first reluctant, the temptation for the cash-strapped Gary is too great and he succumbs to the experiments, with ever more interesting results.
Kanicki made a good choice to link his story to the suspenseful unfolding of the seven experiments, as well as to tightly focus on his four main characters: Gary, Bob and their wives Sarah and Belle. The plot keeps the pages turning, and Gary’s passionate denunciations of wealth inequality and corruption in our country are likely to strike a positive chord with many readers. Unfortunately, the book doesn’t quite feel ready yet for print. In too many places, the dialogue is wooden and doesn’t work to advance the plot. For example, Sarah and Belle don’t need an extended conversation about Belle helping Sarah in the kitchen. Likewise, asides about the Harris’ hosting the Millers for dinner should be stated once—if at all—and repetitions in the novel in general should be cut. More importantly, the characters feel roughed out rather than fully developed. Kanicki would do well to work harder on fleshing out his four protagonists so that they seem more like real people. Further, and this is a pitfall that plagues male authors even of the highest caliber, while it is reasonable to make Gary think of women in terms of breasts and ass and to trace his deepening interest in sex, it matters that readers know from the start that this attitude is as reprehensible as thinking of blacks as inferior. Kanicki needs to show a woman as fully human with a mind and soul.
Finally, there’s a problem with audience. A classic morality tale that stars an evangelical pastor and implicitly condemns homosexuality as an abomination would seem to be aimed at a Christian audience. Yet this audience would probably react poorly to the overflow of “fucks” and graphic depictions of lust in the novel. Meanwhile, a more secular audience might be put off by the novel’s evangelical presuppositions. Nevertheless, THE SEVEN EXPERIMENTS is animated by intense narrative energy and a strong plot. It is more than worthwhile for Kanicki to refine the raw edges of this work.
Author Stephen Kanicki’s suspenseful plot is his strong point in THE SEVEN EXPERIMENTS, a lively and passionate but overly raw exploration of good and evil.
~Diane Reynolds for IndieReader