Equilateral

Nineteenth-century British astronomer Sanford Thayer has won international funding for his scheme to excavate an equilateral triangle, three hundred miles to a side, from the remote wastes of Egypt’s Western Desert. The fellahin put to work on the project can’t understand Thayer’s obsessive purpose. They don’t believe him when he says his perfect triangle will be visible to the highly evolved beings who inhabit the planet Mars, signaling the existence of civilization on Earth.  Political and religious dissent rumbles through the camps. There’s also a triangle of another sort—a romantic one involving Thayer’s secretary, who’s committed to the man and his vision, and the mysterious servant girl he covets without sharing a common language. In the wind-blasted, lonely, fever-dream outpost known only as Point A, we plumb the depths of self-delusion and folly that comprise Thayer’s characteristically human enterprise.


"Kalfus has a demonic imagination. The glamour of consistent disaster is recognizable in every line, every scene, every lacquered articulation: it is what we moderns like to call a neo-classical construct. I’m overcome by the splendor of what he’s done."

— Richard Howard

"When a new Ken Kalfus novel appears I stop eating, drinking, shaving and breathing until I finish it. Equilateral is one of his smartest and most ambitious books yet. It left me thinking and wondering well past my bedtime. "

— Gary Shteyngart, author of Super Sad True Love Story

"Kalfus maps the boundary between science and mysticism while simultaneously muddying, in a way the 20th century soon would, the previously bright line between scientific certainty and arrogant, self-deluded error."

— Kirkus Reviews  (starred review)

"NASA wants to characterize the climate and geology of Mars, but it also wants to understand if life ever existed there... This very obsession, rampant in 19th-century Victorian culture, is the starting point for Ken Kalfus’s mesmerizing new novel Equilateral."

— Stacy Mickelbart, Kirkus Reviews  (At the Edge of Visibility)

"Like Thayer's enormous triangle, the Big Idea underlying Equilateral the novel isn't illuminated until nearly its completion. It's a pretty neat trick for a novelist to pull off, to obscure the fact that what at first looks like an intricate fantasy novel actually contains pointed social commentary. When Kalfus finally strikes that match, we readers finally see the light."

— Maureen Corrigan, Fresh Air  (Martians, Oil and a Hole in the Desert)

"One of our most protean, politically engaged, and morally penetrating writers, Kalfus is also consistently playful in his fiction..."

— David Burr Gerrard, KGB Bar Lit Magazine  (To Be Sure Of Things That Are In Fact Quite Mistaken: Ken Kalfus Interview)

"A straightforward setup with clear stakes, perhaps, but Kalfus' approach is a layered one: Equilateral's seemingly objective narrative voice remains so close to Thayer's perspective that it slowly manages to insinuate itself into the reader's consciousness, ultimately implicating us in Thayer's Victorian, colonialist worldview."

— Glen Weldon, npr.org  (Stars In His Eyes, Sending Smoke Signals To Mars)

"And so builds the magic of Kalfus’ book. Indeed, as it progresses, it’s hard not to regard the novel with something akin to the awe with which the characters regard their project."

— Lian Callanan, Washington Independent Review of Books  (Equilateral)