Arms From the Sea, Rich Shapero, 193 pgs, TooFar Media, richshapero.com, $9.99 USD
Rich Shapero is best known for having made a lot of money doing the California tech thing and then using some of that money – what would be a fortune to most of us – to self-publish, market and distribute a book called Wild Animus. Years ago my uncle gave me a copy of Wild Animus, with an accompanying themed music CD, which he had been given for free at, I believe, an airport. If I remember correctly the main guy has an ecstasy-epiphany involving a jet of lava and a deer antlers hat.
Arms From the Sea wasn’t nearly as bad as I was expecting. Don’t get me wrong, it’s terrible; it’s just that much of the time his prose is quite decent when limited to physical description. “’Where are you taking me?’ Lyle asked the bird. It turned toward him, copper eye glaring, impenetrable. The beak looked weathered, carved from fossilized bone. The jowls trembled as if about to speak, then the neck feathers bristled and the bird faced forward.” Not bad!
Lyle, the protagonist, is a masculine dissident in a typical dystopia, which is called Salt because there’s salt everywhere. He carves sea creatures out of blocks of salt, memorializing a precedent sea civilization. He then has a drug/dream/shock therapy/actual entry into a spiritual realm thing, whereby he ends up in the sea heaven place and has repetitious interactions with a god that talks like a corporate spiritualist Life Coach.
Shapero has nothing to say yet is constantly trying to be profound. His world is artificial, more magic than realism, with a creation story that makes no significant reference to any pre-existing creation mythology. So we learn less about ourselves than about made-up sea creatures.
Rich Shapero does have some skill with language, and a lot of ambition, and ought to devote it to a novel about the tech bubble in the early 2000s. He knows about that and his overheated imagination might render a real event vivid and surreal in a good way. I’d read that novel.