An extended allegory on greed and religion set in a mine that’s home to a fickle goddess, a hooker with a heart of gold and a raft of other familiar archetypes.
We must “dig” for meaning in our lives, pop psychologists tell us. For his third novel (Wild Animus, 2004; Too Far, 2010), Shapero stretches that notion to its breaking point with a story starring Zack Knox, a Buffalo Bill–style showman who winds up trapped among the workers in a large quartz mine. Beneath all the rock, the laborers believe, is a deity called Hope. Though they behave adoringly toward their presumed spiritual leader (Hope is invoked at seemingly every turn), they’re effectively slave labor for Trevillian, the mining boss who becomes Zack’s enemy as he stokes a rebellion. Naturally, they’re also fighting for a woman’s affections as well. It’s punishingly clear that Shapero is concerned with how selfish aspirations erode communities as well as souls, but the novel struggles to dramatize this, laden with overwrought turns of phrase (“Panic rolled over and opened one eye”) and bombastic dialogue (“To be a man is to live in darkness and sleep with shame”). The app includes 10 country-folk songs written by Shapero; they’re professionally executed, but their lyrical abstractions add little to the story. (The tunes are purportedly written from the perspective of the madam of the mining town’s brothel.) Ten pieces of artwork are also included, mainly depicting Hope and her grateful followers. The app cleverly asks users to pinch open a “quartz seam” to enter the layers of story, music and art; alas, it’s one of the few clever exploitations of the metaphor to be had here.
There are many veins to explore here, but they are mostly stuffed with fool’s gold. (Requires iOS 7 and above.)