A lone man appeared on campus a few weeks ago distributing bundled copies of the novel “Too Far” by Rich Shapero, and its apparent audio accompaniment, “Dawn Remembers.”
I immediately experienced a creeping sensation when the gentleman handed me a free copy. It was inexplicable for a second, déjà vu, utterly uncanny until I remembered the last time free books were distributed on campus. Current upperclassmen may remember that approximately two years ago, strange glossy boxes, each containing a book called “Wild Animus” by Shapero, appeared all over campus.
“Too Far” is a second coming of sorts. It is Shapero’s second novel. As if by some miracle, it’s even worse than “Wild Animus,” a novel that was used to prop open doors all over Mesa Court and Middle Earth, and whose pages were ripped out and used as tinder.
Shapero’s second novel employs similar themes as his first. It tells the story of Robbie, a 6-year-old boy who lives on the outskirts of Fairbanks, Alaska. He meets Fristeen, a girl his age, and the two quickly become inseparable as they venture deeper and deeper into the mysterious woodlands that surround their homes.
Robbie and Fristeen enter into a fantasy world of their own creation in the woods, and at first it seems that Shapero is trying to build a children’s fantasy land in the spirit of Katherine Paterson’s classic children’s novel, “Bridge to Terabithia.” They encounter Dawn and the Dream Man in their magical forest, but after Robbie and Fristeen decide that what they saw in the sky was Dawn and Dream Man consummating their marriage, the novel becomes steadily creepier.
Eventually, the children decide that they want to remain with Dawn and Dream Man forever. The summer is drawing to a close, and their family situations in their real homes are falling apart. Robbie’s parents are drifting further apart, and Fristeen’s mother is an addict, who doesn’t take care of her child. Eventually, they decide that the only way to stay together forever is to commit suicide in a secluded cabin.
The ending holds some surprises, and Shapero maintains a decent level of suspense as to whether or not Robbie and Fristeen will commit suicide, but that does not save the novel from itself.
“Too Far” holds the distinction of being the worst novel I have ever read, and until I realized that it was self-published by Shapero, I was furious that any publisher or editor would let such trash enter into the market. As for the accompanying CD, “Dawn Remembers”? My friend Michael put it best after we popped it into a stereo:
“Dude, what the hell? This sounds like a crazy person made this, like literally a crazy person recorded this.” And on top of that, a little bit of white powder puffed out and covered Michael’s hands when he opened the little booklet that came with the CD. We got scared, and I told him to wash his hands.
Rating: 0.5 out of 5