Jack Smith is your average single thirtysomething businessman. That is, his life revolves around work, failed relationships, alcohol, painkillers, and pornography, and he sees no reason to change. But when he unwittingly comes into conflict with a burgeoning new California religion called Prescription for a Superior Existence, his routine is shattered and put back together so fantastically that his actions could impact the whole world.
Against a backdrop of environmental cata-strophe and postmillennial tension, Jack's troubles begin when he is fired from his job and falls in love with Mary, the daughter of PASE's founder, and they reach an apex with his ab-duction and installation at one of the religion's spiritual training centers near San Francisco. As he is forced to learn about PASE's ascetic practices, his aversion and skepticism are challenged by a sense of community and purpose previously unknown to him. In the context of PASE, Jack discovers that he might not be average, that he might in fact be extraordinary, and the discovery is intoxicating. Nothing is as it seems, however -- not PASE, its enigmatic founder, his comrades, or even Mary -- and the question of whether he and those around him are headed toward group transcendence or its opposite takes on global significance
A thrilling and timely novel about a flawed, ordinary man who is torn between love and the appeal of a powerfully seductive cult, Prescription for a Superior Existence explores the bounds of faith and human connection, and showcases the spectacular imagination of one of our most talented young writers.
The title of this book by second-time novelist Josh Emmons (The Loss of Leon Meed) is taken from the fictitious (but perhaps Scientology-inspired) cult around which much of the ideas and action spin. The PASE handbook, written by creepy messiah Montgomery Shoal, combines pseudo-science, self-help and religious fervor, while advocating abstention from sex and addictive substances. The novel's protagonist, Jack Smith, works in finance and has a penchant for painkillers, alcohol, junk food and pornography. An indiscreet after-hours visit to a strip club paid for by a company credit card leads to an ultimatum from his boss: become a "Paser" or be fired. At the same time, Jack finds himself repeatedly running into Mary Shoal, the daughter of the PASE founder. His dalliance with her results in his kidnapping and "re-education" at the hands of the PASE organization. Jack's resistance is gradually replaced with acceptance, but the blithe PASE way of life is darkened by apocalyptic predictions, forcing Jack to question his conversion. Emmons's yarn is engaging, but he can't seem to decide whether PASE is a force for good or evil in Pasers' lives, and the book fails to fully consider the ramifications of the issues it raises.