An ambitious businessman becomes the target of a Scientology-like organization in Emmons’s second novel (The Loss of Leon Meed, 2005).
On the eve of an assured promotion, Jack Smith gets fired, falls in love with a mysterious woman and is shot by an intruder. Hours later—or is it days?—Jack wakes to find that he has not been shot, but rather tranquilized, and he is now an involuntary patient at a Wellness Center run by the Prescription for Superior Existence, or PASE. Members of PASE include the famous, the powerful, the meek and the mild, each of whom follows PASE’s command to renounce all desire for sex, alcohol, drugs, money and worldly success. PASE is recognized by the IRS as an official religion, with all attendant tax relief. But many nonbelievers—including Jack—call PASE a cult, an elaborate brainwashing hoax. Insisting that he has been kidnapped, Jack demands his release. His disruptive behavior is swiftly quashed by security guards and peer pressure. Eventually he begins to read PASE founder Montgomery Shoale’s bestselling book, The Prescription, which, it is said, was revealed to the author by the one true UR (Ultimate Reality) God. After a few days of vegetarian food, exercise, PASE counseling and a blissful stint in the Synergy Device, Jack becomes PASE’s latest convert. That’s when his troubles really begin: The woman he fell in love with turns out to be Montgomery Shoale’s defiant daughter, who wants Jack to murder her father; a radical group of deprogrammers spirit Jack from the Center to make him their star witness in a class action suit against PASE; and the UR God is calling all PASE followers “home.” Will Jack prevent a worldwide mass suicide of PASE followers—or instigate it?
Neither ironic nor suspenseful, this novel, narrated by Jack mostly in summary flashback, fails to introduce convincing characters, let alone compellingly relay their plight.