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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
While serving a ten-year sentence for manslaughter, Wardlin Stuart contemplates his mortality by writing prose poetry in the form of prayers, a methodology involving focus and intensity he calls prayerstyle. His philosophy is profoundly simple: "…whatever name one attached to a prayer, be it Allah or Jesus or Damballa, was less important than the intensity and particularity with which one prayed… Thus prayer, perhaps even faith, might be seen as an immoderate act of physics, a functional means of effecting small changes in reality."
When his spiritual entreaties miraculously come to fruition, other inmates begin asking him to write prayers for them -- all of which eventually come to fruition. By the time he is released, Stuart is a published author and, in the eyes of millions, the next messiah. His image is on the cover of Time and Newsweek, and he is featured on 60 Minutes and Larry King Live. But with all the sudden fame and fortune -- and all its trappings -- Stuart begins to doubt the legitimacy of prayerstyle. Is he really a modern-day shaman or just another con man?
Science fiction and fantasy fans who have marveled at Lucius Shepard's boundless imagination in previous novels (Valentine, Louisiana Breakdown, Viator, et al.) will be absolutely blown away by A Handbook of American Prayer. Like Kim Stanley Robinson's The Years of Rice and Salt and Heaven by Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen, the message behind this brilliantly surreal meditation on spirituality will stay with readers for a long, long time. Paul Goat Allen