three-and-half-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
22-May-June-2006
user_rating: 
0

A-PrayersForTheAssassinBy 2040, the United States has morphed into a Muslim nation. Because of nuclear attacks supposedly carried out by Israeli Mossad in 2015, the country is now divided into the Christian Bible Belt and the Islamic Republic, with Seattle as its capital and three major parties struggling for control. Only Sarah Dougan, a moderate Muslim who’s writing a book called The Zionist Betrayal?, suspects the dangerous truth: a fanatical Muslim billionaire, not Israel, carried out the attacks, and he now plans to attack the Bible Belt. Sarah’s discovery, however, puts her life at risk, and she and her secret lover, ex-Fedayeen warrior Rakkim Epps, must flee to save their lives.
Scribner. 416 pages. $24.95. ISBN: 0743272897

Philadelphia Inquirer 4.5 of 5 Stars
"The way he explains the conversion of the United States, detailing it as a calculated series of events, makes it seem almost as if it could happen, and that’s good enough to accept as the backdrop of a thriller novel. … No matter how many books you’ve read, you’ve never read one like this before." David J. Montgomery

Seattle Times 4 of 5 Stars
"[The novel] also becomes a springboard for larger issues: questions of religious freedom, lost faith, and tolerance or the lack thereof. … [T]he author refrains from beating readers on the head with a personal agenda, instead letting them form their own opinions about the thought-provoking future world he has conjured." Adam Woog

Los Angeles Times 3 of 5 Stars
"Here we enter the realm of the garden-variety thriller in which authors are fearless of coincidence and impervious to burdensome literary conventions like character development. Unlike some of his better-selling brethren, however, Ferrigno does manage to keep his pronouns’ antecedents fairly clear." Tim Rutten

New York Times 3 of 5 Stars
"While the book’s background exerts a grim sci-fi fascination, its central story manages to be surprisingly ordinary. Even in this radically altered future, heroes and villains and romantics behave pretty much as expected. … Prayers for the Assassin weakens its ingenuity with clichéd thriller touches." Janet Maslin

News & Observer 3 of 5 Stars
"Think Jihad Cola and afternoon prayers at Super Bowl halftime. … Prayers is patently preposterous paranoia run amok—and curiously addicting mind candy." Rob Cockshutt

Critical Summary

Prayers marks a departure for Ferrigno, whose previous books focused on life in contemporary Southern California. In Ferrigno’s neo-Orwellian world, Mount Rushmore has disappeared, LAX has become Bin Laden International, and midday prayers interrupt the Super Bowl. Critics expressed different ideas about the plot, using words such as "preposterous," "credible," and even "ordinary" to describe it. There’s no doubt, however, that Ferrigno raises important questions about religious freedom while handling the subject of Islamic faith with great insight and evenhandedness. If the plot sometimes overwhelms character development, he still allows his creations to air their own opinions without moralizing. In sum: a fast-paced thriller with timely appeal.