Neal Barrett Jr. deserves to be in a special category of fantasist among writers like Fritz Leiber and Jack Vance. Like them, Barrett is a master of absurdist Sword & Sorcery. The protagonist of The Prophecy Machine, Finn, is s lizard maker, that is he crafts exquisite mechanical life-forms. Finn, along with his beloved is Leticia Louise (a Newbie, as humanized animals are called in Finn’s world) and Julia Jessica Slagg, the lizard to end all lizards, get stranded in Mahasar where everyone is more-or-less insane. Finn regards himself as eminently sane, and is increasingly (and comically) frustrated by the shenanigans of Mahasar.
Soon Finn is drawn into a bizarre mystery involving rival sects of madmen, his deranged host, bad food, and a machine of awesome, yet obscure power. The Prophecy Machine is rather like Skinny Annie Blues, a way of torturing the protagonist in a delightfully amusing way while putting a fresh twist on old genre standards like fantasy and mystery.