Saturday, 18 June 2016

BOOK REVIEW: The Commons: Book 1: The Journeyman by Michael Allen Peck

Teenaged orphan, Paul, wanted nothing more than to get out of his dead-end life in New York and attend the annual Gaia festival where he was conceived some seventeen years earlier. He never made it. A blizzard and a bus crash made sure of that. Now stranded in the shambles of the weigh-station of the afterlife (the Commons) and with the last remaining Envoy as his only guide, Paul is relentlessly pursued by throngs of black-clad commandos. Their mission: to capture and bring him to the insidious Mr. Brill, a vile entity who bleeds souls for his own dark purposes. Can Paul make it to his ultimate destination or will he end up fodder for the machine like virtually every other departed soul in a millennia?

The Commons: The Journeyman is an extraordinary cross-genre novel. From beginning to end it seizes your attention and doesn't let go.  At the outset, the reader dives into Paul's psyche with visceral emotions:  terror, longing, pain. His time on the run is sharply contrasted with captivity of fellow bus passenger, war veteran and single mother, Annie whose lifetime devotion to her autistic son, Zach, fades into nothingness under the malevolent control of Brill and his mandated prescription pills. Peck infuses the reader with her feelings of confusion, disorientation, malaise and remorse. Both characters are integral to the plot and Peck seamlessly weaves their experiences together to move the story forward and evoke the desired emotional responses in the reader.

Indeed, throughout the novel, Peck strikes an almost perfect balance in terms of pacing, drama, plot and detail. The dialog is crisp, clear and realistic. The characterization is first rate. Peck keeps Brill mysterious and threatening enough to instil fear but also human enough to be accessible to the reader. Paul is appropriately off-balance in his new surroundings as well as unsure of his guide, Porter (who is marvellously unsure of himself) and the various companions he acquires, but remains a quintessential teenager. Everything about him maintains the illusion and keeps the reader engaged with his journey. The same is true of the rest of the cast, who are interspersed throughout the story and used to their maximum effect

The Commons is masterful fiction. This reviewer highly recommends it to readers of all genres. It's that good.

5 out of 5 stars

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