Book Review: The Commons (Book 1) – The Journeyman, by Michael Alan Peck

Publisher: Dinuhos Arts  |  Publication date: 10th January 2015  |  This edition: Paperback

The Commons My Review

The Commons - Jounryeman 1 by Michael Alan PeckThis meaty brick of a book is a continuously evolving fantasy. It follows a life-after-death trail that will ignite your imagination where there are no limits. Its furiously bizarre episodes will appeal to anyone with a liking for otherly places, where pretty much anything goes. With zero profanity and plenty of action it was a absolute breeze to read. 

Paul Reid, the main character, dies. No, that’s not a massive spoiler and I’ve just ruined it for you. From the point of his demise, his life-after-death episode is very much different to what you would expect and it tests his inner resolve to the max. He finds himself wandering in what can only be described as an afterlife of sorts, otherwise known as The Commons. 

To give you an idea of the situations our young hero faces during his incarceration there, Paul’s journey through The Commons is guided by an old envoy called Porter, although the young lad soon realises that any choices he makes are entirely his own and may have direct consequences for the rest of the inhabitants. The envoy is a little out of practice with the game that is afoot, as The Commons has been under siege for quite some time. Paul and his envoy will face a nemesis with the sole purpose of controlling any life essence that clings to the unfortunates who arrive to start their own journeys.

Along the way, seemingly everyday situations are fraught with oddities and tension. There’s a whole host of intriguing characters, like a well-mannered, giant bandaged mummy, and a monk who prefers to communicate by sign language as his voice is dubbed like a seventies martial arts film. There are supressed souls, menacing underwater creatures, and an Autistic boy, Zach, who discovers new abilities with the help of unexpected sources when he is separated from his mother during a perilous journey of his own.

The threat is constant and order seems impossible when sly tactics are at play. Can a fractured group of very different souls succeed in restoring balance? Just how far can they trust each other?

This is a fairly weighty book tipping the scales at 538 pages and yet the time flew by as is explored an interpretation of ‘limbo’, while taking into consideration the life people have lead and the choices that face them at the hour of death. At the moment, people entering The Commons do not get that luxury. The decisions are made for them under a dictatorship that is, the formidable Mr Brill – who survives on a diet of fear and evil, and his shadow has a very long reach. The ending allows further progression and I’d certainly be interested in seeing where the next journey would take me.

Alrighty then. I like a quirky story and this was undoubtedly impressive on that score. It’s certainly a thought-provoker too, although I feel this would appeal more to readers who embrace fantasy or science fiction elements, as it’s not your average, run-of-the-mill tale.

Rating: 4/5

(My thanks to Book Publicity Services for providing a paperback copy of this book for review purposes.)

The Commons Book Summary

“Paul Reid died in the snow at seventeen. The day of his death, he told a lie—and for the rest of his life, he wondered if that was what killed him.”

And so begins the battle for the afterlife, known as The Commons. It’s been taken over by a corporate raider who uses the energy of its souls to maintain his brutal control. The result is an imaginary landscape of a broken America—stuck in time and overrun by the heroes, monsters, dreams, and nightmares of the imprisoned dead.

Three people board a bus to nowhere: a New York street kid, an Iraq War veteran, and her five-year-old special-needs son. After a horrific accident, they are the last, best hope for The Commons to free itself. Along for the ride are a shotgun-toting goth girl, a six-foot-six mummy, a mute Shaolin monk with anger-management issues, and the only guide left to lead them.

Three Journeys: separate but joined. One mission: to save forever.

But first they have to save themselves.

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The Commons Author Bio

Author Michael Alan PeckMichael Alan Peck tells tales big and small. Life’s magical, but it isn’t always enough for a good story. So he makes up the rest.

He’s made his living writing about TV, its celebrities, and its past. He’s also put food on the table reviewing restaurants and writing about travel.

He has a godawful memory, so he focuses on the written word. He likes to think that over time, he’s gotten better at it—the writing, not the remembering. He forgets important dates. He’s pretty good with movie lines. But after several years, he tends to tweak them. He prefers his versions over the real ones.

Funny goes a long way with him. Probably further than it should.

He grew up outside Philadelphia and has lived in New York, L.A., and San Francisco. His current home base is Chicago.

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Book Review: Gideon Smith and The Brass Dragon, by David Barnett

Publisher:  Snow Books   |   Publication date: 1st September 2014   |   Edition: Paperback

Review steampunk

Gideon Smith and Brass Dragon by David BarnettWhat a cracking read!

I knew I’d set course for a rollicking adventure of epic proportion from the get-go when I read that Charles Darwin had shipwrecked the Mayflower on a Jurassic Park style Island, and I discovered he was fuelled by a furnace in his abdomen fed tiny bits of coal. Yes, this is a tale where imagination knows no bounds.  And that’s only the beginning.

Very soon, a magnificent woman in her flying machine will ferry a team across the globe to complete a quest to save the girl (a mechanical girl), oh, and maybe a brass dragon too. Well, it would be rude not to!

Here, Gideon Smith, the Hero of the Empire, will cross paths with a mysterious Nameless Stranger in the Wild West, but not as we know it. He will protect the innocent, right the wrongs of wicked villainy from a half-man half-machine called Pinch, while battling his henchmen who terrorise anyone that enters their town and beyond it. But things don’t always go according to plan and our good guys will find themselves in all kinds of hot water…

Each chapter finishes with a suspenseful pause making you crave the next. The re-writing of historical events was first class, just casually dropped into conversations, as if these were the authentic versions – it’s very convincing!

This tale is packed to the brim with bizarre and unique characters. But the journalist, wind-breaking champion and king of the one-liner, Aloysuis Bent, took centre stage for me. I’d have loved to have seen much more action from Gideon, whose name is featured in the title of the book. Then again, Bent was a tough act for anyone to follow.

Right. I’m off to have a nosy at the other books in the series, as that one was quite a ride.

For now, I’ll leave you with a little quote from the book:

Sometimes bravery’s just about having the gonads to stick your head above the parapet and say, hey, I’m different. And I don’t give a rat’s ass.

Couldn’t have said it better myself.

Rating: 4/5

(My thanks to the publisher and Anna Torborg for sending a paperback copy of this book as a result of a competition they ran.)

Book Summary steampunk

(Amazon UK)

Nineteenth century London is the center of a vast British Empire, a teeming metropolis where steam-power is king and airships ply the skies, and where Queen Victoria presides over three quarters of the known world-including the east coast of America, following the failed revolution of 1775.Young Gideon Smith has seen things that no green lad of Her Majesty’s dominion should ever experience. Through a series of incredible events Gideon has become the newest Hero of the Empire. But Gideon is a man with a mission, for the dreaded Texas pirate Louis Cockayne has stolen the mechanical clockwork girl Maria, along with a most fantastical weapon-a great brass dragon that was unearthed beneath ancient Egyptian soil. Maria is the only one who can pilot the beast, so Cockayne has taken girl and dragon off to points east.Gideon and his intrepid band take to the skies and travel to the American colonies hot on Cockayne’s trail. Not only does Gideon want the machine back, he has fallen in love with Maria. Their journey will take them to the wilds of the lawless lands south of the American colonies-to free Texas, where the mad King of Steamtown rules with an iron fist (literally), where life is cheap and honor even cheaper.Does Gideon have what it takes to not only save the day but win the girl?

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Author Profile steampunk

(Amazon UK)

David Barnett is an award-winning journalist and author based in West Yorkshire. He was born in Wigan, Lancashire, in 1970 and has worked in regional newspapers since 1989. He is the author of the Gideon Smith alternate history series from Tor Books, beginning in 2013 with Gideon Smith and the Mechanical Girl. David is also the author of Hinterland (2005, reprinted 2008), Angelglass (2007) and The Janus House and Other Two-Faced Tales (2009), all published by Immanion Press, as well as popCULT!, published in 2011 from Pendragon Press. His work has been translated into Czech, Russian and German. He is represented by the literary agent John Jarrold. David is married to Claire, also an award-winning journalist, and they have two children, Charlie and Alice.

AUTHOR ON TWITTER   |   GIDEON SMITH MINI WEBSITE