Young American author Michael Alan Peck makes his literary debut with a contemporary fantasy series THE COMMONS of which this is Book 1 -THE JOURNEYMAN. Having lived in Philadelphia New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and now Chicago, Michael has seen the spectrum of the country, and one may suspect that his first novel may have been a road book, especially with the subtitle `The Journeyman'. His previous writing has been journalistic- his topics, celebrities, television past and present, restaurants, travel, search engine optimization and content strategy. But then this man's work is new to us and it is with pleasure and surprise that he has elected to escape all that and enter the realm of fantasy - just when escape form the chaos of life as we are living it is begging for some escapism! Or as he states, `Funny goes a long way with me. Probably further than it should.'
In a recent interview with the Chicago Sun-Times, Michael offers insights into his new endeavor: `The Journeyman is the first in a contemporary-fantasy series about an afterlife world known as The Commons. It's a Purgatory-like place, only without the default setting of guilt and suffering. When you die, you end up there and are assigned a guide who helps you on a journey to determine what your fate will be. The landscape creates itself around your memories, dreams, and experiences, and you face a challenge tailored to you, your experiences, and your imaginings. It's like Defending Your Life on Fantasy Island, I suppose, only with much higher stakes and a lot more weaponry, teeth, and claws. There's just one problem. The Commons has been taken over by a corporate-raider type who's using its imprisoned souls to power his own immortality. The whole place is stuck in time, with random imaginary beings from all of the captured people's dreams wandering the landscape--robots, dinosaurs, monsters ... you name it. Three unlikely heroes--a New York street kid, an Iraq War vet, and her five-year-old special-needs son end up there, and they're the only chance The Commons has to free itself--provided they themselves can survive.'
Much of the success of this debut novel lies in the affinity the author has for the vagaries and idiosyncrasies of human characters. He introduces us to them slowly, allows them each to carry a story, and in the end their miscegenated destiny has much more meaning. Paul is 17, a foster home lad now living in a group home, Annie and Iraq war veteran and her autistic child are on a bus to San Francisco and an accident which proves to be their entry into the Commons mentioned above: their `travel companions' include Rain, a Goth girl, Po, a bizarre little Shaolin monk, Ken, a mummy (yes, a mummy - very large in size), and envoy Jonas Porter. The Commons, despite its takeover by one Mr. Brill whose intense goal is to prevent these souls from passing beyond The Commons for his own selfish reasons, is the one place where our travelers can change their lives - if they can but pass beyond. A strange cast of characters beautifully sculpted by Peck. And to quote him again, `I'm drawn to brave misfits thrown into situations they didn't ask for. Most people are.' The book falls into the fantasy/sci-fi/paranormal kettle of designation, but it is so uniquely crafted that it defies that classification. It is simply a marvelously well- written make-believe story of which hopefully there will be more! Grady Harp, July 14