The commons takes you on a whirlwind journey through vividly surreal landscapes populated by quirky characters.
The only thing that could be called common about this book is the first four chapters. Paul is a disadvantaged youth, travelling to San Francisco with the last of his money. Then things get weird, you are catapulted into a wacky and wonderful world where tattoos catch flies and mummies in aviators make excellent bodyguards.
‘The commons’ is what we would call purgatory, where the ‘dead’ are guided on journeys to determine whether they move on to the afterlife or back to the world of the living. Except that when Paul arrives, a man called Brill has upset the balance, enslaving people and ‘essence’–the substance which creates the world. Hence the commons is an even more wacky place than usual. Needless to say, our heroes set about making things right, though not altogether consciously.
Three characters, Paul, Annie and her son Zach, make separate journeys through this dreamscape. A lot of it doesn’t make immediate sense, but I loved every word of it and the way their journeys come together seamlessly at the end is pure perfection (I admit I got goosebumps). The world of the commons is meticulously thought out, with relevant world building information provided to readers at just the right times. The plot moves along at a steady trot, I never knew what to expect next, be it a bunny powered airport or a monk that’s an expert fighter. The plot just works in all the right ways while still being delightfully bamboozling.
I cannot fault this book. The characters are believable and awesome, the prose is evocative and the story and world is so unlike anything I’ve ever read. I want to reread it (several times) to fully appreciate the metaphysics and symbolism that’s woven throughout it. (Also just to spend more time in this delightful world)
It doesn’t need a sequel but my god would I love to read one!
An extremely enthusiastic five stars. I nominate this book for a seal of excellence.