BOOK REVIEW: RHYS THOMAS – THE UNLIKELY HEROICS OF SAM HOLLOWAY

*Just a gentle note, this review may contain small spoilers*

I’ve seen this cover all over my Twitter and it always sparked my interest. I then looked the book up online and after reading the blurb, I was hooked. And I was lucky to win a copy on Twitter! So, what’s it all about? Here’s the blurb:

Sam Holloway has survived the worst that life can throw at you. But he’s not really living. His meticulous routines keep everything nice and safe – with just one exception…

Three nights a week, Sam dons his superhero costume and patrols the streets. It makes him feel invincible – but his unlikely heroics are getting him into some sticky situations.

Then a girl comes along and starts to shatter the walls Sam has built around himself. Now, he needs to decide if he’s brave enough to take off the mask, and to confront the grief he’s been avoiding for so long…

Sounds great, doesn’t it? I really enjoyed this book and got swept away into Sam’s world. There’s so much to talk about with this book, so I’ll try to keep them brief. Underneath, and at the heart of the novel, there’s a great tragedy that Sam is still grieving over. There’s a huge sadness that hangs over the novel, but it doesn’t define it. I thought this was written with sensitivity and wasn’t over-the-top, it was real and heartbreaking.

I’ve said in many of reviews that recently, I’ve really enjoyed the leading character where I usually enjoy reading the rest of the characters but I loved Sam. Straight away, you know what he looks like, how he acts, how he holds himself, how he drinks, how he eats, how he speaks. He just bounced off the page. Sam’s story throughout the novel is brilliantly charted and the peaks are all in the right places. You feel sorry for him, you want to make him a cup of tea for him and tell him everything’s okay, you want to go to the pub with him, you want to go clubbing with him, and most of all, you want to go out into the darkness and be a superhero with him.

Sam’s alter-ego, The Phantasm, is a massive part of the novel, of course. At times, it did annoy me and I preferred the normal chapters but it was still a great read. Thomas writes with so much pace, it really does feel like a film. You are swept away with The Phantasm trying to do good in the world, hardly holding your breath. But of course, Sam isn’t a superhero. He’s a young man struggling with his grief and thinks challenging his energy into being the Phantasm would solve everything. But does it? At times, yes, but overall, does it really? I thought this was brilliantly written with tenderness and just well observed.

There are also other brilliant characters in the novel, especially Sarah. Immediately, I warmed to Sarah and found her fascinating and interesting. Just like Sam, she is dealing with her past and is struggling with it. Can the two of them help each other? Throughout the novel, their relationship is beautifully written but how does it end? Also, Francis is an idiot.

I think I would love to read this book when I was a lot younger as I was a lot more obsessed with comic books, the ideas of superhero’s running out into the night, flying over me, I would even dream about them. Through his grief, Sam delves into his comics that become his sanctuary, he’s lost in his imagination. This was a favourite part of the book for me. How through emotional trauma and turmoil, we hide away and get absorbed by something that we hold dear and reminds us of the past, our childhood, just like Sam does with his comics. For example, a piece of Thomas’ beautiful writing on this:

… something happened that hadn’t happened in a long time. He began reading. He began reading the words on the pages, bubbles emerging from mouths, and as he did this there came a sensation of warm fluid flowing through him. He was reading again, as the perfect white clouds drifted across the dome and the wind moved serenely through the trees of the garden.

This is a beautiful tale of a young man dealing with his grief, on the power of loneliness, the power of kindness, the power of just one person coming into your life and helping you to move on from your past. It’s about living in the present and not letting your past define you but shape you, changing just like the seasons. A gorgeous, beautiful read. If you read The Lost Letters of William Woolf, I think you’d love this too. I think Sam and William would be great friends. I can easily see this becoming a TV series/movie and I want to play Sam. Just saying…

And not all superhero’s wear capes. Some just wear clothes from Tesco, almost burn the house down with a pizza in the oven and sits in the pub with his friends with a pint with a dash of lemonade.

Have you read The Unlikely Heroics of Sam Holloway yet? What did you think? Let me know in the comments!

Thanks,

Corey.

 

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