Book Review: The Unlikely Heroics of Sam Holloway by Rhys Thomas

The Unlikely Heroics of Sam HollowayThe Unlikely Heroics of Sam Holloway is a rather unusual book, based around the seemingly ordinary exploits of Sam Holloway – a young man who dresses up as a superhero at night. It’s a beautifully written, heartfelt story, which is both hilarious and tragic at the same time. We gradually delve deeper into Sam Holloway’s world, and begin to understand the circumstances which have led him to lead this double life – an incredible weight of sorrow with which he has learned to live. 

Sam’s life is ordered and neat. He works hard and occasionally joins his friends for social occasions that are not too difficult or stressful. At night he dresses up as ‘The Phantasm’ and patrols the streets, on the lookout for criminals up to no good, or ordinary citizens in need of assistance. He helps old ladies with their shopping, gives hooligans a fright, and attempts to repatriate stolen goods, all whilst wearing a mask that gives him a feeling of immense invincibility. He also has an insatiable appetite for Toffee Crisps and Cherry Coke. In the daytime he works hard in his job at a Japanese electronic components wholesaler, and returns home to a clean and empty house, where he does his best not to think or remember.

But then he meets Sarah, a girl who seems genuinely interested in him, and his ordered life begins to fall apart. He must confront his fears, step out of his comfort zone and tackle one new scenario after another. But he soon begins to realise that all this change is leading towards one thing: he must tell Sarah about ‘The Event’ and face the past head on.

As the novel gradually reveals the heart-breaking circumstances that have affected Sam’s life, we begin to see how his role as ‘The Phantasm’ stems from his joy of reading comics as a child, and an overwhelming desire to escape from reality. But it’s not that simple. The more involved Sam becomes with Sarah, the more afraid he is that she may one day find out about his exploits as ‘The Phantasm’. And yet their growing relationship spurs him on to ever more dangerous feats, until he begins to put his life in real danger.

Sarah, meanwhile, is hiding a secret of her own – a past which comes back to haunt her in the form of ex-boyfriend Zac. The story builds in momentum as Sam begins to let go of the props that have held him together over the last few years, releasing an avalanche of grief which threatens everything he has, culminating in a dramatic finale, as Sam must gather all his courage for one last heroic act.

This is a hilarious, laugh-out-loud story which also manages to be deadly serious, proving that it takes incredible courage to overcome the pain of grief. Described as similar to The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion, it’s actually a far more accomplished novel – one which will cut you to the heart and remind you of what’s most important in life. It’s also a brilliant portrayal of true friendship – in all its messiness and confusion. Read this book – I can’t recommend it highly enough. The book will be published in August 2018.

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Declaration: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher, as well as a Toffee Crisp!