- The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heep.
- H. G. Parry.
- 496 pages.
- My Rating: Hellyeah Book Review.
For his entire life, Charley Sutherland has concealed a magical ability he can’t quite control: he can bring characters from books into the real world. His older brother, Rob – a young lawyer with an utterly normal life – hopes that this strange family secret will disappear with disuse, and he will be discharged from his duty of protecting Charley and the real world from each other.
But then, literary characters start causing trouble in their city, making threats about destroying the world, and for once, it isn’t Charley’s doing. There’s someone else out there who shares his powers and it’s up to Charley and a reluctant Rob to stop them – before anyone gets to The End.
I received a free copy of this book courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Dr Charles Sutherland is a lecturer at the Prince Albert University of Wellington, New Zealand with an ability, he can bring characters from books to life. Engrossed in a book, lost in the created world he reads them into being, from off the pages and into reality. One night, whilst deep in his research Charley reads Uriah Heep straight out of the pages of David Copperfield and into the English department of the University. Charley calls his older brother Rob for help in assisting him with getting Uriah back in his book. Before they manage to get Uriah Heep back into David Copperfield he gives Charley and Rob a warning, telling them that a new world is coming. There is another summoner, someone like Charley who can bring characters into existence and they have bad intentions.
After the encounter with Uriah Heep and a few other events (no spoilers from me), Charley feels a pull to a street in the centre of Wellington, an impossible street that sits halfway between fiction and reality. A hidden Victorian street where an assortment of literary characters that have all been pulled out of their books have made their home. It is while investigating the street that Rob and Charley meet Millie Radcliffe-Dix, a plucky fictional heroine who is full of moxie. Millie is a girl detective and adventuress from the Millie Radcliffe-Dix series of detective stories from the 1930s and 1940s and written by Jacqueline Blaine. With the help of Millie, Charley and Rob will attempt to find out who the other summoner is and stop them.
Millie Radcliffe-Dix is a new character created by Parry for her book. Unlike many of the others who have been borrowed, purloined, transported and mixed into her book in a cocktail of classic characters with Sherlock Holmes, the Hound of the Baskervilles, a number of Mr Darcy’s, Matilda Wormwood, The Witch Witch, Heathcliff, Dorian Gray, Dr Frankenstein, Dracula, the Artful Dodger and others all making appearances and the work of Charles Dickens plays a large part in the story. I will say that my own Dickens knowledge is admittedly bare-bones and it is based solely on the TV adaptations and films of his work. I have never read an actual Dickens book and, the same goes for Bronte and Austen, I haven’t read any of their work either. But, all isn’t lost for me and I’m not a complete illiterate buffoon as I have read all the Conan Doyle Holmes collections and stories (I’ve also read Matilda). I mention this because my lack of any detailed knowledge on certain characters/authors works wasn’t an impediment to my enjoyment of the story, at all and others out there might be the same as me and haven’t read the classics either.
Along with characters Charley can also bring objects out of books too, not the mundane, everyday type of items. But, items and objects that have meaning and that are important to the story in the book that he is reading. The character that Charley brings out of the book is the character with their core, their personality and their traits remaining the same as those written by the author and their creator. But, at the same time, they are also shaped by Charley’s own perception of them. I thought that this was extremely well done and a nice little touch by Parry. We know that as a reader that we all view a character (and, for that matter, a story too) slightly differently from another reader. That we develop our own individual impression of the characters visualising their appearances, certain aspects of their personality and their traits that to the reader might be more or less pronounced than intended and written by the author. And, even if we see them exactly as the author intended we are still reading them, seeing them through our own eyes.
The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heep is well-written by Parry and told mostly from the first-person perspective of Rob, with occasional third-person chapters from Millie and Lydia (Rob’s girlfriend) along with a few interspersed excerpts from Charlie’s childhood diaries. Rob is a terrific voice as the narrator and, he, along with Charley and Millie make for a fantastic trio of characters that are ably supported by an eclectic cast of secondary characters.
Charley is a genius, a child prodigy and Rob is his normal older brother. Charley left Wellington to study at Oxford at the age of thirteen-years-old and was gone for a decade only returning three years ago and taking up a job as a university lecturer. Rob became a lawyer and has made his life in Wellington but with Charley’s return, his life has seen an upheaval back to the days of his youth when he had to help Charley put characters back into their books. Rob is exasperated when it happens. With Charley now an adult he expects that he should either be able to deal with it himself. Or, that he should be able to control the ability so that it doesn’t happen. Charley gets easily lost in the book, the story and the characters that he is reading about, connecting with them, bringing them to life in his mind, picturing them and thinking about them. Lost in the book, the characters, the story and the world all become real to him and he inadvertently brings a character out. Rob will help Charley, they are brothers but it is a reluctant help, given begrudgingly because it keeps happening. Rob seems to war with himself, he is Charley’s older brother, he loves him, he will protect him. But, at the same time he annoys, irritates and vexes him. Rob has never understood Charley’s ability and it makes him uncomfortable. With Charley he is out of his element, he is realistic, living in the real while Charley, with his ability, seems to live between worlds, half in reality and half in the fantastical. Unlike being a duo of friends or thrown together acquaintances Rob and Charley being brothers and all the history that comes with their relationship adds an extra layer to the story. It’s a complicated relationship between the two siblings, fraught and tenuous. They are family with the familial bond, the ties that bind, that run deep and sometimes, it is only through adversity that you see how much someone means to you and you discover the lengths that you will go to in order to protect them.
The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heep is weird, wonderful, funny and at times, emotional. A delightfully entertaining romp where the fictional and the real world collide merging together adventure and mystery. It is a bibliophile’s paradise, a treasure trove of literary characters, of references, a book that celebrates the bond that is created between a reader and a book and the perfect book for readers everywhere regardless of their favoured genre.
Simply, if you love reading, you will love this book.
Pre-order The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heep released on January 23rd, 2020.
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