“This is no ordinary love story and Sam is no typical hero…but he is a hero.
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, and increasingly dangerous, situations.
Then a girl comes into his life, and his ordered world is thrown into chaos … and now Sam needs to decide whether he can be brave enough to finally take off the mask.
Both hilarious and heart-warming, this is a story about love, loneliness, grief, and the life-changing power of kindness.”
It is publication day for this book, so happy Publication Day, Rhys, and thank you for the opportunity to read your book.
When one of the lines in the book you are reading is ‘Tonight was handkerchief-ironing night.’, you know you are not reading about an ordinary man, and the titular character in The Unlikely Heroics of Sam Holloway is very far from ordinary. Even when he was a child, Sam was not ordinary. He was one of the socially awkward, uninspiring, wallpaper kids at school – too unattractive and uncool to be popular, but not different enough to be a stand-out in that way either. He always had few friends and was lonely and the passing of years and the occurrence of The Event have only exacerbated the problem.
Sam is an incredibly lonely, lost and unhappy person and it has been a long time since I have felt so acutely the simple pain of living from day to day for any character in a novel. The author does an amazing job of painting Sam and his desperate attempts to manage his life in the face of the gaping voids in his existence in such a way that the small slights and disappointments of his every day existence slice through you in exactly the same way as they do through him. He tries so hard to be a good person in a world where nobody cares, he is so unimportant, and it is excruciating to read.
Sam has managed to find a way to get through every day by way of an extremely ordered and routine life and he is unprepared for anything the upsets this routine. He mostly hides away in his house with his comics and movies, only venturing out occasionally with his very few friends who are as much misfits as he is, the only reason he believes they became friends. And on three nights a week, Sam dons a costume and mask and goes out onto the dark streets of his home town to fight crimes as The Phantasm. Then a girl comes into his life and threatens to turn everything upside down.
The plot sounds outlandish but the book is written in such a way that it is completely understandable as to why Sam is doing what he does and my heart broke for him all the way through because his pain and loneliness and feelings of impotence leapt off the page and made me totally sympathise with his actions. Any one who has ever struggled with any kind of anxiety or depression will recognise the need to try and impose some kind of control over their world, and also find means of escape. This passage particularly resonated with me – “He’d never read them all, but it didn’t matter. Just the sheer volume of stories made him feel safe.” He is talking about his collection of comic books but I feel exactly the same way about my huge library and my compulsive book buying. A lot of people will recognise elements of themselves in Sam if they really think about it.
All the way through the book I was willing things to work out for Sam but truly feeling that they wouldn’t, mostly because he isn’t even sure he wants them to, he is so afraid of stepping out of the comfortable cocoon he has hid himself in and he has a huge capacity for self-sabotage. There are even times where I disliked him slightly, because he acts in a way that is cruel, but it is all done through self-protection and fear. He is a really complex character and I was totally invested in the story from beginning to end, despite how uncomfortable I found parts of it to read.
I really enjoyed the chapters which were written as The Phantasm and the author does it very cleverly in a comic book style, it was easy to follow when he was in character and when he wasn’t.
This book is entertaining, heart-breakingly sad but ultimately uplifting and is one of then most worthwhile books I have read this year. They have described it as hilarious, I didn’t find it so, although it was amusing in places, but what it I did find it to be was a beautiful, moving and very truthful portrayal of loss, loneliness, awkwardness, second chances and the redeeming power of love, friendship and the kindness of people who refuse to give up on you, no matter what. It will stay with me for a long while.
The Unlikely Heroics of Sam Holloway is out today and you can buy a copy here.
My thanks to NetGalley and Headline for my copy of the book which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.
About the Author
Hi, I’m Rhys and it’s nice to meet you. I’m a writer from Wales and have to date published three novels. My most recent is The Unlikely Heroics of Sam Holloway – a story about a boy called Sam, his superhero alter ego The Phantasm, and a girl called Sarah.
My other two books are The Suicide Club, which is a coming of age story set in 2004, and On The Third Day, an apocalyptic adventure story that imagines a disease that dissolves hope – a kind of old school, Old Testament kind of apocalypse that exists beyond science.
I live in a city called Cardiff with my partner Amy (who is a much more successful writer than I am) and my three cats, Henry, Sheldon and Aniseed.
In the day time I work at Cardiff University’s School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, helping the incredible researchers there get the word out about what they’re doing. They inspire me every single day.
Connect with Rhys:
Facebook: Rhys Thomas
Goodreads: Rhys Thomas