This is it – my last blog tour for the foreseeable future! I’m glad it was for a book as fun as The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heep!
Book: The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heep by HG Parry
Read before: No
Ownership: Proof copy sent free of charge by Orbit Books. All opinions my own.
The concept behind The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heep is sort of an adult version of the Pages and Co books – characters from literature can be ‘pulled out’ into the real world by readers who have an extraordinary connection with them. Our main character, Rob, has a younger brother, Charley, who has this extremely rare talent, and the story begins as he is woken up in the middle of the night, once again, to deal with a situation Charley has created by reading a character out into the world – the titular Uriah Heep. The story gets ever stranger from there, but through it all is the strong thread of Rob and Charley’s difficult relationship. It gets a little dark in places, but overall, it’s a real book-lover’s romp.
I was a little worried going in that my lack of familiarity with Dickens’ works would be a hindrance, but I was delighted to find that not only did that not matter, but that there are characters here I really love, from the well known Sherlock Holmes and Dorian Gray, to the slightly more obscure Miss Matty from Cranford. I really liked the idea that the manifestations of characters were influenced by the interpretation of the readers – everyone who reads a book comes away with a slightly different impression of it and its characters, and this book riffs on that excellently. The existence of the five nearly-identical Mr Darcys is really funny, especially the one that was read out in the 90s and has a tendency to throw himself into large bodies of water! Heathcliff, too, is an amusingly un-nuanced version of the character. I also loved the fictional-fictional (ie, the book she came from is made up for the story) Millie Radcliffe-Dix, who is the former preteen protagonist of a series of 1930s girls’ detective stories – she’s sort of Tintin-meets-Dora the Explorer, but I also couldn’t help but colour my reading of her with Diana Wynne Jones’ capable Millie, who is herself named after a fictional-fictional character – so you can see first-hand how different readers bring different elements to their reading of characters. I thought this was such a clever thing to add, and really shows that the author is a reader herself.
The story itself is one that it would definitely be spoilery to tell you too much about, but despite how much it grows from the beginning it feels utterly effortless to read. Rob is a prickly character, but one of those characters who you can really understand why he behaves as he does, even if you think he’s being a bit of a dick! I was seriously impressed with the writing, particularly at the beginning as we get to know Rob, and Charley through Rob’s eyes, and then we get a glimpse into Charley’s mind with an extract from his diary – I know it’s been done before, but the command of voice is just excellent.
This is unmissable for those who have a love of books and character analysis, but is clever enough and pacey enough to pull you through even if you’re fuzzy on the specifics of which stories are being worked in. It’s smart without ever being pretentious, and the very human core of Charley and Rob’s relationship gives it an emotional weight that is just right to balance the sheer amount of fun it is. Five out of five cats!