Charley and Rob are brothers with an awkward past. Charley a former child prodigy with the very unique ability that he can read characters out of books and have them appear in ort world. This concept I found utterly delightful, not least the opportunity to meet some of your favourite characters in the flesh. However, for Rob its something of an embarrassment, his brother is deliberately ruining his life and always has done. Especially as Rob is a Solicitor and has a serious life that he has built with his partner Lydia.
The brothers are not close and Charley feels like the kind of vague professor who is so much more caught up in his studies than in anything that goes on in the real world. Rob is a lawyer and he just wants to live his very normal life with his very normal fiancée thanks.
Their relationship is put under further strain when Charley calls Rob in the middle of the night to deal with a version of Uriah Heap that he has inadvertently summoned into being. Things get stranger still when a different Uriah ends up working as an intern at Rob’s firm.
This is such a fun novel. The characters of Charley and Rob are believable including their tense relationship with the unequal power between them, the fact that Rob can’t seem to forgive Charley for Something and Charley just being himself and never quite being able to fit with his brother’s expectations.
It appears that there is another Character Summoner out there and one who isn’t quite as moral as Charley is. Drawn into a parallel pocket universe where characters that have been read into existence have gathered like refugees there is a really knotty plot being explored and I love the idea of critical theory being used to reshape characters and as an ex literature student I loved the idea of the implied reader and there being multiple Darcys from pride and prejudice.
I also don’t think I’ve ever read a book that has been set in Wellington NZ before and the author really brought NZ to life for me. As well as playing with tropes of Dickensian London in the Street and all the denizens there.
Things I loved, the character’s that were summoned into being. Parry clearly had fun imagining with the literary characters that were summoned. Not all were from 18th and 19th century literature and I don’t want to give too much away. I loved the idea that reading as an active thoughtful discipline was the superpower within the world. That interpreting a text and can change how characters can act and it amused me in my dark heart as a Literature graduate.
Things that were a bit odd, I felt quite strongly that Charley should have been the narrator at the beginning of this and that it was a choice to have Rob as the narrator. This is explained in the text but it seemed odd. Likewise there were several different point of view narrators that were sprinkled through and whilst necessary for the story I’m not sure that it detracted or not.
Overall rollicking good fun and if you have read some of the classics there are lots of references which are just there to give a wry smile at. I enjoyed it very much and I look forward to seeing what H. G. Parry does next.
Orbit provided me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heep is out now.