Image Credit: Chris Stone (Used with Permission)
Image Description: The cover of Professor Howe and the Furious Foam
By James Ashworth
Before I begin my review, I have a brief confession to make. I’ve never seen Fury from the Deep, nor read its novelisation. Yes, I vaguely know what it’s about, and that it saw the sonic’s debut, but beyond that I’m yet to explore the mysteries of this Second Doctor story. And yes, I’m looking forward to seeing the animation. The other confession is that I’ve yet to read a Professor Howe story, despite hearing a lot about them! As a result, Professor Howe and the Furious Foam was a great way to tick off both these boxes, so I set to work reading it!
Starting to read a series with its eighth entry may generally be considered a strange way to do things, but it’s also features the second incarnation of the character, so that’s less of a problem than you might think! Turning up on the shores of a Britain that has shut itself off from the outside world, Professor Howe, along with his companions Gloriana and Taffy, become inveigled in the shady world of seaside towns, and in particular, the crazy golf courses. Suffice to say, there’s something in the pipes, and the bubbles aren’t as innocent as they appear…
As a big fan of Patrick Troughton’s interpretation of the Doctor as a ‘cosmic hobo’, it was fun to see the novel leaning heavily into this, with plenty of jokes at the penny pinching Professor’s expense. Author Simon Bucher-Jones takes the opportunity to subvert many of the story beats of Fury from the Deep, or at least the ones I know about, ensuring that the novel both appeals to fans of the original serial, and also people who’ve never seen it before! Indeed, the same can be said of the novel itself. Despite having not read a Professor Howe book before, the characterisation of the central trio ensured that I could infer their past experiences together, and follow their adventures along easily. Whether they’re bickering over a minor inconvenience, pretending to be golf royalty, or having an unexpectedly fortunate clothing malfunction, it’s clear that these parodies are more than just off-brand copies of Doctor Who characters, and so it was a pleasure to follow along. The nods in the direction of the modern series also kept the story ticking along nicely.
There are also nods towards the state of modern politics, with the whole story being set in the rundown world of ‘Post-Isolation’ Britain. On a basic level, this setting allows the blending of the 60’s story underlying the plot with the modern day, but it also allows for plenty of political satire on and around the topic of Brexit. As a result, Brexiteers are unlikely to be keen on this novel, but given a previous novel in the series, Professor Howe and the European Exit, seems to be much more explicit in its connection, it’s likely they’re not going to have stuck around for this one. But setting an old story in the faded surroundings of a dystopian near future gives the story a bit of bite, and adds another layer to this well-made parody.
(EDIT: Long Scarf Publications have said I was sent a version before proof-reading, so take the next section with a big pinch of salt)
When I say well-made, however, unfortunately I have to admit that I can only honestly say that in the sense of the story itself. Just as the story’s setting is run down, the actual text of the novel is littered with typos. At first, I was under the impression that these might have a stylistic point; that perhaps the creatures of the story would be metatextually affecting the novel itself, or It was commenting on the run down nature of its setting. Alas, that’s not the case. It’s also possible that I was given an early draft of the story to review, but then again, it was marked “final”. It’s a shame, because some scenes become hard to decipher, while some sentences that make use of an unusual word choice seem more like an error than perhaps they actually are. Of course, as a veteran of the Virgin New Adventures, which have more than a few typos of their own, Simon Bucher-Jones could be leaning into this aspect of his work, but sadly, I think it’s just that the proof reading has been rushed.
Even with the aforementioned spelling issues, I would still recommend Professor Howe and the Furious Foam. There’s more than enough aspects of the story that, mostly, allow you to overlook these errors, and spend a fun 200-odd pages with these characters.