Image Credit: Long Scarf Publications (Fair Use)
Image Description: The cover of Professor Howe and the Poseidon Problem
By James Ashworth
After tackling a companion exit story in The Holy Hotel, the latest Professor Howe novel, The Poseidon Problem, tackles a topical subject for this time of year – the festive special. Whether of the Christmas or New Year variety, it seems like a big ask to send up something that’s often faintly ridiculous already. Cracking this nut is fourth-time writer Jamie Hailstone, who makes this titanic task look like plain sailing.
When choosing the subject of their latest book, taking on Voyage of the Damned qualifies as aiming high for Long Scarf Publications. Though not as overwrought as some of the specials that would following under Russell T Davies, it sees the Tenth Doctor at his most Biblical, following on from having the whole world believing in him for Last of the Time Lords. That said, it manages to balance plenty of plates while emerging with a broadly pleasing storyline. The Poseidon Problem takes aim at this set up and follows it to its logical extreme – what if, like the eponymous vessel itself, there was deck upon deck of plot stacked on top of each other?
The result is a well-written and fun adventure for Professor Howe, bar a few typos. While a pun counter was not provided with the book, it would likely have been reaching the limits of its scale had it been. Each chapter is crammed full of wordplay and references to objects both real and fictional, while not being too intrusive for those who just want to take the story at face value. Some of the references to modern Doctor Who are surprisingly recent, and it’s quite an achievement to have slotted them in without it seemingly overly crowbarred.
Just like its satirical target, The Poseidon Problem manages to keep most of its plates spinning while not going completely overboard. Rushing from one area to the next, it’s a brisk adventure in 148 pages whose love for festive specials shines through, even when it’s poking a bit of fun at them.