When the Professor Got Stuck in the Snow by Dan Rhodes
|When the Professor Got Stuck in the Snow by Dan Rhodes|
|Category: General Fiction|
|Reviewer: John Lloyd|
|Summary: Coming across as the League of Gentlemen meets Salley Vickers, this rich and dark comedy is bound to be a hit.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 208||Date: October 2015|
|Publisher: Aardvark Bureau|
|External links: Author's website|
Two people are on a train on their way to, of all things, a WI meeting where the ladies of All Bottoms will be lectured on the non-existence of God. One of the two people is Professor Richard Dawkins, rampant atheist, hectoring scientist chappie, and all-round devotee of Deal or No Deal. The other is Smee, his mono-named assistant, amanuensis or 'male secretary'. Smee will come to the fore when the weather sets in and the train journey has to be abandoned some way short of its ultimate destination, Upper Bottom. Instead the pair fetch up at the isolated yet friendly community of Market Horton, and the only option for accommodation is taken – yes, the died-in-the-wool non-believer has to be housed by a retired vicar and his wife. This clash of titanic opinions, peppered with social faux pas aplenty will provide for a particularly English kind of farcical comedy, but one with the legs to go as far as any other Good Books have reached in the past…
I had lost track of the career of Dan Rhodes after the initial few steps on his way to notoriety. He'd given us brilliant collections of micro-stories before flash fiction was even in the pan, rewritten Lassie stories to a much more mature, modern standard, and written a rom-com regarding the death of a Princess in a certain Parisian tunnel. Finding no end of faults with other people in the publishing industry over a ten-year span, Dan produced this book in 2014 as a self-published effort. Here it is in proper, real, paperback and e-book form, and we can only be thankful. It has a great deal of zest, no amount of colloquial balls, and both a cleverness I've so seldom found in laugh-out-loud comedies and a great humour I've found lacking in the social commentaries I've read.
I could go on about how this Dawkins is an ass – braying about having done all the experiments, and forcing his sole disciple to be as much of an evangelist for his ideas as any other similar character you care to mention. This is the point and yet not the point. The book is easy to read inasmuch as the writing is clear, joyous and just flows, and is readable inasmuch as you can tell what the author is doing – up to a point, at least. So there are lessons and observations to be had, as long as jokes about seeing Upper Bottom that, I'm sorry, but can only be applauded. The very name of Market Horton is worth a pat on the back for.
It's a concise read, that even when it seems to make a misstep by closing in on the serious side of Smee at the halfway stage is secure in its ribald insincerity. Perhaps if I were to sit back and find fault with things I would point out that the host religious couple are perhaps cyphers and not real characters – even though the narrator is omniscient and fixated on neither Dawkins nor Smee we don't see much of them as real people. But I don't feel inclined to sit back and find fault with things here. I want to cuddle the book as if it were a puppy. Stick with me for the last sentence then – I say that for it's provided me with a great session of reading, has left me with a cheesy and at times childish grin, and like all puppies has a bark and a bite that while not the most serious thing, still make you aware of what's under the fluffy pelt.
Little Hands Clapping by Dan Rhodes was quite acerbic in its own, very different way.
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You can read more book reviews or buy When the Professor Got Stuck in the Snow by Dan Rhodes at Amazon.com.
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