Thursday, 31 October 2013

#CBR5 Book 129. "Adventures with the Wife in Space: Living with the Doctor" by Neil Perryman

Page count: 304 pages
Rating: 5 stars

Disclaimer! I was given an ARC from Faber & Faber via NetGalley in exchange for a fair and impartial review. I was absolutely delighted to get to read it before the release date (it's out now), but the husband and I had already pre-ordered a copy, which will hopefully be arriving in the post any day now.

From Goodreads, because it explains the premise of the book really well:
Neil loves Sue. He also loves Doctor Who. But can he bring his two great loves together? And does he have the right?

In January 2011, Neil Perryman set out on an insane quest to make his wife Sue watch every episode of the classic series of Doctor Who from the very beginning. Even the ones that didn't exist anymore. And so, over the next two and a half years, Sue gamely watched them all: William Hartnell (the Miserable Git);Patrick Troughton (the Scruffy Drunk); John Pertwee (the Pompous Tory); Tom Baker (the Mad One); Peter Davison (the Fit One); Colin Baker (the Court Jester); Sylvester McCoy (the Crafty Sod) and Paul McGann (the One-Night Stand). The result was a wildly successful and hilariously revealing blog called Adventures with the Wife in Space.

But the adventure continues. From awkward years at school, terrified of giant insects, Daleks and rugby players, to even more awkward years as an adult, terrified of unexpected parenthood and being called a Whovian, here Neil tells the all too true story of life as a Doctor Who fan. Funny, honest and surprisingly brave, he also captures perfectly the joys - and fears - of sharing the thing you love with the people you love.

Adventures with the Wife in Space is, at its heart, the story of Doctor Who, and its fans, seen through the eyes of two people - one who knows almost nothing about the programme and another who knows way too much. 

Like Sue Perryman, I too am the wife of a life-long Doctor Who fan. While now the show is so huge and popular that even Norwegian tabloids write stories speculating on the identity of the new Doctor, and now about the upcoming 50th anniversary special, and the teenagers I teach discuss the relative merits of Matt Smith, David Tennant, Amy, Rory, Rose and Donna, I had never heard of the show, until I went to university in Scotland. Several of my friends there liked it, and showed me episodes on grainy VHS-tapes. I didn't think it was bad, as such, but it was no Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Babylon 5.

Then I met my husband. We met, while still at St. Andrews, in 2000. Long before the show was relaunched so successfully in 2005. I didn't really hear all that much about the show until it was coming back, and the husband was full of anticipation and dread. What if it was as bad as the TV movie? When my husband (then still the boyfriend) moved to Norway to live with me in 2005, the first few episodes had aired. He was very enthusiastic and wanted me to watch them with him. I was sceptical, but quickly came around and am now a big fan of the newer series. The husband, like Neil and Sue, has watched every single episode of the old series, even the reconstructed lost ones, and literally cried tears of joy when the news broke about nine missing episodes being found and reconstructed. He can, and will, go on at great length about the show, and which episodes he'd recommend you start with and which episodes of the various Doctors are his favourites and so forth. He's shown me a wide selection of episodes of the classic series, and I've sat, half watching out of the corner of my eye while busy doing other things, countless others.

So when Neil launched the blog, the husband, already a fan of Neil's podcast work with Tachyon TV, started reading it aloud to me, as Neil and Sue watched their way through the series. He'd usually focus on their summaries of stories I'd seen, but I also got to experience some of the stories first through the eyes of the Perrymans. So when the book was announced, it was an obvious pre-order for us. I knew it was probably going to be entertaining, because the writing on the blog was usually very funny. I had no idea how laugh-out-loud hilarious much of it would be, though, and how sweet and honest and touching reading about young Neil's love for the show, and later his love for his wife. Obviously, having followed the blog, I felt like I knew a bit about them, but I suspect the book will be a great read to people who've never heard of the blog, or Neil Perryman, or frankly, don't know that much about Doctor Who. It's not so much a book about a nerdy TV show, as much as the story of a devoted fan of that show, and anyone who's really been a fan of something, should be able to identify at least partly with Neil and appreciate this book.

Even if you're not a passionate fan of something, but just share your life with one, because you will recognise your loved one in Neil's story of himself. I'm a big fan of Doctor Who, and am very invested in it being good, but it hasn't been an important part of my life since I was a child, and I can never know what it's like to have the same favourite show when you're seven as when you're in your thirties (or even older), and to have lived for years when it was off the air, and then seeing it resurrected to huge international popularity and acclaim, becoming the BBC's flagship and loved by new generations. My husband has that, and still gets a bewildered happy look when I talk about my pupils discussing the show on their lunch break. What I'm trying to boil this down to is: the book is great! I had high expectations of it, because the blog is also very good, but it surpassed all of them. I laughed, I was moved to hints of tears in parts of it, and if we hadn't already pre-ordered a copy, the husband and I would do so immediately after both finishing the ARC. I will buy it as gifts for several of our friends. That's how much I liked it, and I will recommend it to anyone who will listen.

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