Fiction Reviews

Fortunately the Milk

(2013) Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Chris Riddell, Bloomsbury, £10.99, hrdbk, 142pp, ISBN 978-1-4088-4176-1


Lest we forget that the multi-talented Mr. Gaiman, and 'ridiculously bestselling author' as it says on the strap line above his name on the front cover of “Fortunately, The Milk is not just the writer of comics and graphic novels and a Hugo award winning scriptwriter for Doctor Who, and the author of novels like Stardust and American Gods and The Ocean at the End of the Lane” he is also a children’s author, and those unfamiliar with his work might be more familiar with multi-award winning books like The Graveyard Book and Coraline, but there are those…other children’s books, you know, the ones for the younger age groups like The Day Swapped my Dad for Two Goldfish, or The Wolves in the Walls (both lovingly illustrated by his long-time chum, Dave McKean) and several other children’s book for younger ages illustrated by the likes of Charles Vess (a Sandman and Stardust illustrator), Gris Grimly and Adam Rex.

Mum is away, so Dad in charge, always a potential source of trouble, but things get out of hand when they run out of milk and Dad goes off to get some, except he is taking forever, and when he does return he blames that on his encounter with some globby green aliens who wanted to remodel the world. Not only that, but he has encountered some pirates, some intergalactic police officers who just happen to be dinosaurs and an angry volcano god that demands human sacrifice. To make matters worse, he also seems to have encountered a time-travelling hot air balloon piloted by the brilliant Professor Steg (and with a name like that, guess what he is?). Oh, and there are some vampire-like creatures called 'Wumpire' thrown into the mix as well.

Yes, what we have here is a gonzo adventure through space and time, as Dad (looking strangely like a less-craggy, smoothed out version of Neil Gaiman himself) buys some milk and has to get it back home in once piece – or one carton, at all costs, especially when said carton has gathered mythical status to some of the races he encounters. Heck, Dad himself might be worthy of a statue or two as well.

To compliment the writing, Gaiman has the illustrative talents of Chris Riddell, co-creator of 'The Edge Chronicles' with Paul Stewart, as well as being an author and illustrator of his own children’s books and a political cartoonist for The Observer newspaper who joined forces with Gaiman to do the illustrating chores on an anniversary edition of Coraline so we have two top-talents at the top of their form. The story is great fun, the illustrations are just fab, particularly the full-pages ones, and there is even a fold out poster of volcano god, Splod, and some bonus add-ons courtesy of Mr. Riddell devoted to jungle gods, pirates, wumpires, intergalactic police (who happen to be dinosaurs), some of which have slightly satirical, tongue-in-cheek names, and who knows we might see some of them again in other books.

Did Dad really have those adventures or was he down the pub, in the bookies, or up to no good elsewhere? Who’s to tell, but at least I have got my excuses ready next time I am late back with the milk. Recommended, of course.

Ian Hunter

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