After reading Neil Gaiman’s Fortunately, the Milk a friend of mine declared that she would be reading this to her children. She currently doesn’t have children. She yearns for children. The desire to read Fortunately, the Milk to her offspring has increased her broodiness. In years to come Neil Gaiman may be responsible for a spike in births as couples become desperate to read his tome to their offspring.
The premise of Fortunately, the Milk is simple. A father has to go to the corner shop for milk so that his two children can have their cereal and, more importantly, so he can have his morning cup of tea. British readers will be appreciative of how important it is to get their morning cup of tea.
It takes an awfully long time for the father, who looks remarkably like Mr Gaiman in the glorious illustrations from Chris Riddell (for the UK edition anyway), to return with the milk. The children assume that he’s got stuck talking to someone he knows on the journey to and from the shop – as is often the case with parents.
When the father eventually returns he confesses to stopping to talk. But that wasn’t the main reason for his delay. His tardiness came from encounters with globby space aliens who wanted him to sign over owenership of the Earth to them, pirates who’d never heard of walking the plank, and primitive tribesmen wanting to sacrifice him to their volcano god.
Gaiman’s love of Doctor Who shines through with echoes of adventures such as The Aztecs, The Curse of the Black Spot and State of Decay. In a Twitter exchange with yours truly he declared that he wrote Fortunately, the Milk before the episode Dinosaurs On a Spaceship aired. Read the book and you’ll understand.
There’s also a hint of Douglas Adams, the Twilight saga, and the unreliable narrative of Keyser Söze from The Usual Suspects.
For the majority of his escapades the father (always keeping a firm grip on the milk) accompanies the brilliant Professor Steg, a Stegosaurus travelling through time in a Floaty-Ball-Person-Carrier who firmly stakes a claim to be the Thirteenth Doctor by the end of the book.
Fortunately, the Milk is a concise enjoyable romp through space and time for children and sophisticated adults. And if the grown ups don’t quite understand the intricacies of the time paradoxes surrounding the milk then a child will easily explain it to them.
Fortunately, the Milk by “Ridiculously Bestselling Author Neil Gaiman™” is published by Bloomsbury, RRP £10.99.