Neil Gaiman’s Fortunately, The Milk (Book Review)

fortunatelyI have loads of respect for Neil Gaiman. When I first started writing, I read Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury. Bradbury’s attitude and enthusiasm sent me straight to the keyboard stuffed full of dreams. Ray is gone, but Gaiman has positioned himself as an inspirational figure to a new generation of writers. I think most writers have read his many social media postings or have heard his “make good art” speeches. Sometimes, I wish he would spend more time writing and less time inspiring, but I appreciate what his enthusiasm has done for the art form.

I’m not exactly the most unbiased reviewer when it comes to Gaiman. I loved The Sandman and American Gods. I adore his short fiction. He ranks among my favorite living writers. In Fortunately, The Milk, Gaiman gave me the opportunity to share his work with my six year-old son. It sounds like a simple thing. A lot of people read to their children, but it’s special to be able to share a favorite writer with my child. I can’t read Chuck Palahniuk’s transgressive fiction with my son, or Jack Ketchum’s splatterpunk, or Clive Barker’s–whatever. He wouldn’t understand Nick Hornby’s crises of male identity, and Irvine Welsh would raise a lot of questions that I hope never to answer. But a book featuring a hot air balloon piloted by a dinosaur scientist? That, we can handle.

Fortunately, The Milk is built on a simple scenario. Two children sit down to eat breakfast with their father, but have no milk for their cereal. Their father goes to the store and hijinks ensue. The book is his story, told to his children, about everything that happened during his trip back with their milk. I don’t want to get into the actual content of the story. This is a tale of discovery and wonder. Part of the magic is to watch it unfold in fantastic, ridiculous layers.

We read it straight through without stopping, which is saying something for a usually antsy six year-old. He enjoyed hearing it, and I enjoyed reading it to him. It also gave me a great sense of nostalgia. I come from a long line of bullshitters. My dad was always coming up with exaggerated stories. He might say anything. While they didn’t involve dinosaurs and pirates, part of the fun was seeing how far he would take the story, and wondering how much of what he said had at least small elements of truth.

This book captures the feeling of verbal storytelling, and its spontaneity and audience-driven evolution. It’s the type of book that makes you feel good. It may sound strange coming from a horror writer, but I don’t get enough of that.  It’s a well-written book. It’s a lot of fun, and the illustrations are perfect for Gaiman’s style of writing. I enjoyed it, though I prefer his adult fiction.

Gaiman had a big year, releasing both The Ocean at the End of the Lane and Fortunately, the Milk. I can’t say that it has been my favorite year for his writing. But thanks to the memory created with my son, it will be the one I will always remember.

Jack Campbell, Jr. is a dark fiction writer in Lawrence, KS. His writing has appeared in various venues including Twenty 3 Magazine, Danse Macabre, and Insomnia Press. He writes about reading, writing, and life on his blog at

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.