Fortunately, the Milk ... and Willful Child

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This week’s Stack Overflow is a bit short–I’ve read a whole lot of picture books to my youngest daughter but they’ll have to wait a bit because I also dusted off my Bounded Enthusiasm podcast (expect the next episode tomorrow) and have been trying to catch up on a few excellent board games that are now on Kickstarter.

Fortunately the MilkAfter we finished Pennyroyal Academy last week, I decided I wanted something a bit lighter for my kids’ bedtime story, and remembered that I’d finally picked up a copy of Fortunately, the Milk… by Neil Gaiman off the sale rack. I’m a fan of Gaiman’s writing, but I must admit that I’ve fallen quite behind in the past few years. I didn’t get around to The Graveyard Book until just last year, and I’ve completely missed much of his more recent adult fiction.

But we did enjoy this one–it starts with a dad heading out to buy some milk for his kids’ cereal (and his tea), but when he arrives back home much later than expected, he tells this long rambling story about aliens and time-traveling dinosaurs and pirates and volcano gods. It’s delightfully absurd, and the illustrations by Chris Riddell are excellent. (Interestingly, the version I find on Amazon now is illustrated by Scottie Young, so apparently there are multiple versions out there.) It’s something between a picture book and a chapter book, because it’s about 150 pages long but there are a lot of pictures and the text is large, so we managed to finish it in just a few days.

We’ve just started on Adam Rex’s The True Meaning of Smekday–I just read it recently, but I figure they’d enjoy hearing this story before the movie comes out.

Willful ChildAnother book I just finished is Willful Child by Steven Erikson. It’s a sci-fi novel that’s a send-up of sci-fi tropes, particularly Star Trek. Captain Hadrian Sawback is brash, lewd, and quick to put himself and his crew into harm’s way for the sake of some excitement. As soon as he takes control of his ship Willful Child (under somewhat questionable circumstances), he causes several intergalactic incidents, gets infiltrated by a rogue AI, and manages to repeatedly have his shirt torn up every chapter or so.

This book is also delightfully absurd, though it is decidedly less kid-friendly. You don’t have to know Star Trek to enjoy the book, but at least a passing knowledge of some of the tropes (particularly from the original TV show) would help. While there is an overarching plot has some resolution by the end, the book is also made up of a series of loosely connected scenes … almost like episodes, you might say.

But even as Captain Hadrian is recklessly doing everything wrong, he’s throwing out commentary about what’s wrong with humans (or Terrans). As you know, the best science fiction is really not about the future, but about the present. Willful Child is, to some extent, a commentary on the present in the guise of a romp through the far future.

Ok, that’s it for today! If I get caught up this week you can expect a bit more next week.

Disclosure: GeekDad received a review copy of Willful Child.

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