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Milk, Sulphate, and Alby Starvation (original 1994; edition 2009)

by Martin Millar

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133790,390 (3.86)8
Member:AmberRayne
Title:Milk, Sulphate, and Alby Starvation
Authors:Martin Millar
Info:Soft Skull Press (2009), Edition: Original, Paperback, 169 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
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Milk, Sulphate and Alby Starvation by Martin Millar (1994)

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Alby Starvation has upset the Milk Marketing Board in a pretty big way. So much in fact that they’ve gone and hired a contract killer to shut him up and stop his milk allergy story from eating further into their profits. It seems they’re not the only ones after Alby either as there is a Chinese man asking a lot of questions about him and his small-time drug operation. Is he a member of the Triad looking to take over and do Alby some harm? Better be on the safe side and keep out of his way, especially looking at the size of the Chinese man’s driver.

This debut novel offers up a chaotic and comically driven narrative following Alby’s attempts to stay away from those who are trying to do him harm while keeping in touch with his clients and also sell his comic book collection. I’m glad this wasn’t my first encounter with the author’s work as I probably wouldn’t have rushed to pick up another. It’s not a terrible book and does provide some quite funny moments but not quite as refined as the other book I’d read. ( )
  AHS-Wolfy | May 21, 2014 |
Comic novel, with bizarre incidents; these don't ring true, but are entertaining and Millar includes some clever ideas and characters, eg the professor digging up the road to find an ancient crown. ( )
  Tifi | Jun 25, 2010 |
Never tick off the Milk Marketing Board.

Never. They play for keeps.

Dairy supremacy isn’t easy; it’s not all fun and milk mustaches. The competition is intense, vicious even. So success requires doing whatever it takes. Stepping on the little guy, keeping upstarts like cottage cheese and yogurt under the heel of your boot, demonizing the lactose intolerant, claiming soy milk’s for sissies. Milk might do a body good, but it’ll also bust your ass. Skilled in not only building strong bones, but in breaking them, too.

So if you libel the leche expect repercussions. Serious repercussions. Like waking up one morning, incessant knocking at your door, a hitman hired by the Milk Marketing Board on the other side, waiting. To kill you.

Bummer.

Even worse. The Milk Marketing Board might not be the only one wanting to send you to the Big-Neapolitan-Milkshake-in-the-sky. There’s that Chinese dude—the one with a human mountain for a driver—creeping around your neighborhood, all mysterious and sinister, asking people about you. About your amphetamine business. About where you live. And desiring, deeply, to chat with you.

Why? What could he want? It ain’t good, clearly. Probably going to steal your business. Take your hard-earned junkies.

And what’s with the city worker digging up the road in front of your flat for the last three days. Constantly drilling. Like a never-ending migraine. How long does it take to fix a hole in the road? Is he watching you? Did he just hit the water line?

Clearly there’s only one answer: everyone’s out to get you. It’s undeniable. You can feel it. Feel the tension creeping up your back, into your shoulders, tightening your chest, your breath coming, ragged and short.

Life. It’s enough to make you paranoid.

Paranoia reigns in the bizarre life of Alby Starvation; a life wonderfully fictionalized in Martin Millar’s “Milk, Sulphate, and Alby Starvation.” It’s slice of life—if your life resembled those truth-stranger-than-fiction stories that end the news. Stories we laugh at, pointing at the idiot on the television, feeling better about ourselves. Because we aren’t that stupid. Or silly. Or odd. Stories about the man who sued his employer, claiming discrimination because his cat dying of throat cancer nixed a promotion. Or about the guy whose video game playing brilliance arises out of Zen meditation—of becoming one with the machine. Stories so ridiculous, so outlandish, so cheesy, they transcend, becoming a monument to stupidity. A sublime idiocy. Like a narrative version of the Dogs-Playing-Poker painting.

The plot follows a variety of these colorful and quirky characters, each with their own truth-stranger-than-fiction storylines. Alby’s life serves as the nexus, the nerve center of the novel, the other characters interweaving in and out, like trains leaving and arriving at a central depot. A Grand Central Station of weirdness. It’s Monty Python’s dry humor coupling with the storytelling of Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction. Beautifully realized. Engaging and morbidly appealing. Like a car accident on the side of the road. Hard to look away from. Hard to put down. And potentially damaging to your psyche.

“Milk, Sulphate, and Alby Starvation” is so subtle, so understated; you don’t know whether to take it seriously. Or to fall on the floor laughing. Like someone telling you—with the greatest sincerity—that the word gullible isn’t in the dictionary. It’s the ultimate insider joke, those odd and ironic moments life springs on you—only for you. It’s a profound humor, utterly refreshing in era filled with over-the-top scatological humor. And this is the genius of Millar’s work.

Last Word:
Never having read Martin Millar before, “Milk, Sulphate, and Alby Starvation” was a wonderful surprise. An unexpected joy. A beautiful, bouncing bundle of book loving. Like coming home one day to a house overflowing with presents, all with your name on them. It’s hip, utterly hysterical, edgy, and has some serious street cred; the book the cool kids talk about in the back of the class. In between the spitballs. It’s Bukowski, but with less sex and alcoholism. And even more stupidity. ( )
1 vote pstotts | Aug 13, 2009 |
Alby has a complicated life. A Chinese guy and the Milk Marketing Board are trying to kill him. He's trying to sell his comic book collection while being sure that every person he knows is trying to steal them. He would leave Brixton, but he can't because his hamster is afraid of living anywhere else. (His hamster is a loyal friend, but he's just too small to protect the flat from burglars.) In an urban landscape of drugs, zen meditation, and archeological treasures buried in sewers, Alby is just trying to not be killed. If Philip K. Dick had been british he would have written this book. ( )
1 vote quilted_kat | Jun 6, 2009 |
I read this one because Cory Doctrow mentioned it on boing boing, said it was the closest to a comic book pacing that a fiction writer has gotten to. Seems more like cinema techniques but it was still a pretty interesting book all the same. ( )
  mikewick | Apr 22, 2009 |
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Jesus Christ what a fucking wreck I am, my face looks a hundred years old, people would scream if I went out on the streets, my hair's all falling out, there's a woman from the Milk Marketing Board trying to kill me.
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