My friend Theron was mentioning this weekend that he had given his young son The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy to read, and the boy just devoured it. As all of us geeks on the conversation were congratulating him, this made me think of other funny fantasy and science fiction books to read.
The rest of the Hitchhiker’s Guide series by Douglas Adams, of course, with the adventures of Arthur Dent and Ford Prefect through the galaxy after the demolition of Earth. Featuring unforgettable characters such as Marvin the depressed android, Zaphod Beeblebrox, Trillian, and of course a bowl of petunias. The first three books made me laugh more than the last two or Adams’ other series built around Dirk Gently’s detective agency.
The adventures of the Stainless Steel Rat by Harry Harrison: the tales of master con-man Slippery Jim DiGriz and his dangerous family, including his beloved Angelina. The series goes on for eleven books, some of which are more devoted to space opera adventures and others which are frankly comedic. Like many series, it loses a bit of steam in the long run, but still good easy reads on a plane or bus trip.
The Phule’s Company series by Robert Lynn Asprin, telling the adventures of Willard Phule, a.k.a. Captain Jester, and his inept but surprisingly successful mercenary company. Meet the soldiers of Captain Willard Phule’s Company–a handful of military rejects able to do more damage before 9 A.M. than most people do all day. Threatened by an alien enemy, Earth’s military sends Phule and his soldiers to a distant planet. But now, the aliens have chosen a new target of war… Phule’s Company.
The Myth-Adventures books, also by Robert Asprin, featuring the adventures of Skeeve, a young gifted but untrained magician’s apprentice, and his friend the demon Aahz. I greatly enjoyed the first few books in this series (there are nineteen!) but I started losing interest as Skeeve mastered his magical abilities and became just too powerful.
Bimbos of the Death Sun and its sequel Zombies of the Gene Pool, both by Sharyn McCrumb, two hilarious mysteries featuring Jay O. Mega and poking loving fun at science fiction and fantasy authors, fandom, and conventions. Everything nerdy or geeky makes it in, from cosplay to fanzines, and from role-playing games to Trekkies.
The Warslayer: The Incredibly True Adventures of Vixen the Slayer, the Beginning, by Rosemary Edghill: A sort of fantasy version of Galaxy Quest, where actress Gloria “Glory” McArdle, star in a Xena- or Buffy-esque fantasy television show, is confused with her fictional character Vixen the Slayer and whisked off to another dimension to be a champion against Evil.
Agent to the Stars by John Scalzi is available free online: aliens come to visit Earth but decide that to ease first contact, they need to hire an agent — a press relation, booking kind of agent, that is. Scalzi has published other humourous novels and short stories including Red Shirts and Fuzzy Nation, which I have not yet read, as well as his more serious books.
How Much for Just the Planet, by John M. Ford, set in the classic Star Trek universe and hilariously funny for those who are fond of the original television series. The crews of the Enterprise and rival Klingon ship vie to establish an alliance with the unaligned planet of Direidi, which recent surveys have discovered is rich in dilithium crystals. But the inhabitants are not fond of being the football in this game and have their own non-violent way to deal with diplomatic pressure. Funniest Trek thing written since “The Trouble with Tribbles” and until “Trials and Tribble-ations.”
Not so funny to me, but others enjoy them:
The endless Xanth series by Pierce Anthony. I read over a dozen of them, figuring that I was just not “getting” the joke, until I decided that no, it was just very heavy-handed puns and slapstick with a good side order of misogyny.
The even more enormous Discworld series by Terry Pratchett. Light-hearted and amusing, but not enough to get more than smiles from me. I rather like the British television versions of some of the books, though.