Shilly Fixion

Some science-fiction / fantasy writers treat the imaginary worlds they’ve created with such in-depth seriousness that the average reader is tempted to give them a shake and yell: ‘I don’t care about the extended family history of the irrelevant side character on page 569 or about the logistical intricacies of interplanetary Nerf-herding, just get on with the story!’Others try to avoid accusations of purple-prose seriousness by making fun of themselves and their tales of the extraordinary. However, in doing so, most prove that dreaming up fantasy stories and being funny are two very separate skills. Nothing makes for worse reading than bad jokes thrown into a story not even the writer took seriously to begin with.There exist a blessed few who manage to find the right mix of humor and commitment to the story, drawing you in enough to care about the characters and their out-of-this-world adventures, while making you laugh out loud. By my book – pun sadly intended – those who manage the best are (in no particular order):

Jasper Fforde
Not too long ago, he unleashed on the general public a sassy literary detective from a parallel dimension, where books and writers are taken very seriously. With plenty of time-bending, book-hopping and the occasional villain hiding in a footnote, expect to be baffled and entertained.Terry PratchettNo news here for fantasy aficionados. He has built a cohesive fantasy realm in his Discworld novels without being boring or taking himself too seriously. Any one of these titles can be read separately without bafflement

Robert Rankin
Imagine Terry Pratchett on acid. Thank God for the lack of therapy that brought us titles like: The Hollow Chocolate Easter Bunnies of the Apocalypse and Nostradamus ate my Hamster. Weird, post-modern ‘hey, we’re in a book’-style jokes and off-the-cuff linguistic experiments make for some hilarious reading even if the plot sometimes seems on the random side.

Peter David
The very popular writer of comics and Star Trek novels (amongst others) was given his own corner of the Star Trek universe to play with: the New Frontier series of novels. Not confined by continuity, his stories grow more bizarre all the time, displaying a sexy streak not often seen in the franchise. Despite patches of by-the-numbers writing, this series zips along as a very entertaining space soap opera. Start at the beginning, though!

Douglas Adams
Legendary because of the multi-volume Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and rightly so. His plotting got tighter over the years, but Adams was never funnier than in the first two volumes. The HHGTTG is being made into a movie, but it is a given that his wordy wit works better on paper. Also try his two Dirk Gently novels.

Tom Holt
He has a great sense of humour and inventive plots, even if sometimes the latter derail a bit. Still worth a read, though sometimes the whole feels lesser than its parts.

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