Monday, 16 May 2011

Best Of... | Comic Fantasy

Who wants gritty genre every day? Well, apart from George R.R. Martin, who'll happily kill off a couple of Starks to pass an afternoon... Anyway, these are the times when we turn to the genre's lightest subgenre: comic fantasy. Of course, this isn't to say that they aren't great books in their own right, just that these are the ones that make you laugh. A lot. So, here are my top three authors for that very purpose (in no particular order):

Tom Holt
Tom Holt is one of the masters of comic fantasy, and as the author of thirty novels in this genre, you've got a wide variety to choose from. His only real ongoing series, however, is the J.W. Wells company books, which make magic... rather corporate, and absolutely hilarious. Photocopiers that can only be worked by the seventh son of a seventh son? Always gets me. His books typically end in a convoluted confusion of plot - there might be holes, but it's always funny. However, his characters aren't as differentiated as some of the authors I prefer - several of his male protagonists seem to merge after a while, so if you're inclined to focus on character rather than comedy... Well, you'll still enjoy his novels, but perhaps not quite as much as otherwise.
If you're planning on starting Holt, I recommend the first in the JWW series: The Portable Door, which can be found on Amazon here - The Portable Door

Terry Pratchett
How could I possibly write this without mentioning Pratchett? The Discword is a setting that works mostly on narrative, and Pratchett's characterisation is fantastic: his humour is generally subtler than the other authors listed here, and he deals with more serious themes and issues as well, tending towards satire and deconstruction rather than outright insanity (Rankin). You've similarly got a large variety of stories here, with recurring characters and groups such as the City Watch, witches, and wizards - as well as spin-offs like The Science of Discworld - which I'm reading now. If you haven't read Pratchett... Well, let's just say that this needs to be remedied. Now. Personally, my favourites are the Moist Von Lipwig books, which focus around the involuntarily reformed conman-turned-public-servant, the first of which you can find on Amazon here:

Robert Rankin
 Rankin, on the other hand, is on the side of the spectrum that can be rather aptly named 'insanity'. Books are a hilarious confusion of running gags, plot twists made solely for laughs, and a 'fantasy kitchen sink' Earth in which anything can happen, and unlike many books, it frequently does. I mean, accidentally murdering the zeitgeist of the 60s with a client's brother, recently transmuted to gold? If you're not up for many, many running jokes, though, Rankin is not for you: they're everywhere. From finding zodiac signs in the streets of Brighton, to locating a pit to hell under a Brentford kitchen floor, Rankin is most probably the craziest writer alive: and if you're at all like me, you'll love his novels for it.
One of my favourites, The Brightonomicon, can be found on Amazon here: The Brightonomicon (Brentford Trilogy)

Read these books, or have any suggestions for others I could add? Comment below and tell me!


  1. I love Pratchett but find Rankin a bit hit and miss; I didn't like his early books at all, I found them a bit blokeish! Loved the two set in Toy Town though.

  2. Hm, I haven't read those - you might be right about Rankin, though. When he's in his stride, he's hilarious, but there are novels where he misses his targets as well - for me, the earliest books in the Brentford trilogy aren't nearly so good. Have you tried Tom Holt?