Comic Fantasy Novels: Know Any Good Ones? I Do.

I’ve just started working my way through Martin Scott’s Thraxas series, and they’re that rare thing, genuinely funny comic fantasy.

He manages to avoid Douglas Adams-ish whimsy, by also making them a send-up of hard-boiled PI novels: Thraxas is a drunken, overweight ex-army Investigator, who was kicked off the official force for being a drunken boor, and now runs a decepit investigating practice above a tavern in the sleaziest part of a corrupt city.

He’s equally abetted and hindered by Makri, his part-Orc female sidekick who escaped from the Orcish gladiator pits and now makes a living tending bar {wearing a chainmail bikini only in order to increase her tips} while agitating for women’s rights and pursuing her university studies in philosophy, mathematics and architecture. She is also, handily, the finest hand-to-hand fighter there is.

The great thing is that such a clash of genres ought to be an embarrassing trainwreck, but Scott manages to playfully subvert the usual fantasy cliches of Orcs, Elves and Sorcerers and interweave them with the standard “kicked off the force” detective story tropes to make the books original and very funny. Very highly recommended for fantasy {and crime fiction, and strong female character} fans.

Anyone else got any good comic fantasy recommendations?

I didn’t like Thraxas, really. I found them a bland shade of Rick Cook’s Garret, PI series. (Deadly Lead Skies, Stone Silver whatever) If you like Thraxxas, try them.

E. Freisner’s Chicks in Chainmail series is getting a new addition, it’s a series of shorts.

Jack Vance’s Cugels Saga / eyes of the overworld books are the funniest fantasy books I ever read, laugh-out-loud funny. I don’t know if I’d call them “comic” novels for some reason, maybe because the comedy is not front and centre, it comes from the way Vance writes. Either way, they’re side-splitters.

A list o titles, please?

Well, Terry Pratchett immediately springs to mind, of course.

Speaking of comics, The Order of the Stick is now in print.

Thraxas, Thraxas And The Warrior Monks, Thraxas At The Races, Thraxas And The Elvish Isles, Thraxas And The Sorcerors, Thraxas And The Dance Of Death, Thraxas At War.

Neil Barrett, Jr., has two great ones called *The Prophecy Machine *and The Treachery of Kings, which are funny in a “Frank Kafka meets talking animals” type of way.

And also Tery Pratchett, of course.

James P. Blaylock’s novels often have humorous elements.
James Branch Cabell, if you’re into sardonic humor.
A number of novels by Thorne Smith (Topper is the best known).
The Kai Lung stories by Ernest Bramah are great.
The Compleat Enchanter stories by de Camp and Pratt.
Orlando Furioso is a hoot (bits of it, anyway).
Charles G. Finney.
And I’ll enthusiastically second the Vance recommendations.

There are two short story collections I enjoyed a few years ago: The Mammoth Book of Comic Fantasy I and II. Some good stories in them. I also like Esther Friesner’s stuff, including the Chicks in Chainmail series.

I could never get into Pratchett, for some reason: too heavy on the whimsy. Everyone tells me they get better further on in the series - mind you, they say that about Harry Potter - but that middle-class English tweeness gets on my nerves.

Chicks In Chainmail sounds interesting - what’s the premise {apart from the obvious}?

That’s Glen Cook’s Garrett series.

A totally different kind of fantasy is in Mel Gilden’s Zoot Marlowe series. Zoot is an alien who learned about private eyes by watching tv signals. He comes to earth and gets accepted by the Malibu surfer crowd. Unless you absolutely require fantasy to have a medieval setting the books are really more fantasy than sf, but wildly funny. Three of them, Surfing Samurai Robots, Tubular Android Superheroes, and Hawaiian U.F.O. Aliens.

Here’s one that’s been largely forgotten: The Flying Sorcerers, by David Gerrold and Larry Niven. Lots of sf authors are spoofed as characters.

BTW, everybody’s right about Pratchett.

Very interesting!

Several months ago I picked Thraxas as the first book for our budding book club, based solely on its win of the World Fantasy Award.

I have never been so thoroughly mocked for my reading tastes. Every single one of us hated it, and we spent a fair amount of time speculating on who Martin Scott had to screw to win the award (it’s a classy book club).

But your description makes it sound good, and so I guess it really is just a matter of taste.

Most comic fantasy doesn’t do a lot for me: I read Piers Anthony as a kid, but couldn’t read him now, and while I enjoy burning through a Ptratchett novel now and then, I can’t remember a thing about them when I’ve finished.

But recently I read Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, and I haven’t laughed as hard at a book in a long time. Its humor is dust-dry and completely hilarious to me. I loved it.


Whoops, I forgot to mention the “Nifft” books by Michael Shea. Shea’s writing style is similar to Vance’s.

I picked up Thraxas a couple weeks ago, again only because of the World Fantasy Award. It’s a pleasant-enough book, but definitely not world-class. In retrospect, it’s one of those books that I’d happily buy used, but probably wouldn’t buy new.

How about short stories?
The Mammoth Book of Comic Fantasy II (Mammoth Book)

I also should have mentioned George Alec Effinger’s Marid Audran books. When Gravity Fails, A Fair in the Sun, and The Exile Kiss. There’s also a collection of short stories that I haven’t read, Budayeen Nights. The setting is a Muslim cyberpunkish future like nothing else, with Audran as the only private eye working some very mean streets, all tinged with Effinger’s skewed sense of humor.

It’s interesting that most sf writers who have tackled the private eye genre - and there have been dozens - played it for laughs to varying extents. About the only one who didn’t is Richard Bowker’s excellent postacopalyptic Dover Beach.

Post-apoc-alyptic, but the other way makes for a good Freudian slip.

Daughter Two has just finished the first two books of Aspirin’s Myth Adventures series and she liked them as much as I did back in the day.

If I can find my Leiber (two moves since I’ve unpacked all my old paperbacks) I think she’ll get a few laughs from Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser. They are some of the best parodies of Swords & Sorcery stories ever done, a remarkable feat given that they were inventing the genre.

I read a book called “Waiting for Godalming” by a fantasy author named Robert Rankin. I thought it was pretty funny, and have been told by friends that he has written numerous other funnier books, but alas they are not at my local library.

Ask your Librarian about the Interlibrary Loan Service.
Through this service, you can borrow books from all over the US & Canada.
And it’s totally free, in most places! :cool: :cool: :cool: