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Top 10 comedic science fiction novels

The Website at the End of the Universe just pulled this gem from the internet’s discard pile. This list was created for The Guardian eight and a half years ago by Rob Grant (of Red Dwarf fame) and I do believe its worthy of a repost.

Top 10 comedic science fiction novels
1. The Hitch-hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
The obvious choice, really. The first three books are the best – bright, witty and chock full of brilliant concepts. Though some of the references (Mr Adams’s irrational loathing of digital watches, for instance) seem dated now, it’s still guaranteed to amuse.

2. The Stainless Steel Rat by Harry Harrison
Harry Harrison’s work spans the whole of SF: comedy, hard SF, fantasy, you name it. All of it is worth reading. The Stainless Steel Rat series is not, on the whole, laugh-out-loud comedy, but it is funny. If you haven’t tried any, ignore the gaudy covers and buy one. They’re all good. Then read Captive Universe which is not a comedy book, but it will make you go out and buy the rest of his work.

3. Discworld by Terry Pratchett
There are dozens of books in the Discworld series. Technically, they’re science fantasy, involving dragons and other mythical creatures. If you’re a fantasy fan, Mr Pratchett certainly delivers a good laugh consistently. If you haven’t read any of them yet, where have you been?

4. A Scanner Darkly by Philip K Dick
Mr Dick’s work has been the source of a number of major movies: Blade Runner and Total Recall among them. A Scanner Darkly is a bizarre and often hysterically funny novel about an undercover drugs cop who finds himself on his own trail. Compulsory.

5. Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut Jr
A unique and original talent, Mr Vonnegut dislikes being pigeon-holed as an SF writer. The fact remains, though, that he’s responsible for a lot of classic and extremely funny writing in this genre. Slaughterhouse Five is his masterpiece, and it veers from incredibly funny to as black as it gets, centred as it is around the firebombing of Dresden (at which the young author was present). Once you’ve read it, you’ll want to rush out and buy Breakfast of Champions and Player Piano and Cat’s Cradle and … well, everything else he’s written.

6. Venus On The Half-Shell by Kilgore Trout
A curiosity, this one. Kilgore Trout is a fictional science fiction writer invented by Kurt Vonnegut jr, who often used him as a way of making personal appearances in his own novels. However this book was written by Philip Jose Farmer, using Vonnegut’s alter-ego character as a nom-de-plume, to break him out of a writer’s block. Interesting.

7. Riverworld by Philip Jose Farmer
Again, not out-and-out comedy. The whole of humankind finds itself reincarnated on the banks of an enormous river. It’s a big concept, spanning several volumes, and tremendous fun, the main heroes being the author’s own favourite historical personages, including Tom Mix (the early cowboy movie actor in the 10 gallon hat), Mark Twain and a bizarrely reformed Herman Goering. Don’t miss it. The series begins with To Your Scattered Bodies Go and ends with The Dark Design.

8. Ringworld by Larry Niven
Once again, not a drop dead funny comedy, but great, original characters and fantastic concepts with a wry sense of fun. A must-read. The sequel’s just as good, too.

9. Colony by Rob Grant
All right, I’ve caved in. But then how can I provide a definitive top 10 without including this sparkling gem of the genre?

10. Backwards by Rob Grant
Outrageously, I’ve mentioned myself twice. Astonishing…

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