The best fantasy books that are silly but solid at the same time

Jamie Brindle Author Of The Hard Blokes Of Sparta: The Princess In The Tower
By Jamie Brindle

Who am I?

I love fantasy, particularly comic fantasy. But there's an art to making something that is mind-meltingly silly feel real and meaningful, at the same time. To make it feel solid. If something is too chaotic, too randomly silly, then the narrative integrity disintegrates. You're left feeling, ‘yes, I know that the troll has now mysteriously turned into a chicken; but really, what’s the point?’ On the other hand, if the story isn’t silly enough…well, then it becomes straight fantasy, which is wonderful when it’s done well, but can feel mundane and derivative when it is not. I've deliberately limited this list to include only two Discworld books. To include any more would seem, well—silly.


I wrote...

The Hard Blokes Of Sparta: The Princess In The Tower

By Jamie Brindle,

Book cover of The Hard Blokes Of Sparta: The Princess In The Tower

What is my book about?

The Hard Blokes of Sparta fell through a portal into a strange magical world. Now every day is a 'don't-get-eaten-by-a-dragon' day.

The Hard Blokes are trying to make things work, but compared to the creatures that live here, they're not quite as hard as they thought they were. They have one last chance to prove themselves: rescue a princess, or face involuntary enrolment in a brutal-fighting-pit scenario. But how can a maneven a Spartancompete with orcs and goblins, chimeras and dragons? Dave might have an idea, but he doesn't think his friends will like it... The Hard Blokes of Sparta is a comic fantasy novel full of laughs, action, and adventure. If you like your fantasy fun and fast-paced, you'll love The Hard Blokes of Sparta.

The books I picked & why

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Men at Arms

By Terry Pratchett,

Book cover of Men at Arms

Why this book?

This is the second book in the Guards sequence, but it’s easy enough to start here. This detective story set in the sprawling, smelly metropolis of Ankh-Morpork, featuring dwarves, werewolves, and (occasionally) humans, is a laugh-out-loud and anarchic book, managing to be hugely joyous and page-turningly compelling at the same time. Insanely silly and utterly real, with characters so solid you can see (or in some cases, smell) them long after you turn the last page.

Men at Arms

By Terry Pratchett,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Men at Arms as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

There's evil in the air and murder afoot. The City Watch needs all the help it can get, as Captain Vimes is about to hang up his badge. From the author of "Small Gods" and "Lords and Ladies", this book is part of the "Discworld" humorous fantasy series.


The Restaurant at the End of the Universe

By Douglas Adams,

Book cover of The Restaurant at the End of the Universe

Why this book?

Any list like this needs to include a Hitchhiker’s book, and this is my personal favourite. These books skirt even further into the surreal and silly than the Discworld books, but somehow Douglas Adams saves them from falling into pointlessness. I can’t quite see how he does it. The settings are so diverse and mind-boggling, and the plot is thin enough that it would probably collapse if I tried to describe it, like a beautiful bubble popping in your palm. The characters are vividly memorable, but in these books, it is the language that really shines, the spectacular, witty, wonderful use of words and phrases, which somehow elevate the book, making us care about the journey despite its utter silliness.

The Restaurant at the End of the Universe

By Douglas Adams,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Restaurant at the End of the Universe as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Following the smash-hit sci-fi comedy The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe is the second part in Douglas Adams' multi-media phenomenon and cult classic series.

This edition includes exclusive bonus material from the Douglas Adams archives, and an introduction by Monty Python star, Terry Jones.

If you've done six impossible things this morning, why not round it off with breakfast at Milliways, the Restaurant at the end of the Universe?

Which is exactly what Arthur Dent and the crew of the Heart of Gold plan to do. There's just the small matter of…


Red Dwarf: Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers

By Grant Naylor,

Book cover of Red Dwarf: Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers

Why this book?

I first read this when I was a teenager because I loved the TV show. But though the book has a lot of cleverly mad humour, there is more of a melancholy undercurrent here. The science fiction ideas are creatively insane, but they are always brought down to Earth by the palpably flawed characters, which give the whole book a reality it would otherwise lack. This elevates it from whimsical science fantasy to something solid and substantial. For smeg’s sake, give it a read!

Red Dwarf: Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers

By Grant Naylor,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Red Dwarf as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Awakening from a drunken spree in a London pub to find himself on one of Saturn's moons, Lister joins the Space Corps and boards the Red Dwarf, determined to return to Earth


Fortunately, the Milk

By Neil Gaiman, Skottie Young (illustrator),

Book cover of Fortunately, the Milk

Why this book?

This one is different, in the sense that it is a children’s book. You can read it to your five-year-old, and you will both love it. A wonderfully tall tale by a father, explaining why it took him so long to get the milk. It includes dinosaurs, vampires, enchanted gems, and (briefly) magic ponies. But along with all this silliness, there is a story of a father caring for his children, a sense of family and love in which the story is embedded. A wonderful little book.

Fortunately, the Milk

By Neil Gaiman, Skottie Young (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Fortunately, the Milk as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From multi-award-winning Neil Gaiman comes a spectacularly silly, mind-bendingly clever, brilliantly bonkers adventure - with lip-smackingly gorgeous illustrations by Chris Riddell. Mum's away. Dad's in charge. There's no milk. So Dad saves the day by going to buy some. Really, that's all that happens. Very boring. YAAAAAAAAAWN. There are absolutely none of the following inside: GLOBBY GREEN ALIENS! INTERGALACTIC POLICE! PIRATES! And most definitely NOT a time-travelling hot-air balloon piloted by the brilliant Professor Steg ... Don't miss this gloriously entertaining novel about time-travel, dinosaurs, milk and dads.


Sourcery

By Terry Pratchett,

Book cover of Sourcery

Why this book?

I said I would limit myself to two Discworld books, so here we have my other favourite. This is quite an early one, before the world is fully formed, but the portrayal of the wizards and their University is beginning to emerge, full of chaos and joy and demented energy. But again, this madcap, surreal mania is corralled masterfully, the characters feeling like real people with real agency, moving through a world that—while full of vivid colours and impossible, surreal things—is also somehow solid and real. It is a testament to Pratchett’s incredible storytelling powers that Ankh Morpork is more real to me than several cities I have actually, physically visited. It is unreal and yet hyper-real at the same time. You should go visit. It is wonderful. 

Sourcery

By Terry Pratchett,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Sourcery as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'May well be considered his masterpiece . . . Humour such as his is an endangered species' The Times

The Discworld is very much like our own - if our own were to consist of a flat planet balanced on the back of four elephants which stand on the back of a giant turtle, that is . . .

All this books and stuff, that isn't what it should all be about. What we need is real wizardry.

Once there was an eighth son of an eighth son, a wizard squared, a source of magic. A Sourcerer.

Unseen University, the…


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