The best thigh-slappingly funny science fiction books

Mark Roman and Corben Duke Author Of The Worst Man on Mars
By Mark Roman and Corben Duke

Who are we?

Who, apart from the innately humorless, doesn’t like a good laugh? We do, whether it’s at Mark Roman’s opera singing or at Corben Duke’s naked balloon dance. We also enjoy funny science fiction books. We’ve tried writing them, too, but it’s devilishly difficult. So, time and time again, we turn to the masters in the field to see how they did it, studying the words they used, the way they joined them together, and where they inserted the punctuation marks. Most instructive. Here are our top five and their funny SF books.

We wrote...

The Worst Man on Mars

By Mark Roman and Corben Duke,

Book cover of The Worst Man on Mars

What is our book about?

Blunt Yorkshireman Flint Dugdale has used his large frame and ‘persuasive personality’ to take charge of Britain’s first mission to Mars. He’ll wish he hadn’t bothered for, unbeknownst to him, the base – built by an advance party of inept robots – is not finished, having no food, no water, and no doors. Worse, as Dugdale and his oddball crew and quirky colonists prepare to make History, the ship’s scanners detect Life down on the surface. What form will it take? And will it be pleased to see them?

The books we picked & why

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The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

By Douglas Adams,

Book cover of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Why this book?

This is an obvious choice as it is one of the funniest sci-fi books ever, and one of our personal faves. It’s been a massive hit all around the world and even now, over 40 years after its publication, still ranks high in the bestseller charts and readers’ all-time-favourite lists. Our first encounter with it was the BBC Radio 4 series that spawned the book. We loved its originality, its production, its sound effects, its cleverness, its humour and, most of all, Slartibartfast. The book – and its subsequence sequels – did not disappoint. So, if you’re in need of cheering up – grab a copy of HHGTTG, or H2G2, or HG2G, or whatever you want to call it.

Red Dwarf: Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers

By Grant Naylor,

Book cover of Red Dwarf: Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers

Why this book?

This book is the first one based on the Red Dwarf TV series. There have been twelve series to date, and they provide a glut of delightful sci-fi comedy – quirky, ingenious, and always very funny. Great for binge-watching if you can put your life on hold for a bit. The books are great, too. Possibly even funnier? The first, Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers, expands on the backgrounds of Lister, Rimmer, The Cat, Holly, and Kryten. What a gang, eh? In real life, you’d probably end up strangling them.

Dark Star

By Alan Dean Foster,

Book cover of Dark Star

Why this book?

A very funny book based on the John Carpenter movie of the same name. It’s about the crew of the malfunctioning Dark Star, engaged in the suitably pointless mission of “destroying unstable planets.” Highlights include the alien shaped like a beach ball, and the philosophical bomb agonizing over its purpose in life – to blow or not to blow. Sadly, the book is out of print, although you might bag a second-hand copy. One of us (Corben) obtained a manky copy on the No. 47 bus as he made his way with his greyhound Professor Wagglesworth to the Catford Dog track in 1974. The Professor performed poorly that night – distracted by a frisky poodle in the crowd – so Corben read the book instead. It made him realise that life, unlike greyhound racing, is not to be taken seriously.

The Witches of Chiswick

By Robert Rankin,

Book cover of The Witches of Chiswick

Why this book?

If you’ve gone through life thinking that a sprout can’t be funny, this book will convince you otherwise. Barry the Sprout is the star of the show, lodged in the head of lead character Will Starling. But the whole book is a joy. Highly inventive and very funny. It involves time travel, weird conspiracy theories, Queen Victoria, the Elephant Man, Jack the Ripper, the Brentford Snail Boy, and many more. 

Schrödinger's Caterpillar

By Zane Stumpo,

Book cover of Schrödinger's Caterpillar

Why this book?

Here's a little-known gem that is clever and witty, packed with funny incidents and terrible puns. It’s about downsizing consultant Graham Paint who owns the eponymous insect. Much to his inconvenience, the caterpillar (which, like its namesake cat, exists in a state of quantum uncertainty) starts spawning alternative realities, each with their own copy of Graham – causing havoc for him, and the police. The storyline has echoes of the Gwyneth Paltrow movie Sliding Doors, but is much funnier and smarter. Oh, and check out the book’s trailer on YouTube.

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