A quick look at the local or national news broadcast will tell that there is lots of serious stuff going on in the world. Crime, unemployment, inflation, and—scariest of all—a cavalcade of political candidates. (Oh yes, I went there.) Is it any wonder that people seek escape inside movie theaters and the pages of books? Books in particular are my favorite escape. Science fiction and fantasy, my preferred and predominant reading zone, offers innumerable escapes to well-imagined and wondrous worlds. But even some of those stories are darker than I prefer.

That's why I like to cleanse my reading palate every so often with books that don't take themselves too seriously. They offer lighthearted takes on tired tropes that not only lift my spirits, but also renew my love of reading by showing me the versatility of the written word.

Here's a small handful of science fiction and fantasy titles that showcase the lighter side of speculative fiction.


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Asteroid Made of Dragons by G. Derek Adams

You would think that, facing the utter annihilation of the planet, those capable of stopping the destruction would band together and work as a cohesive team towards the common goal of salvation. Not so in the farcical fantasy world of Asteroid Made of Dragons by G. Derek Adams. In it, a goblin researcher named Xenon discovers an artifact containing a terrifying message: the world is in immediate and dire danger from a most unusual asteroid – one constructed as a cage for dragons. Xenon thus scrambles to unravel the mystery of the strange asteroid and find help to save the world. She does find help, of a sort. She is joined by Rime, a wild mage who is teetering on the brink of madness, and her guardian, Jonas, who knows his way around a sword fight. And as if our stalwart heroes didn't have enough to contend with, shadowy forces are out to kill Rime. Asteroid Made of Dragons is notable for upping the stakes of the quest fantasy and featuring a band of heroes that are trying to kill each other. All in the name of good humor, of course.


The Days of Tao by Wesley Chu

Wesley Chu's Tao books have always maintained their comedic edge as they told the story of a most unusual alien invasion. Two alien races at war with each other play out their battles on Earth while inhabiting the bodies of Earthlings whom they train as agents. In the standalone novella The Days of Tao, one of the agents for the Prophus aliens, the under-trained Cameron Tan, is the only choice to assist in the extraction of a more experienced agent who holds vital information. The trouble is, the rival Genjix aliens have declared an all-out war against the Prophus, making Cameron's otherwise easy task much more difficult and dangerous. But, things going wrong has been a hallmark of this series, and therein lies source of the fun. Chu's smart-alecky tone is sure to give readers a smile.


Practical Applications for Multiverse Theory by Noa Gavin and Nick Scott

What happens when two teenagers from opposite sides of the social spectrum must come together to save the world? Find out in the high-school adventure Practical Applications for Multiverse Theory. Aimed at teen readers, the story features a self-proclaimed loner and a mean-girl cheerleader who both notice that the all of the different universes begin collapsing into their school. That sounds weird but totally explains why their teachers are replaced with their demon versions. Although…Students randomly bursting into flames is a little harder to explain. However, armed with a book on multiple universe theory, the pair of forced-to-be-heroic teens aim to put things right again.


The Everything Box by Richard Kadrey

everythingbox_coverRichard Kadrey, who wowed audiences with his dark Sandman Slim series, turns to the lighter side with a new urban fantasy series. The Everything Box features a two-bit thief named Coop who bites off way more than he can chew. Perhaps he was asking for it. He specializes in pilfering magic objects and his latest caper involves him stealing a small, innocent-looking box that is actually a Doomsday device capable of ending the whole of humanity. This captures the attention of the Department of Peculiar Science, a formidable and frightening enforcement agency that polices exactly this sort of odd and strange occurrence. They'd like to know more about Coop's mysterious client and a host of other parties who have a vested interest in possessing the little box with mighty power. Thus Coop finds himself in the odd position of having to steal it back again and again. As if to distance himself from the Sandman Slim books, Kadrey seems to infuse the story with more comedic elements than you might expect. Keep your eyes peeled for the clumsy angels and the mooning werewolves. (You read that right.)


Seriously Funny: The Endlessly Quotable Terry Pratchett by Terry Pratchett

In the Internet Article Law Book, there's a passage that says any article that discuses humorous fantasy novels in a significant way must include a mention of Terry Pratchett. The late author, widely known as the creator of the numerous Discworld novels, actually fits into this article quite nicely. Newly available this month is a book featuring the best of the best Terry Pratchett quotes that feature not only his wit, but his insight as well. As the book proudly proclaims, it includes quotes about "life, the universe and snoring." What more can anyone ask?

John DeNardo is the editor of SF Signal, the Hugo Award-winning group science-fiction and fantasy blog featuring news, reviews and interviews. You can follow him on Twitter as @sfsignal.