The holidays are fast approaching and the joy of celebrating with family will inevitably be accompanied by its ugly cousin: stress. There are many ways to unwind. My favorite is a post-Turkey nap. My second favorite is to relax with a good book, preferably one that doesn't take itself too seriously or at least provides some witty commentary. Fortunately, a recent crop of science fiction and fantasy books suit that very purpose…

 

The Last Adventure of Constance Verity by A. Lee Martinez

Did you ever have one of those days? Well, move over, whiner, because adventurer Constance Verity has been having one of those days since she was seven years old. And, quite frankly, she's tired of it. Thanks to a wish granted to her by her fairy godmother when she was born, Constance has come to be known as the world's greatest adventurer. It's not an unearned title; she is an undisputed master of all the skills necessary to maintain that title. She's an eagle-eyed detective who knows martial arts and possesses a collection of strange artifacts. After almost three decades of saving the world, she's ready to call it quits. To get there, though, she needs to undertake one more adventure, and "world's greatest adventurer" is not a title that gives itself up willingly. In The Last Adventure of Constance Verity, A. Lee Martinez has written a truly un-put-downable book with laughs on every page. Read this laugh-out-loud book over the holidays and egg nog will come out of your nose.

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11.16 Ferryman The Ferryman Institute by Colin Gigl

If you think your job is soul-sucking, don't tell Charlie Dawson. He's one of the ferrymen who's been ushering dead people into the afterlife for hundreds of years in Colin Gigl's supernatural adventure The Ferryman Institute. Let's face it: centuries of drudge work tends to wear down one's motivation. That's certainly what happened to Charlie.  Despite his long history of success, he's ready to hang up his robe. Charlie had given up all hope of escaping his boring existence until he did something unexpected: he saved Alice Spiegel from committing suicide. Let me tell you, something like that does not sit well with the department of Internal Affairs at The Ferryman Institute, and it especially does not make IA's Inspector Javrouche happy at all. Charlie stands by his decision to save Alice and chooses to fight the system, even though that may put an end to the existence of mankind.

 

The Empty Ones by Robert Brockway

Part humor, part horror novel, Robert Brockway's The Empty Ones follows up last year's urban fantasy The Unnoticeableswith even more laughs and surprises for its two protagonists Carey and Kaitlyn. Carey is a demon-fighting punk rocker who lives in New York City during the late 1970s. After a killer cult murders most of his friends, Carey decides to visit the London punk scene and, as long as he's there, hunt down and kill the cult leader who unanimously decides that mankind has a people problem. Jump to 2013 and Kaitlyn, a failed L.A. stuntwoman who hooked up with a B-list celebrity heartthrob named Marco who, not incidentally, was also an immortal psychopath. When Kaitlyn learns that Marco's got an acting gig down in Mexico, she heads south to confront her literal demon. But first, she'll have to fight her way through an army of acidic sludge monsters. Like you do. In The Empty Ones, Brockway turns the weird and crazy dials up to eleven and manages to pull off a novel that's both hilarious and horrifying.

 

SF_Invasion Invasion by Luke Rhinehart

Leaning towards the absurdist side of the comedy spectrum is Luke Rhinehart's light and cozy alien contact novel Invasion. It involves super-intelligent furry aliens who visit Earth from another dimension. An alien who goes by the name "Louie" befriends a man named Billy and follows him home and meets his family. Louie quickly passes the realm of unwanted house guest when he uses Billy's computer to hack into government and corporate networks and steal money from banks. The aliens' ultimate goal is to teach humans the irrationality of our political, economic, and military systems, but what they forget is the seriousness of the people they are trifling with. 

 

The Dark Lord by Jack Heckel

What's an undercover evil wizard to do after spending years serving as the Dark Lord in the magical land of Trelari? If you’re Avery, the protagonist of Jack Heckel's epic fantasy parody The Dark Lord, you hang up your cloak, leave Trelari, and return to your studies at Mysterium University. Here's what you're not supposed to subsequently do: get drunk with a beautiful stranger and tell her all of your secrets about your travels. Otherwise, as Avery unfortunately finds out, she will return to the land of magic and become the Dark Queen. In an attempt to rectify the situation, Avery teams up with his former enemies to travel back to Trelari and liberate the land the magical creatures suffering under her rule.

 

SF_UFO Unidentified Funny Objects 5 edited by Alex Shvartsman

Holidays aren't necessarily overflowing with an abundance of reading time. It might be hard to fit a novel-length story in between get-togethers and gift wrapping. Even so, that doesn't mean you can't fit in some shorter knee-slapping reads in the in-between moments. Cue Alex Shvartsman's humorous anthology series Unidentified Funny Objects, now up to its fifth volume. This entertaining read focuses on the truly funny sf/f stories – that is, stories that are engineered to be funny from the ground up. As the cover proudly proclaims, you'll find stories about "Aztec Astronauts, Punster Prophets, Apocalyptic Apps, Cantankerous Cryptids and the Duck Knight." Lending their talents to the laugh-fest are Esther Friesner, David Gerrold, Gini Koch, Jody Lynn Nye, Tim Pratt, Laura Resnick, Mike Resnick, and Caroline M. Yoachim. It even comes with some nifty illustrations by Barry Munden and Tomasz Maronski. So, dig in and enjoy!

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