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7 Sci-Fi Novels for When You Want to Laugh

When characters discover new worlds, take on galactic invaders, time travel or gain extraordinary powers, it can lead to heroic, epic adventures—or everything going hilariously wrong. Or, even better, some combination of both. So from not-so-super heroes to socially-anxious killer robots, here are seven humorous stories of people who are in over their heads.

Gate Crashers by Patrick S. Tomlinson

When the crew of the exploration vessel Magellan discovers an alien artifact during humanity’s furthest trip into space, they decide to bring it back to Earth so they can study the technology. Unfortunately, the aliens happened to be rather fond of this artifact. As the people of Earth put themselves on a collision course with the rest of the potentially hostile galaxy, they find the only thing as infinite as the universe is humanity’s ability to mess up.

Super Extra Grande by Yoss

Bizarre, hilarious, and a scathing critique of Western politics, Cuban author Yoss’s satire follows Dr. Jan Amos Sangan Dongo, a veterinarian who specializes in treating large alien animals. When Earth faces colonial conflicts with the other intelligent species, Dr. Sangan is forced to embark on a mission to rescue two ambassadors from the belly of an enormous creature. It’s intergalactic road trip meets raunchy satire and you need it in your life.

All Systems Red by Martha Wells

In this first book in the Murderbot Diaries, a self-aware security android hacks its settings and dubs itself “Murderbot”… because it sort of killed several people. Now free of restraints and bugs that might send them on another killing spree, the introverted droid has discovered soap operas and just wants to be left alone. But when something goes wrong on a mission to protect scientists on an alien planet, Murderbot gets strangely attached to their pesky humans and decides to risk discovery to protect them all—even if humans are much more complicated than they look on TV.

Old Man’s War by John Scalzi

The good news is humans have made it to interplanetary space and discovered inhabitable planets. The bad news is that aliens want these planets too, and humans, led by the Colonial Defense Force, will have to fight for them. But the Defense Force doesn’t take young recruits—it enlists the elderly and transfers their experienced minds into younger bodies. John Perry joins the military on his 75th birthday. And while there’s plenty of drama and battle, there’s also a lot of old dudes making fart jokes and getting excited about their new abs. Old Man’s War is another one of the books on this list that show an outer space is full of sarcasm and witty rejoinders.

All Those Explosions Were Someone Else’s Fault by James Alan Gardner

When dark creatures start to offer immortality in exchange for money (and maybe your soul) and magic and science combine to create beings with extraordinary powers, a battle ensues between the Dark and the Light. Caught in the middle of it all are Kim Lam, our snarky, gender-fluid hero, and their three roommates, turned into the super-powered Sparks by a freak accident. Equipped with capes and costumes, the friends use their new-found abilities to seek truth and justice…for the most part. The explosions were definitely someone else’s fault.

To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis

This Hugo and Locus-award winning comedic novel begins in the year 2057, where they use time machines to study history. Ned Henry, suffering from time-lag due to jumping back and forth to often from the 1940s, is in desperate need of a rest. But when a historian takes something from Victorian times that could upset the results of World War II and destabilize the timeline, Ned is the only available man to go back and set things right. Hijinks, mischievous butlers, boating accidents and social snafus ensue as the historians of Oxford pop back and forth in time and search for a gaudy artifact of dubious proportions.

Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

A classic when it comes to humorous science fiction, this story follows Arthur Dent and his best friend and actual alien Ford Prefect. They, and of course all the dolphins and mice, survive when Vogons destroy Earth to make way for an intergalactic highway. Joined by a two-headed alien, a human woman, a depressed robot, and a graduate student obsessed with the disappearance of his pens, they begin a journey full of wit and lunacy to discover the answer to some of life’s most important questions.

60 thoughts on “7 Sci-Fi Novels for When You Want to Laugh

  1. I’ve read Hitcher’s and To Say Nothing… and started Old Man’s War. Hitcher’s must be one of the funniest things ever written, Dog is also hilarious, though not quite the classic Hitcher’s is, with people still quoting from it forty years later. Am not enjoying the Scalzi as much, I’m afraid. It reads to me like Heinlein’s poorer work. Just my opinion but I’m struggling with it, and the Old Farts are still on their ship out! Too much dialogue and discussion of their situation.

    1. I’m glad this comment is near the top. I enjoyed “All Systems Red,” but it’s nowhere near as funny as “Long Way” — and I don’t think it’s meant to be as funny. “Long Way” is clearly in the vein of HHGG. For those who like the very talkative approach, less situational humor, like Scalzi, you might also try “We Are Legion (We Are Bob).” It’s a contemporary take on Norton’s “The Ship Who Sang.” (And, honestly, some of the classics deserve a re-read.)

      1. I can’t edit to clarify some bad appositions above:

        (1) ASR isn’t, to my mind, meant to be as funny as “Long Way.”
        (2) Scalzi’s OMW novels feature funny dialogue. The humor is not situational.

    1. Yes! I hopped down to comments to ask how Valente’s Space Opera was not on this list!

  2. Robert Asprin’s Phules Company is quite amusing. Sci Fi comedy at its best, a group of misfits and their leader engage in humorous military adventures.

  3. Don’t forgot McLendon’s Syndrome by Robert Frezza. Vampires who crave chocolate chip cookies

  4. The Space Merchants and Robots Have No Tails, both real oldies, rank right up there. I prefer Willis’ Bellwether to Nothing but the Dog.

  5. I think this article is incorrectly lumping together humorous/comedic works (Hitchhiker’s Guide) and serious works (Old Man’s War). Comedic works can often have serious matters, the same goes for serious works: they have sarcasm, jokes, and other things that might make you laugh.

    In other words, laughing a few times while watching your favorite TV drama does not make it a comedy. Crying during your favorite comedy does not make it a drama.

  6. While it is probably too short for this list, I would put in a recommendation for David Gerrold’s “Chess with a Dragon”.

    Humans have joined a loose interstellar Confederation, and a rather look down upon because they are mammals. Our hero is part of the international contingent of humans involved in diplomatic negotiations with the other species (mostly insectoid and reptilian) When he makes a terrible discovery!

    By the way, when does not play chess with a Dragon because the convention among Dragons is that the winner eats the loser.

    1. I remember really enjoying Chess with a Dragon, but I don’t remember finding it particularly humorous. Maybe I need to go back to it.

  7. Live Free Or Die by John Ringo should absolutely be on this list.

    Any book that contains the inception and aftermath of the Maple Syrup War is one to be reckoned with.

  8. How can you forget the hysterical “Mote in God’s Eye” by the greats Niven and Purnell?

    1. “More In “God’s Eye” is an excellent novel of first contact, which I have read more times than I can count. But how is it humorous? It’s a straight drama.

  9. It has been a few years since I read it but as I recall, All right, everybody off the planet! by Bob Ottum is very funny.
    The Retief series by Keith Laumer is frequently quite funny.

  10. Steven Erikson’s two _Willful Child_ novellas are pretty funny, but the humor is probably not too PC.

  11. I would vote for Lois McMaster Bujold, A Civil Affair for some of the best humor in science fiction.

  12. Has anyone read the “Interstellar Patrol” by Christopher Anvil and published by Baen? It’s a collection of short stories if I recall correctly and one of those stories was one of the funniest things I have ever read. I need to find my copy and read it again. It was on par with Douglas Adams IMHO.

  13. The Unicorn Girl by Michael Kurland got me through high school; heck, nearly all of Kurland’s books are hilarious in spots at the very least.

  14. Faves not mentioned yet:
    -The Long Earth by Terry Pratchett & Stephen Baxter (It’s Pratchett. Both funny and profound)
    -Year Zero by Rob Reid (funniest book about galactic copyright law EVER! No. Really.)

  15. There is an incredibly funny British science fiction TV show called Red Dwarf. The creators “Grant Naylor” also wrote a couple of incredibly funny novels based on the same characters/situation which can be enjoyed independently of the show. Show and novels highly recommended.

  16. Year Zero by Robert Reid would be a good addition to this list. It actually made me laugh out loud while reading.

  17. Liked Becky Chambers, too! But what about Jim Hines? And how could you leave out John Ford’s “How Much for Just the Planet?”? Or is it because it’s a Star Trek book?

  18. OK, must agree with lots of books by Harry Harrison and Keith Laumer, very humorous, and I can’t recall who wrote the series about Bob the Galactic Hero, also very funny, but the funniest thing I have ever read was Mission Earth by L Ron Hubbard of Scientology fame. Yes, it’s a single story in 10 volumes, but every one a page turner. An excellent read.

    1. Really? Is it intentional humor, or just knowing more about LRH’s philosophy that makes it funny? I tried collecting those when I was younger, but kept getting yard sale bundles with extra copies of some I had and never the one or two I needed to complete it. I ended up trading them in to a bookstore as an unfinished collection and some extras, since no one seemed to have them anymore by the time I lived near a used book store.

    2. Is that We are Legion (We are Bob) by Dennis Taylor? The Bobiverse trilogy is a HOOT!

  19. Dennis Taylor’s “Bobiverse” trilogy fits this list perfectly–funny, snarky, smart scifi that had me laughing out loud. I’m a public librarian, and it’s a permanent part of our recommended reads display.

  20. Someone stated the “L. Ron Hubbard, “Mission Earth” was funny? HUH?. A decalogy of wasted time. Seemed to be an interesting read till the end. Then, “gotcha”, just a fellow reading a history. “wheee”. ick. I agree with some folks on here tho about Keith Laumer. The Retief bits with the oddly named ambassador groups? Loved it! Five eyed vile Groaci? Yep.

    later.

  21. Craig Alanson’s Expeditionary Force series should not be left out of this list. It is one of the most humorous sci-fi series’ that I have read (more accurately, listened to -audiobook) in ages.

  22. First Contract by Greg Costikyan is a hilarious novel of first contact and it’s economic effects on Earth.

  23. Old Mans War is only comedic if you are young. If young happened a while back, OMW is a brutal examination of maturity and the truth that “youth is wasted on the young”.

  24. Bill the Galactic Hero should be on the list, as should most of Eric Frank Russell’s works. Keith Laumer’s Retief series and Poul Anderson’s Flandry series also deserve mention.

  25. I don’t know why this surprised me, but “The Road to Mars” by Eric Idol was a seriously great book and super funny. It’s about two robot comedians trying to make it on the galactic circuit. Meta funny sci-fi because it is both funny in itself and explores the philosophy of humour.

  26. Such a fun list! Another great series is Space Drifters by Paul Regnier. He nails the cheesy humor, and the characters have great heart. Oh, and Starship Grifters by Robert Kroese.

  27. BeauW: That’s Eric Idle. (Not Idol.) Yes, the Monty Python guy wrote a humorous SF novel with a surprising amount of meta-humor as well as straightforward humor. Much deeper than I expected. And he treated the SF elements with a surprising amount of respect as well. Not at all the forgettable slapstick I was expecting. Second the recommendation.

    Also seconding the recommendation for Bujold’s A Civil Campaign.

    Adding a new recommendation for A. Lee Martinez, who mostly writes humorous fantasy, but has a couple of really good SF novels as well. Emperor Mollusk vs. the Sinister Brain is a great send-up of classic pulp tropes, and The Artificial Detective is a charmingly twisted take on the robot detective genre, with far more hardboiled influence than Asimov ever tried. 🙂

  28. Just piping in to say that in addition to some of the books above which I’ve read (and the rest which I hope to read soon!), I want to give honorable mention to A.C. Spahn’s Endurance novella series. At turns charming and hilarious, it’s a really fun new indie series to enjoy.

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