Humour in books is a strange beast – well, for me it is, because for the longest time I was convinced I could never read a book that was laugh-out-loud funny — probably because crime was my favourite genre at the time, and that usually involved people meeting with a bloody end. Picking my taste in humour when it comes to movies and TV is much easier – Frasier humour gets a big yes, as does The Big Bang Theory, but not the Hangover and American Pie movie humour.
I read on the train to and from work, and a couple of years ago, during one of those rides I was reading a Harry Potter novel, and for the first time in a long time, I found myself giggling at what I was reading because it was so funny – I was reading about Fred and George and their antics, and as much as I loved the movies, they never did make me laugh like the book did. I like my humour uncomplicated, woven into the text so seamlessly that I’m laughing before I finish the sentence.
I started paying a bit more attention to humour after that. More often than not, in the urban fantasy genre, humour is snarky, ie. snide and sharply critical dialogue, softened just enough by something that makes it funny enough to earn a half smile from me. The same often appears in thriller/adventure books I read. Humour is tough, I think. I envy the authors like Laura Resnick, Simon R. Green and Kevin Hearne who all weave humour and a fair bit of (gentle) snark into their writing that leaves me grinning when I read their work. Yes, alright they’re all urban fantasy authors – I have a type – but they’re undeniably funny with their talent for humour. And snark.
Laura Resnick, in her Esther Diamond series, writes Esther with the wit of a New Yorker, who has seen everything and more, and still manages to be human and humourous. Esther’s voice is marvellous in its tone – somewhat dry and yes snarky too, but that never overtakes the genuine humour in the books, which includes physical humour that has left me laughing on the train may a time. Resnick’s Esther Diamond series would get copious amounts of stars for making me genuinely enjoying a book because it made me laugh.
But, it’s not just with Esther that this humour shines through in the book. Max – the character with the actual power in the story – reminds me of a favourite uncle and not so much the all powerful wizard that he actually is. He’s never quite got the hang of the modern world, and tends to still stick out like a sore thumb. Esther, is the human in the story but that she manages to hold her own and guide the supernatural being in the story – Max – through their adventures is a lovely subversion of the tropes that are usually in this genre. I can only hope she stays that way.
I sometimes think that Simon R. Green’s writing must be the very definition of dry British wit.
I’ve long been a voracious reader of his urban fantasy series – the Nightside and The Secret Histories. Both are filled with fantasy and flights of imagination that humour tends to ground for me.
Green says the humour and the one-liners in his work are just him, and I suspect the same could be said of Kevin Hearne, author of the Iron Druid series. When I read their books, I often think they’re the type of person that will always have a one-liner at hand for every situation.
One would expected a 2000-year old druid to be a master at a quick retort and Atticus is, very much so. While he’s certainly capable of being snide, I find Atticus’s snark is of a gentler kind (unless he’s sword-fighting someone) compared to the other books in this genre.
So, those are some of the authors I find funny — sort of grouped together in one genre, aren’t they? What other authors make you laugh?