Friday, October 4, 2013

Good for a laugh

Humour is an important element of a book for me. That goes whether it's something I read or something I write. If I can find something i can laugh about in a book it can sometimes override other elements that I may not like as much. It can even make up for some of a book's failings as I see them.

I'm not just talking about humour in things like many of Terry Pratchett's books, which are written with the sole intent of being amusing, although the humour can range from broad farce to subtle satire or amusing social commentary.

I've spoken before of the current interest in what is most commonly referred to as 'grimdark' fiction. I've grown tired of a lot of that, because to be totally honest I found it was depressing, the books I was reading were devoid of anything approaching humour.

The books in that subgenre that I do still enjoy tend to be those that manage to mix some humour in amongst the blood and guts and their rather cynical outlook. While there is graphic violence in The Lies of Locke Lamora and a lot of profanity and it was set in a 'sad crapsack' world I found myself often laughing at the banter between Locke and his gang of Gentleman Bastards. Their 'bastard/liar' schtick never fails to raise a smile. What I find often rises Joe Abercrombie above many others who write in his subgenre is the somewhat dark humour he throws in. While I would go a long way out of my intended route to avoid crossing paths with his Northmen I do find their dark and dry humour laugh out loud funny. George R.R Martin also leavens his epic A Song of Ice and Fire with comedy, generally in the form of Tyrion Lannister. That to me is part of why Tyrion is many people's favourite character from both the books and HBO's Game of Thrones TV adaptation.

I find even non straight out comedy books have to have humour or a comedy relief to properly work. Those moments or characters for me, can make a book, or make me like it more and often become my favourites.

On the other hand if the humour or 'funny' character isn't done well or falls flat it can drag the book down. If I read it and I can see in my mind's eye the author chortling over their keyboard because they think something is funny I can be turned off very quickly.

You do get others that aren't at all funny and they work as well, if it's done well enough. Ian Tregillis' Milkweed triptych comes to mind. There's not much funny in that, in fact unrelenting misery is a better term and it doesn't have what could be called a happy ending, but I still rate the three books (Bitter Seeds, The Coldest War and Necessary Evil) as one of the best things I've read in a very long time and they stayed with me ages after I finished the final page of Necessary Evil.

Don't be afraid to be funny. Many of us out there read for the laughs. Laughter can make you remember a book fondly.

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