Monday, November 19, 2012

John Dies at the End by David Wong

The story of how I happened to pick up John Dies at the End isn’t anywhere near as epic as the book, but it’s almost as random as the plot. I first saw the book a year or so ago, but the cover did nothing for me, so I left it on the shelf. Then I saw the sequel This Book is Full of Spiders. I have serious arachnophobia, so any book that proudly proclaims it is full of spiders is going to naturally attract my attention, even if it’s just to shudder at the thought. I now have a fear of opening a book and having a bloody great huntsman jump out at me. Anyway I had a look at This Book is Full of Spiders and was informed that it is the sequel to John Dies at the End. The author (David Wong, not his real name) did say it wasn’t necessary to read the previous book, but I’m odd like that. So I bought John Dies at the End. It was an odd decision reached in an equally unusual way, but I am so glad I did it.

In the afterword the actual author of John Dies at the End and the real person behind David Wong (Jason Pargin, humor editor of  explains how the book came to be, and like the book itself, there was nothing normal about it, and it probably broke a number of rules about how to get published.

John Dies at the End breaks all sorts of rules about writing. Giving away the ending in the book’s title is just one of them. Continuity is often ignored, only to be retconned later on, and it’s not uncommon for the first person narrator to simply deviate away from the point and go on a long verbal ramble which may or may not have anything to do with the story being told.

Despite the failings it somehow works and manages to be highly amusing. The story follows two high school dropouts who work at a local video store (ala Kevin Smith’s Clerks) and one night accidentally discover a drug they name ‘soy sauce’ because of it’s appearance. Soy sauce actually opens up a gateway to another dimension and allows creatures from that dimension to enter our own. Unless John and Dave can stop it this dimension will totally take over ours. How they go about doing this is a fun filled romp through the unnamed town of Undisclosed complete with blowing stuff up, various random encounters with aliens and the use of folding chairs as weapons of mass destruction where other dimensional insectoid monsters are concerned.

The style of the book is sort of like a collaboration between Stephen King, Douglas Adams, Kevin Smith and Ben Edlund. It is every bit as weird and strange as what may have occurred had these four individuals gotten drunk together one night and decided to write a book.

The concept has been very popular and has even spawned a movie (due for release in 2013). I can’t wait.

I found it by accident, but it proved to be one of the funniest and most entertaining reads I’ve been privileged to enjoy this year.   

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