Wednesday, September 19, 2012

John Dies at the End by David Wong

In this reissue of an Internet phenomenon originally slapped between two covers in 2007 by indie Permutus Press, Wong— editor Jason Pargin's alter ego—adroitly spoofs the horror genre while simultaneously offering up a genuinely horrifying story. The terror is rooted in a substance known as soy sauce, a paranormal psychoactive that opens video store clerk Wong's—and his penis-obsessed friend John's—minds to higher levels of consciousness. Or is it just hell seeping into the unnamed Midwestern town where Wong and the others live? Meat monsters, wig-wearing scorpion aberrations and wingless white flies that burrow into human skin threaten to kill Wong and his crew before infesting the rest of the world. A multidimensional plot unfolds as the unlikely heroes drink lots of beer and battle the paradoxes of time and space, as well as the clich├ęs of first-person-shooter video games and fantasy gore films. Sure to please the Fangoria set while appealing to a wider audience, the book's smart take on fear manages to tap into readers' existential dread on one page, then have them laughing the next. 

“Saving the world, that’s Hollywood bullshit.”

John Dies at the End is the most original creative inventive novel I have read in quite some time.  David Wong the author and main character intertwines genuine chills and humor is spades.  With David as our narrator we are treated to all his thoughts, and existential ideas are interworked seamlessly into the story.
The plot revolves around David and his best friend John as reluctant investigators of the paranormal.  The story is told in conversational form as John explains his story to Arnie a reporter in, ‘They China Food!’ a restaurant owned by Czech brothers who have not remodeled since the Mexican restaurant that inhabited the building closed. 
David’s tale unravels to Arnie, who interrupts regularly calling into question the inconsistencies in David’s story. 
This is the novel’s most clever element, John’s story is not consistent and it is these elements that are the justification for the books clever plot twists and reveals. 
John Dies at the End is strongest in trippy action sequences with David and John fighting all sort of unholy hell.  They are joined early on by a dog named Mollie with many humanistic characters.  A particular strong sequence works as an action parody with John bashing demonic creatures with a chair and chair related pun as each creature goes down
If you are intrigued by this synopsis, am sure you will be very amused with this tale.  If your reaction to this is, ‘really…what the fuck.’   John Dies at the End is not for you.
Wong’s prose flows smoothly overall but occasionally the story comes to a grinding halt as David, our narrator stares absently at the areas he finds himself in. 
There is no book that really compares to John Dies at the End.  Imagine a manic high energy horror film with trippy scares and genuine humor. 

Imagine Scooby Doo with large amounts of profanity, blatant drug use, violence and a little bit of nookie, this is the best way I can surmise David Wong’s John Dies at the end.  Despite a few areas where the momentum comes to a grinding halt, I cannot recommend this book enough to anyone looking for either original horror or humor.   

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