Don't let the spoilerish title fool you... John Dies At The End is full of surprises!
Life is full of millions of choices. And while some are instantly recognized as "life-choices" (like getting married or picking a career path), others are deceptively innocent. But even the smallest of choices can have huge consequences. That's the hard lesson David Wong learned when he decided to challenge a hack street-magician at a concert. Had Wong simply rolled his eyes and kept walking, his life may not have turned into the horror story it became. We all make millions of choices, and any one of them can ruin our lives forever...now THAT is true horror!
I was very pleasantly surprised by "John Dies At The End"
Having read many of his articles on Cracked.com
, I knew David Wong possessed a great sense of humor, so I fully expected his book to be funny, but what I wasn't anticipating is how great he is at writing horror as well! Wong's imagination is almost limitless, as he manages to concoct some of the most bizarre creatures I've ever read about, and his ability to channel fear and dread is so strong, it's unfathomable to me that this is his first novel! In fact, I would have loved to have given this book five stars, but there was one problem that constantly detracted from my enjoyment...it's gross...it's really, really gross!
As much as there is to admire about this book, the non-stop barrage of potty humor and crudeness makes it a difficult one to recommend to people...This girl would not get past page 5 of "John Dies At The End"!
After a prologue which expertly depicts the bizarre world David Wong lives in, the majority of the book is comprised of two flashback sequences that explain how Dave's life has gotten to this point. The two flashbacks are bridged together by a framing sequence involving a present-day conversation Dave is having with a reporter who is investigating Dave's claim to be some kind of "monster-hunter". The rather unconventional story structure is just part of the book's charm, as Wong's narrative keeps flipping from past to present, yet it rarely gets confusing and Wong often peppers it with some tantalizing foreshadowing. The first segment covers Dave's first foray into the paranormal, in which he's joined by his smart-ass friend John. After he taunts a wannabe magician as an obvious hoax, Dave is exposed to a substance that seems peculiarly like soy sauce, yet the phony magician claims it will actually expose Dave to the world of the supernatural...One drop of this magical soy sauce will have a horrible effect on your body...actually, that's kinda how I feel about regular soy sauce, too!
Soon after experiencing the soy sauce of doom, Dave's world falls apart. He begins to see grotesque creatures all around him. People in his life are brutally murdered and Wong finds himself the chief suspect (sometimes even in his own eyes). Soon Dave and John learn that something from another world wants to enter our own, something truly evil and deadly. Thus begins their often-hilarious quest to save our world from a malicious entity of Lovecraftian proportions. Between John's "so-stupid-it's-funny"
humor, and Dave's rapier wit, I was howling with laughter throughout most of the first segment.
After the events of the first segment, Dave & John try to get back to what I'll generously refer to as their "normal"
lives, which leads to the second segment, where they soon discover that evil from another world is still trying to invade ours...but this time they're targeting Dave and John directly. The second segment doesn't have as much humor as the first, but it more than makes up for this in dramatic storytelling. In the second story, the battle is much more personal and the stakes are much higher. It's here that Wong's talent as an author truly shines. While he already displayed much creativity and wit in the first half, Wong manages to invoke more emotions to tell a very powerful story in the second half. At times, reading this was like a greatest hits collection of the works of Christopher Moore and Stephen King, the way Wong could blend humor and horror together and give equal weight to both genres. All in all, this was an amazing book to read...except...
Look, let's get something out of the way, I'm hardly a prude. My tastes aren't exactly sophisticated, and I've been known to chuckle at a tasteless joke or two... I think Not Another Teen Movie is one of the funniest comedies ever made...please tell no one of this!
That being said, I did find the gross-out factor of this book to be beyond excessive. There are so many poop jokes, even Beavis and Butt-Head would find this book to be a bit much. And while I applaud Wong's vast imagination in creating new horrors, at times it seems like he's just trying too hard to disgust his readers. In addition to potty humor, Wong displays an almost-obsessive fascination with insects (one segment even involves a man made entirely out of cockroaches), and just when you think Wong can't possibly manage to make bugs any more gross, he finds a way to top himself. It can be almost infuriating, as Wong clearly has a true talent for horror. In his best moments, Wong shows great promise and depth as a writer, which makes it all the more baffling why he felt the need to take such a juvenile approach at times...
If you have a love for dark comedy (as well as a really strong stomach), "John Dies At The End"
should be a wild ride for you. However, anyone who's even a bit squeamish (particularly when it comes to insects and...y'know, that bodily function no one ever talks about in polite company) may want to avoid this one. Still, considering his undeniable talent, if David Wong can reign in his love for toilet humor, I have no doubt one of his books will make it on my "Favorites" shelf some day!