Monday, March 18, 2013

"John Dies at the End" by David Wong

There's a niche within the zombie/horror genre filled with films like Zombieland and Shaun of the Dead. And I don't think these films are just for parody or satire because they fulfill a need. Sure, many of us like to be scared and to imagine grisly monsters lurking around the corner, but we also don't want to be too depressed or despondent about the whole situation (i.e. why my husband won't watch The Walking Dead). So we take our monsters and shadows with a good dose of sarcasm, randomness, and jokes.

Though John Dies at the End isn't about zombies (more about other-worldly monsters/shadows/evil things), I still think it falls into the same category, juxtaposing humor (mostly crass, as when a character turns to go upstairs and see the basement door handle has been turned into a penis... yeah...) with downright horror. It's a combination that is largely successful, though it wears thin at times and also hides some of the more thoughtful and touching parts of the book.

The plot beyond a broad summary is convoluted at best, so I'll stick with the basics. David and his friend John are exposed to "soy sauce," a mysterious black substance that allows them contact with creatures and other beings from another world who are invading our own. Because of their ability to see these creatures, David and John get caught up in a plot to save the world from an invasion of... shadow things? We'll stick with that. Also, there's a ghost dog and a girl without a hand.

The book's structure is set as a story-within-a-story, as David narrates his tale to a reporter. The typical "big fight that saves the world" is only half-way through, which allows Wong to build in a "what happens after?" while leading up to another "big fight that saves the world." Though both parts are interesting, I did feel the book was somewhat too long (nearly 400 pages) since at some point it the plot appears to exists only so wackier and grosser things can be piled on. And the gross and horrific are truly gross and horrific, so I don't recommend the novel for anyone who doesn't like to read about feces, bodily fluids, or moth-like creatures that dig into a person's skin.

Nevertheless, the book truly is funny at times, and though the weird doesn't always make sense, at least it's surprisingly weird. David's relationship with Amy (and even John) also has some unexpected emotional depth.

Overall, the book is fairly sophomoric, but still engaging and fun.


  1. Thanks for your comments. This is the book that my bookclub chose for next month - good to know what I'm getting into. ;)

    1. That's a book club with interesting tastes! (I'm jealous) I'd love to hear what kind of discussion y'all have.