I wrote this review shortly after Geddy posted his John Carter film review and wasn't able to post it immediately due to some weird happenings within the blogger mainframe. Anyway I tried to keep it brief so hit the jump to read it... or go back to watching porn.
David Wong, or Jason Pargin as it were, wrote a book. It's called John Dies At The End and I finished reading it this morning, for the third time.
I had meant to read the book for some time since I'd followed David Wong's writing for the comedy site Cracked, for which he is now editor in chief, but I simply never got around to it. Time passed, a friend reaffirmed my suspicion that the book was good, and I still hadn't read the damned thing. Then I heard that it was being adapted into a movie (with Paul Giamatti no less) and I figured now I had to read it. I mean that would force me to finally read this thing right? Nope. The movie is coming out soon and "Mr. Wong" has announced that preorders for the sequel This Book Is Full of Spiders: Seriously Dude, Don't Touch It are now open through major retailers.
Okay so I'm a little late to the game but fuck you. I read the book over the break I had a while ago and started it again the next day. Essentially David Wong took a relatively short story and stretched it to absurd proportions with an abundance of "and then" 's. The catch there is that the "and then" 's are fucking beautiful.
The story is set up within the structure of the main character, David Wong, relaying a series of events to a seasoned and wary reporter, investigating claims of the paranormal surrounding David and his best friend John. This device is simple enough and works well in centering the narration within the shitstorm of events that unfolds. The mechanism of telling the story after the fact is compounded when David tells the reporter about events that John has in turn told him.
Instead of establishing a mundane world and sprinkling it with bits of the absurd, John Dies At The End takes the absolute opposite approach. The universe exists in a constant state of absurdity and bits of the mundane manage to crawl through the cracks every now and then. I think more than anything else this is what made me really enjoy the book. I mean it's funny as hell (I spit onto the pages more than I'd care to admit) and the story is definitely entertaining, but it's long. I don't mean long in the length of the book (roughly 400 pages) but at times the child like 'and then this happened' way it reads at points can become somewhat tedious. It's a fine line that's tread between engrossingly absurd and feeling like a five year old is telling you a story and for the most part the book is firmly in the former camp.
The pace is set somewhat blisteringly from the beginning as a point is made to make up words, create monsters, and punch people in the balls. Seriously, David Wong's affinity towards describing people punching (and kicking/kneeing) other people in the crotch is in itself startling. Crotch shots and poop jokes make up a large part if the book (a solid third if I had to guess) but the thing is it doesn't feel like they do. A near perfect balance between crude humor and cerebral storytelling is struck and I can't help but wonder if it would be an impossible task in anyone else's hands.
Throughout the course of the book assorted meats form the shape of a person and go on a rampage, dogs (and dog treats) explode, people explode, local gremlin experts are consulted, and gorillas ride on the backs of giant crab monsters. Most of this is described in an almost nonchalant matter of fact way that is as jarring as it is riveting. Oft times one line is all you get in the recalling of someone's eyes bursting from their head or someone else melting and turning into a jellyfish. Somewhere in the frenzy that is this book the word "explodebear" is used and by that point I didn't even think twice about reading it.
The long and the short of it is that David is exposed to a mysterious drug called soy sauce through his friend John who is exposed to the substance through a fake Jamaican that reads minds for beer. The soy sauce grants users the ability to peer into other worlds and exist on different planes of time and space. Weird shit happens after the two take the soy sauce, John more willingly than Dave, and spend the better part of the book trying to find out where it came from. Transdimensional beings are involved, White Snake is blasted from a boombox (to fuck with ghosts of course), and Dave and John communicate through a bratwurst. Weird shit.
If nothing else the book is worth reading simply because of how damn funny it is. However, anyone who is even remotely interested in science fiction, or dick jokes, will most likely take away some enjoyment from this book. I said before that the pace of the story is something to note and it is because it's also one of my few minor gripes with the book on the whole. There is a part in the middle of the book where I felt like I was going to throw up. Not because of the thousands of cockroaches or the deer tongue or the part where Dave is basically swimming in human shit, not because of any of that. I felt like I was going to throw up because I wanted to know what happened next so badly that it hurt. The book is brilliant in the way it continually makes promises to make the information it dispenses meaningful, changing the rules of these promise along the way. But at a certain point that sort of stops and the book kind of just fizzles out. I found the ending a bit tedious and hated it more each time I read it. I say this knowing how hard it is to end things and want to stress that this does not take away from the book. This gripe means next to nothing anyway since the next book will be out soon and I'm dead sure I'll be getting that special urge to vomit all over again.
All in all if you are a human who likes to laugh and doesn't mind doing a little reading to do it, read John Dies At The End... or just go into They China Food! and look for a disheveled non Asian man who has a story to tell... or just read the book. I haven't cared about characters like these in a long time and I'm certainly not the only one. I kind of wish John was my best friend, if only for his unique outlook on any situation and the situations that puts him in. I know one thing though, I don't wish I took the soy sauce (or even wish I knew a faux Jamaican who might know where to get it.) The riddle that reveals the awful secret behind the universe is something this book explores and I can't wait to read the next one, risking going mad in the attempt. I've had more fun with this book that with anything I've read in some time and if you know me at all you'll know that what I'm about to say is something that I don't say very often: I cannot wait for the movie.
Well that's that. Thanks for reading (or skimming out of obligation to me as a friend), hope I've helped informed your decision about having a thing to do when you say you don't have anything to do. Don't forget to check out the trailer for the film, linked below, and visit the official site of the book to get more information from an actual writer.