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John Dies at the End Paperback – December 24, 2012
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From Publishers Weekly
In this reissue of an Internet phenomenon originally slapped between two covers in 2007 by indie Permutus Press, Wong—Cracked.com 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 clichés 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. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
“John Dies at the End…[is] a case of the author trying to depict actual, soul-sucking lunacy, and succeeding with flying colors.” ―Fangoria
“David Wong is like a mash-up of Douglas Adams and Stephen King . . . ‘page-turner' is an understatement.” ―Don Coscarelli, director, Phantasm I–V and Bubba Ho-tep
“David Wong has managed to write that rarest of things---a genuinely scary story.” ―David Wellington, author of Monster Island and Vampire Zero
“The rare genre novel that manages to keep its sense of humor strong without ever diminishing the scares.” ―The Onion AV Club
“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.” ―Publishers Weekly
“When it's funny, it's laugh-out-loud funny, yet when the situation calls for chills, it provides them in spades.” ―Kirkus Reviews
“The book takes every pop culture trend of the past twenty years, peppers it with 14-year-old dick and fart humor, and blends it all together with a huge heaping of splatterpunk gore…. Successfully blend[s] laugh-out-loud humor with legitimate horror.” ―i09.com
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Top customer reviews
In the book David and his friend John are roped into a series of horrifying events around town, as people die or go missing in gruesome ways. The events are traced back to a drug called soy sauce, sold to the citzens of Undisclosed by Robert Marley. From there, the plot unfolds not unlike an HP Lovecraft novel, with dark cosmic powers unleashing misery and dick jokes on the world.
The best thing about the book is the humor. John and David are fun people, and Wong can certainly write well. Most of the jokes are admittedly crude toilet humor, but if that's your style of humor, you can't do much better. The horror is also well done, capturing the hopelessness and shock of the characters well.
The books only real problem is how it was released. This book was released piecemeal online, and it shows, with the narrative getting more and more lost as the book goes on. This makes the end result very confusing and makes a decent chunk of the book seem meandering in retrospect. Still, it's a fun novel, one I would recommend to anyone of college age.
Oh yeah, and there's also dick jokes in this. If I ever outgrow a good dick joke, you should just shoot me.
I had already seen the movie a while ago, but I got the book because so many reviewers were saying how much the movie got wrong. I completely disagree. The movie was one of the best things I saw in years; easily 5 stars imo. The film told a lot of things out of sequence, and some of the things the characters did was jumbled around, but I was amazed at the level of detail in the movie and a huge amound of dialog was repeated verbatim. *small spoilers that I don't think will actually ruin anything for you*.. I'm very glad the wig monsters weren't included or all the Bible/holy water stuff. I think adding the shadow people would have made the movie too convoluted. As would the Pi symbol stuff. After reading some of the book reviews, I thought maybe I had completely misunderstood the movie, but I believe I understood it just fine. The main thing though that I thought the movie didn't really capture was John's personality. From the movie, I thought of him as.. idk, perhaps a bit like Dr. Venkman (bill murray) from Ghostbusters. But in reality he was supposed to be kind of a half maniac half zen smartass who is sort of a genius and you can fully understand why the book has his name in the title.
Okay, so here's why I gave the book a lower rating than I'd give the movie.. And I'd also like to stress that I saw the movie first and so I wasn't as blown away by the book's creativity because I knew a lot of what would happen. First, I don't think the book was especially well written. It's a first person narrative, told from the pov of Dave. I got so sick of seeing the word "I" at the beginning of every sentence! I think David Wong the writer (not his real name) wanted to create the illusion that the younger David Wong telling the story came off as an immature and unreliable narrator which is why parts of the book come off like it needed an editor in the worst possible way. For me, it's never a pleasant experience to read something that feels like it was written by a C student and I wish a different approach was taken. Secondly, I absolutely loved the immaturity of it, but it very often crossed the line into 11 year old's sense of humor. Third, and this one may be on me, but the time period was off. John and Dave work in a video store and listen to 80s heavy metal, yet every indication is that this is happening close to now. This may not be a flaw in the book because there's something that's said toward the end.. but I spent a lot of my time reading this feeling confused and I still kind of do.
One thing I really like is how they use The Unreliable Narrator because it's left to the audience whether we want to believe every word or not. It's like the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy that gave you much more useful information, but you couldn't trust it factually. I'm still glad I read the book because there is a sequel: This book is full of spiders.
If you're coming to this via the movie? The movie is pretty much an entirely different creature; if you're given the choice, read the book first, see the movie second.
This incredibly entertaining, suspenseful, eerie, funny genre-buster avoids the cliches and set-pieces of most horror-SF, and manages to be transcendentally creepy without the dragging dreariness and archaic stilted prose of Lovecraft, but echoing his elements of *truly* otherworldly strangeness that, although entirely alien, hang together as individually-glimpsed facets of an underlying connecting horror that is all the more chilling for being only murkily outlined... but here, full of weird and cutting comedy, driven by characters you badly want to know personally.
Think, the Hardy Boys explore Lovecraftian horror, but the Hardy Boys are young Hunter S. Thompson and Johnny Knoxville.
This is that rare book that will get raves both from people that are devoted, sophisticated readers, and from people that hate to read and haven't cracked a book since high school. Got a kid who can handle adult themes and won't crack a book? Give 'em this.
Further: Wong is (in terms of what I've stumbled across, I'm not an expert) kind of a ringleader in a band of writers that are destroying boundaries and cliches in SF/horror/superhero/action/noir genres. If you like this book, and Wong's others, and start biting your nails anticipating his next, you'll certainly also like Robert Brockway's superb "The Unnoticeables." (Max Landis, who wrote "American Ultra," "Chronicle" and "Superman: American Alien" is another guy writing some fresh-direction takes on established tropes.)
David Wong is sui generi -- and you'll enjoy his work whether you know what that means or not, which is saying something in terms of wide appeal.
Eleven stars on a scale of one to ten.