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John Dies at the End (John Dies at the End, 1) Paperback – October 5, 2021
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John Dies at the End is a genre-bending, humorous account of two college drop-outs inadvertently charged with saving their small town―and the world―from a host of supernatural and paranormal invasions.
This updated special edition includes commentary from the characters and the author!
"[Jason Pargin] has updated the Lovecraft tradition and infused it with humor that rather than lessening the horror, increases it dramatically. Every time I set the book down, I was wary that something really was afoot, that there were creatures I couldn't see, and that because I suspected this, I was next. Engaging, comic, and terrifying." ―Joe Garden, Features Editor, The Onion
"[Pargin] is like a mash-up of Douglas Adams and Stephen King... 'page-turner' is an understatement." ―Don Coscarelli, director, Phantasm I-V, Bubba Ho-tep
STOP. You should not have touched this book with your bare hands. NO, don't put it down. It's too late. They're watching you. My name is David. My best friend is John. Those names are fake. You might want to change yours. You may not want to know about the things you'll read on these pages, about the sauce, about Korrok, about the invasion, and the future. But it's too late. You touched the book. You're in the game. You're under the eye. The only defense is knowledge. You need to read this book, to the end. Even the part with the bratwurst. Why? You just have to trust me.
The important thing is this: The sauce is a drug, and it gives users a window into another dimension. John and I never had the chance to say no. You still do.
Unfortunately for us, if you make the right choice, we'll have a much harder time explaining how to fight off the otherworldly invasion currently threatening to enslave humanity.
I'm sorry to have involved you in this, I really am. But as you read about these terrible events and the very dark epoch the world is about to enter as a result, it is crucial you keep one thing in mind: None of this was my fault.
"The Words We Whisper" by Mary Ellen Taylor for $9.99
From the bestselling author of Honeysuckle Season comes a sweeping saga that interweaves the past and present in an epic tapestry of love, war, and loss.| Learn more
One of NPR's 100 Favorite Horror Stories 2018
“John Dies at the End…[is] a case of the author trying to depict actual, soul-sucking lunacy, and succeeding with flying colors.” ―Fangoria
“[Jason Pargin] 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
“[Jason Pargin] 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
"John Dies at the End has a cult following for a reason: it's horrific, thought-provoking, and hilarious all at once. This is one of the most entertaining and addictive novels I've ever read." ―Jacob Kier, Publisher, Permuted Press
About the Author
DAVID WONG is the pseudonym of Jason Pargin, New York Times bestselling author of the John Dies at the End series as well as the award-winning Zoey Ashe novels.He previously published under the pseudonym David Wong. His essays at Cracked.com and other outlets have been enjoyed by tens of millions of readers around the world.
- Publisher : Griffin (October 5, 2021)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 464 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1250830567
- ISBN-13 : 978-1250830562
- Item Weight : 1.15 pounds
- Dimensions : 6.1 x 1.8 x 9.2 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #16,372 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
About the authors
Reviewed in the United States on November 6, 2020
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In his review of the 2001 film "Donnie Darko," Roger Ebert said: "The setup and development is fascinating, the payoff less so." That statement alone could act as the super-short version of my opinion on this book--and don't get me wrong; I enjoyed it overall, but there's definitely room for improvement here.
The book jacket promises "actual, soul-sucking lunacy," and if there's one thing that this tale successfully delivers on, lunacy is it. Wong doesn't waste any time grabbing the reader's attention; heroes John and Dave do battle against such horrors as meat monsters, exploding girls, and penis doorknobs within the first 20 pages. While normally I would argue that this sort of opening is too much, it's probably for the best that Wong puts this stuff up front. Establishing the wackiness from the get-go will probably weed out any readers who aren't ready for things to get...unconventional.
I feel I should make a vain attempt at plot synopsis. Here goes: David is a slacker attending a concert with his best friend John. During the concert, he encounters a Jamaican dealing drugs and performing "magic tricks" such as levitation and mind-reading. In a wonderfully creepy scene, it becomes apparent that this guy possesses some legitimate supernatural powers. Unbeknownst to Dave, John takes a drug called "soy sauce" from the Jamaican, and he immediately experiences (apparent) hallucinations and extreme panic. David tries to help John, and things go from bad to bad AND weird; David receives a few calls from John, apparently calling from the future. Things seriously hit the fan when David accidentally takes some of the sauce himself. You see, the soy sauce is sort of a double-edged sword; on the one hand, it allows David to be "tuned in," giving him heightened senses that allow him to read minds and communicate across time and space. Alas, it's not all fun and games, for the soy sauce also opens doorways to other dimensions and attracts the denizens of hell. Once someone takes the sauce, they will from that point onward be aware of the things invisible to the naked eye that share the universe with us. It's a great concept, even if it does lead to some incoherence.
While most adventure tales and buddy comedies involve the protagonists setting out to defeat some great evil, this isn't necessarily always the case here. John and Dave (and friends, most of whom don't last too long) aren't really out to stop a sinister plot; for the most part, this is an account of David trying to live his life while putting up with the nuttiness unfolding around him. It makes the story a lot more meandering than it needs to be, and DAMN if this story couldn't have been shorter and more direct. I get that some degree of incoherence is what the author was going for, and to be fair there IS a lot of creativity to be found. David encounters lamp-humping jellyfish, alien insects, shadow people, and driving dogs. But after a while, it all piles up and becomes tiring. There's only so much randomness one can endure before it becomes too much.
This book is described as a "comic horror" novel, but there's definitely more comedy here than horror. This isn't a scary book with comic relief so much as a comedy that involves a lot of violence and monsters. Oh, sure, there are some legitimately chilling things here: the setup is definitely spooky, there's an especially gruesome scene involving a McDonald's ad, and David's narration is sometimes dark enough to genuinely disturb. But too often Wong's comedic side takes over, and many details are so bizarre and so arbitrary that situations become impossible to take seriously. A lot of it comes off as awkward rather than scary OR funny. (Immediately before a particularly brutal scene of slaughter and gore, we are presented with the line, "The kittens will make your sad go away.")
Although, lines like that aren't the norm. If there's one thing that Wong gets PERFECTLY, it's character and dialogue. Unrealistic and unbelievable characters can make or break a story like this, and I'm happy to say that this aspect of the story is pitch-perfect. David is an excellent narrator, reacting to the horrors around him with the utmost believability, not to mention a good dose of refreshing sarcasm and humor. Even more impressive, the side characters are all distinct and interesting, the best of which (by far) is the titular John, a best friend who manages to be loveable and funny despite being a drunkard and a slacker (and a druggie, sort of). I imagine that John will be the favorite of most readers, delivering absolutely hilarious lines in even the most dire of situations. On the subject of characters, my only complaint is that Wong introduces and dismisses female characters too often, going through three (four, if you count the fake-out at the beginning) in the span of one book. Granted, the final, actual love interest is another great character. Truth be told, it's pretty amazing that Wong was able to develop her so well, given barely 1/3 of the story to do so. It's just unfortunate that he couldn't have done it from the start--it would have felt much less rushed that way.
The book also has pacing problems, which is a shame because, despite its faults, it IS immensely entertaining. I raced through each page thanks to Wong's unfailing ability to keep the reader in suspense, and I'm usually not a very fast reader. Momentum builds like mad at the beginning of the book's final third, when a character goes missing and David realizes that he might have killed them (but he can't quite remember clearly). Then, unfortunately, the story hits a serious rut and drags until the last few chapters. Worst of all, there's not much resolution and the story doesn't end; it just STOPS on an anticlimactic note. I'd be lying if I said the wackiness hadn't outlived its charm by the final page. Granted, there IS a satisfying climax, but Wong decides to go on for a few more chapters afterwards. Of course, this may just be due to the fact that "John Dies at the End" is the first part of a bigger story, so I won't hold the ending against it too much.
So, (very) long story short, "John Dies at the End" is worth reading...if you're into this sort of thing. It does have flaws (mainly its meandering nature and often over-the-top supernatural randomness), but if you're willing to overlook them, you'll find that Wong has a talent for engrossing the reader in even the most bizarre of setups. I enjoyed it even if I didn't fully understand it, and I look forward to the next book in the series.
Also, there's a wig monster behind you. Run bro.
4 out of 5
Energetic Writing Style: While I wouldn't call Wong's writing style prolific, it certainly is inlaid with momentum and energy, leading JDATE to be one of those books where I kept saying, "just one more page, just one more chapter." The writing style makes sense given that JDATE was first released as a web serial, but I think it works (for the most part) for the full-length release. Rarely did I feel Wong was dragging his feet with description or details that needed to be edited out.
Wild Imagery: Whether or not you agree with me will likely depend on the genres you read the most, but I found much of Wong's imagery to be fresh and unique, with only the occasional over-the-top tidbit here or there. By using a casual, comedic tone, Wong is able to draw comparisons between the images in the story to facets of our everyday lives that a more "academic" writer might avoid.
Narration Voice: As mentioned above, the voice Wong uses is casual and comedic, with some healthy sarcasm and self-deprecation thrown in. In many ways it's a suitable voice for those of Wong's generation and for the off-the-wall story of JDATE, it's a perfect fit. After reading JDATE, you'll feel as if you know both Wong(c) and Wong(p) personally and I wouldn't be surprised to find that Wong's(p) personal communications have a very similar voice.
Twists: There are twists. I won't mention them here, but there are a good number of them. Considering how M. Night Shyamalan really neutered the idea of the twist, I was relieved to see Wong do a decent job with them. Thankfully the twists don't define the story and even without them, JDATE would be an enjoyable read.
Construction Overuse: About halfway through I began noticing a few sentence constructions used over and over -- certain similes constructions, double negatives spring to mind immediately. In a web serial format, this is excusable but I'm not sure how I feel about it in the full-length release. On the one hand, I like the idea of reading the original (although I'm sure some editing happened) but on the other, I think Wong missed an opportunity to tighten up his writing.
Sloppy Middle: From the halfway mark through the 80% mark or so, the story really began to drag. My motivation to keep turning pages shifted from the energetic writing to a desire to rediscover "the good stuff". And that's the problem -- some of Wong's best stuff is in the first leg of the story and it's *so* good that it makes later chapters look weak in comparison. Once again, I wonder if massive edits would've been appropriate or if some better approach to the partitioning of the story could've prevented comparing later chapters with earlier ones in an unfavorable way.
Twists: Yes, I mentioned 'Twists' as a PRO above but they were also a bit of a CON. Wong takes some healthy risks with his twists, but in doing so treads *very* closely to rewriting earlier parts of the story by using a "It really happened like this" type approach. I enjoyed the rest of the book so I'm able to excuse these revisionist twists, but other readers may find themselves frustrated by feeling like they aren't being told the entire story (a.k.a. What's the point of reading if it's essential a lie?).
[SPOILERS TO FOLLOW!]
Uneven Resolution: I wasn't crazy about the ending. It felt pretty flat and non-committal, not to mention that I kept expecting John to die. And, from what I can tell, he did not. Which either makes the book's title a playful joke (everyone does die... eventually) or a cheap trick. I'm still searching online for some other thoughts on this because I *want* to believe it's the former, but at the moment I'm feeling more of the latter. Beyond that though, the end of JDATE simply sputtered out without making good on the stakes raised throughout the story. My guess is that because Wong(p) is planning to write more, there wasn't a need for a full on ending but regardless, it was disappointing.
JDATE is a blend of comedy and horror (as is JDate, incidentally), though I did find that the comedy weakened the horror. That being said, the comedy is great (if somewhat immature at times) and while I didn't quite laugh out loud like other reviewers, I did snicker to myself quite a bit.
In general, I thought JDATE needed to be a little shorter. The energy and comedy would've had more impact and there wouldn't have been as much an issue with the plot dragging or the overuse of certain sentence constructions. That being said, I enjoyed it quite a bit regardless and would recommend it to others (if you're on the fence try a sample first). At best, you'll get a great, unique story and at worst you'll have supported a true indie project.
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I CAN believe there are people who would hate this book. In fact, I'm probably married to one of them. That doesn't matter, just try not to let them read it. It's better if most people don't know the truth anyway. Hell is all around us but we just can't see it. Lucky us. Stay off the sauce (but you don't take the sauce...the sauce takes you...)
I won't synopsize, others already have. The ideas are wild, dazzlingly crazy, bold and confident. It's "horrible" and undeniably "horror", but not horrifying (unless you're offended by frequent references to genitalia, usually in the form of improbable boasting or implausible threats). I probably wouldn't encourage a (human) 8yo to read it but anyone over about 13 could do worse than have a look.
I'll start with the negatives. I found the humour more consistently present than ever actually capable of producing a laugh. I appreciate Wong's commitment lack of embarrassment with juvenile humour, as it should be, but his particular brand just never really hit home for me. Particularly the titular John, who is clearly meant to be a zany dude who's a laugh a minute to be around, I found no more interesting or funny than any of the rest of the cast.
Another slight disappointment for me (which comes with a mild spoiler warning for anyone who wants to start reading with as little known about the plot as possible) was how the start of the book suggested the main characters might actually just be insane and that the paranormal goings on are all imagined. However, that idea is quickly brushed aside in favour of a plot with a much larger scale. It's not without its twists and turns but the implied ambiguity was intriguing.
The characters are also somewhat weak. Aside from the protagonist, characters seem to exist solely to serve a purpose and have very basic objectives of their own. Other characters are introduced and disappear again almost without any input to the story at all. While that fits somewhat with the somewhat dream-like quality much of the book has, it feels very much inorganic.
The plot was interesting, easily enough to hold my attention to the finish, though I think it was a little too explicit towards the end, explaining things that would have been more terrifying if they remained a mystery. It is also a bit meandery (is that even a word?), and you can almost tell that it was written and released in pieces. I strongly suspect Wong mostly made it up as he went along, or something close to it. It's the mysteries, though, that are the driving force behind the story that will push you to the last page, even if a few too many of them are demystified, in my opinion.
The best part of this book, as far as I'm concerned, is the horror. Wong crafts tension quite well in several places but it's more the creative, terrifying ideas that really sell it. Sure, some of Wong's influences are obvious but all the best horror plays on anxieties hard coded into the human psyche that are thousands of years old. Some almost familiar moments are to be expected.
Overall, I don't feel I wasted my time reading this book but at the same time I would hesitate to recommend it. For horror genre fans, it's definitely worth a look at least. For everyone else, there are likely more enjoyable reads out there for you to discover.
But as a literary work, it doesn’t entirely work for me. The ideas and plot just don’t flow, and often you get lost in the narrative, not entirely sure what the characters are working towards or why they are going where they are going. There are also some interesting set pieces, and technically the premise COULD work, but doesn’t, because the writing isn’t strong enough.
This was a struggle to rate between a 2 and a 3 star, I’d probably settle on 2.5, so generously rounded it up to three. This book will be for some people, but certainly not for all, and I think I fall in the latter camp.
JDATE is ludicrous and surprising, and full of ideas I wish I'd thought of first, and it has a relaxed tone to the narrative so it's very easy to just slip into it like an old friend is telling you a story. It's so different from anything I've ever read I can see why some people were so uncomfortable with it as it does veer off from the usual style of a novel. You need an open mind and to just let yourself fall into the fantasy of the story. When you do that it's hard to find your way back to reality, so I felt very strange when I finished the book (didn't take me long as I just could not put it down).
There is horror, ridiculous comedy, some romance, and tense drama; it covers pretty much all the bases and John, an incredibly clever idiot, is an entertaining character to observe from David's perspective. Despite the bizarre events, Wong actually wrote the characters in a very believable way and I highly recommend the book to anyone who likes something different.
To give you an idea of what tastes I have that this book so easily satisfied, I'll just say that I find 'Cabin In the Woods' and 'Tucker and Dale Vs Evil' to be favourite films, 'Supernatural' and 'Buffy' are favourite TV shows, and most articles on 'Cracked[.com]' are an excellent way to pass the time and learn about the world. If you also like that tongue-in-cheek approach to serious subjects, then read the book. The sequel is also awesome and, according to some, even better with its more refined approach to fear and tough choices (I will always prefer JDATE, though).
Hope this helps! :]
The book is steeped in demonology and mythology, with a narrative arc loosely centred around an evil malevolent deity known as Korrok who is trying to open a portal from his dimension into our world. But wait! Before I loose you to thinking that this book is some kind of Lord of the Rings-style fantasy (and/or that I play Dungeons & Dragons in my basement) let me stop you right there: this book's genre is best described as satirical horror. The tone of the story throughout is the kind of playfully satirical humour made so popular by Douglas Adams (think Dirk Gently rather than Hitchhiker`s). Think Ghostbusters meets Sherlock Holmes meets The Sixth Sense meets Monty Python.
David Wong doesn't shy away from gore either with very graphic descriptions, making the horror elements work. What I liked particularly about the style of writing is that he also describes sounds, textures, and smells (without getting too distracted by them that it gets in the way of the story) that make the narrative come alive. The characters are colourful too: "shadow people", a seemingly immortal dog, the aforementioned "Robert" Marley, Detective "Morgan Freeman" Appleton, frequent appearances by Fred Durst of Limp Bizkit...among many others.
There aren't many books in which you will get to read anything along the lines of `The phrase "sodomized by a bratwurst poltergeist" suddenly flew through my mind' and find yourself alternating between terror and laughter. John Dies At The End is perhaps the most insane book I have read, and I mean that in a good way.