on October 2, 2012
SYNOPSIS: Unlikely heroes Dave and John unwittingly bring about the "zombie" apocalypse. Faced with an impending doom of a ridiculous nature the two must get to the bottom of the mystery and save the world.
MY RATING: Five Stars
PROS: Side-splitting laughs, nail-biting horror, heroes worth cheering for, and a homemade triple barrel shotgun.
CONS: It ends.
VERDICT: Kevin Smith's Clerks meets H.P. Lovecraft in this exceptional thriller that makes zombies relevant again.
Some time has passed since the events of John Dies at the End. Dave is happily dating Amy and undergoing court-ordered therapy for shooting a pizza deliveryman with a crossbow. John is mooching off others and peeing off of water towers. Molly the dog is eating whatever food Dave drops on the floor. Life is never "good" in [Undisclosed] but for the moment it is relatively peaceful. That is, until Dave and John become pawns in a sinister science experiment set in motion by the Shadow Men. As the result of gross incompetence and a lack of foresight these two white-trash monster hunters unleash havoc upon the world. Despite a penchant for making mistakes it falls upon Dave and John to wrong the rights and fight evil.
John Dies at the End by David Wong (pseudonym of Jason Pargin, Senior Editor and columnist for Cracked.com) was the best book I read in 2010. On my list of favorite books of all time it is near the top. By the time I encountered it there were already a legion of diehard fans and talk of a film adaption by Don Coscarelli, the director of Bubba Ho-Tep. So I was late to the party but I sought to remedy that with the sequel, This Book is Full of Spiders: Seriously Dude, Don't Touch It. I was honored to receive an ARC that I promptly read cover to cover.
At its essence This Books is Full of Spiders: Seriously Dude, Don't Touch It reads like a 400 page Cracked.com article with a plot. This is said with the utmost awe and respect. Cracked.com is a site that frequently supplies some of the funniest (and scariest) material available on the Internet. Wong (let's call him Wong so as not to dilute the magic) has taken his experience with the website and wields it as a weapon of mass amusement. Initially the concept of comedy and horror blended into one book seems preposterous. It's like putting peanut butter and pickles on the same sandwich. Separately peanut butter and pickles are great foods but combining them is a wee bit sacrilegious. Not so with a comedy/horror mash-up. These two genres make perfect companions.
The R-rated college humor is an ideal foil to the mind-numbing dread. It doesn't hurt that Wong is a professional comedic writer. I wanted to see how far into the book I could get before I crossed a page that did not have me laughing. It took 25 pages before I met such a page. This Books is Full of Spiders: Seriously Dude, Don't Touch It is primed with guffaws. From the dialogue to the descriptions, lines are delivered with faultless timing and wit. Wong never has to reach for comedy, it flows naturally with nary a stumble.
Wong has taken zombies (well, they're not really zombies but for lack of a better word) and made them scary again. More importantly, however, Wong has made them relevant again. At the risk of sounding like a complete and utter hipster, I was into zombies before they were cool. In the time since then zombies have experienced a colossal boost in popularity. You can't swing a crowbar without hitting a movie, book, or videogame featuring zombies. The market is saturated to the point of bursting with undead and the last thing I wanted was to read another zombie apocalypse.
The thing is, Wong is too crafty to just write a traditional zombie apocalypse. This Book is Full of Spiders: Seriously Dude, Don't Touch It examines all the ways in which our geeky zombie apocalypse fantasies probably wouldn't happen as imagined. It is a sobering thought to say the least. Wong also observes the origins of "zombie" mythology but the real kicker comes with the realization that it is human paranoia, rather than zombies, that is the real monster. Wong couldn't possibly have planned for this book to come out only months after the "bath salt zombie" media frenzy (unless he is secretly responsible) but it adds a whole extra layer of significance. Thinking back it is eerie how similar the public reaction was when compared to how this story unfolds. Wong made some accurate predictions or he is an evil genius of some sort. My money is on the latter. This assessment of our society's addiction to crisis and the prevalence of zombies in pop-culture make This Book is Full of Spiders: Seriously Dude, Don't Touch It the most pertinent story of the genre since George Romero's Dawn of the Dead.
Dave and John are professional screw-ups of the highest degree but I challenge you to find more endearing characters. These are two unlikely heroes with an aversion to responsibility but are thrust into the role of saviors of humanity after taking the magical drug, Soy Sauce. Dave is the more mature of the duo (though this is measured in minute increments) and always the voice of reason (sort of). John on the other hand is reckless to the core and just the sort of friend you want backing you in a brawl. As great as Dave is there is just no beating John. He may not top a list of responsible role models but he is the patron saint of giving evil the finger. This time around Amy, Dave's girlfriend, gets a bigger piece of the action. It would have been easy to relegate Amy to a supporting role but Wong writes her as a strong character that is every bit as capable as her male cohorts, if not more so. The relationship between the noticeably damaged Dave and sweet as sunshine Amy is charming in no small measure. All three characters get a POV (as well as brief but hilarious excursion from the perspective of the dog Molly) and each one is developed and distinctive.
This Book is Full of Spiders: Seriously Dude, Don't Touch It is a tighter, more concentrated read than John Dies at the End. As great as John Dies at the End is there were times that it became difficult to follow with the way it jumped around. The sequel does not suffer the same shortcoming. This Book is Full of Spiders: Seriously Dude, Don't Touch It is a single large event rather than the series of related smaller events that is John Dies at the End. There are still time and narrative shifts but the general arc remains uncluttered and coherent. There is a touch less absurdity to be found this go around however. Some are bound to find this a drawback but because of the focused nature of the story I can't fault Wong.
I can only see the cult following growing with the release of the sequel. David Wong (Jason Pargin) is a fantastic author with a supernatural talent for humor. If you want a poignant, laugh-out-loud funny, disturbing, ridiculous, self-aware, socially relevant horror novel than This Book is Full of Spiders: Seriously Dude, Don't Touch It is the one and only book for you.
on October 2, 2012
Got home 4:45PM, saw package in mailbox. Knew right away what it was. Put it on the side, put it to the back of my mind, delaying what I knew must happen just a while longer. Walked the dog. Got myself prepared.. Motionally (couch), emotionally(things), physically(drink/snack)...
5:30PM .. Opened the packaging..
Out jumped a spider.
Let me preface the rest of this review by first saying that if you havent yet already read john Dies at the End then what are you reading reviews of the sequel for??!??! Go buy John Dies.. now .. Go read it tonight.. Thank me or curse me out later, either way, and then come back here.
Ok, you caught up now? Good. This book is not John Dies at the End... This is a much much much darker tale. There is humor to be sure, but it's humor that plays like the 1st breath of fresh air you take after swimming through a lake of rancid feces. It's like sunbathing during the eye of a hurricane, which just demolished every house in the neighborhood except yours, and you know is 5 minutes away from coming back to remedy that. It's a short break in between what should come to be known as one of the best horror novels written in years. The true source of the real horror the book has to show though may just shock you. The story carries you throughout the distance of the book like a manic monkey crab, thing.. Setting up an intricate net that hangs just outside of your vision, waiting to be drawn shut around you. The web David Wong spins would make even the darkest shadow pale in comparison. The tension built up to a tipping point the slightest fart could blow over, and just when you think it couldn't possible take you any further..
11:45 PM... a few pages away from the end of the novel, I'm sitting crying my eyes out like a an 8yr old girl told she cant follow her older sister to her first school dance... Depression... Anxiety... some more Depression... Wrapped up in a ball of thought provoking fatalistic psychology. That's what this book is, and every bit of it is fantastic.
If someone ruins this one for you..Punch them in the balls.. hard.. tell them I said it was ok.
Oh and Dave... please for the love of dog write a 3rd.. And please... Don't pull any punches. It's better this way.
on October 8, 2012
John Dies at the End is an incredibly original, fun, and at times genuinely horrific story about a couple of losers being forced to battle meat monsters, Shadow Men, the inter-dimensional terror Korrok, and their own ineptitude. This Book is Full of Spiders takes this concept and runs with it for about 100 pages, before dropping it for a more serious tone.
The book picks up an unspecified amount of time after JDatE. Dave and John are still wandering without direction, living in squalor, and occasionally dealing with horrors. New dangers emerge as parasitic spiders take over humans and change them into murderous monstrosities. Dave and John jump into action, handling the situation as they have so many others; with humor, improvised weapons, and fire. Unlike previous situations, this makes the situation exponentially worse, and they quickly realize it.
At this point things take a sharp turn. The jokes trickle off, the main characters get splintered into their own separate paths, and we learn something very important; Dave and John are a team for a reason. Neither works especially well without the other, and all of the stories lack the same spark that had been present in the first 100 pages, or the entirety of the first book.
This setup is however necessary for what end up being the overriding themes of the book. The characters are all given a chance to grow up to varying degrees, and frankly Dave and John completely enable each other, so it never would have happened without them being separated. To be honest, I did not especially want to see them grow. I wanted to see the hilarity that always came from them enabling each other, and handling serious, world ending situations with the mentality of grown children.
There are still grown children in the story, but they are no longer shown in a favorable, amusing light. Every time characters acted on their own, just branching out and acting immaturely, there were negative consequences. VERY negative consequences. The authority figures seem to know what they are doing, and the rogue individuals acting of their own accord are messing it up. Again, that is a point the book wants to get across, it just runs extremely counter to the first book. Signs of a maturing author, perhaps, but I found that it also led to a less engaging narrative.
The other huge theme is the idea that we are all the heroes of our own stories, and that seeing the same events from different angles completely changes the story. Amy's story followed a bunch of hipster college students who are excited at the idea of getting famous during the zombie apocalypse. Dave's story shows how paranoia turns us against each other, and how humanity's relationship with itself is the real danger. John's story is about being the person who always got things fixed needing to deal with no longer being "the guy," and everything he knew seems to be wrong. By the end even the "villains" motives are explained in a way that allows the reader to realize that nobody in the story was evil, they were just all doing what they thought was right.
You may have noticed how little comedy there seems to be in those stories, and how even the horror seems tangential to the personal arcs, and that would be because that is how the book is set up. For better or worse, this is a sequel that goes in a very different direction than the first book. It is more interested in human nature and growing up than it is in monsters and jokes. This is not necessarily a bad thing, and it is unfair of fans to expect artists to always deliver more of the same. Artists change and grow, and their art is bound to reflect that.
As a fan of JDatE, I wanted more of the same. I wanted more jokes, more monsters, more zany action. And I am disappointed that I did not get it. What is there is interesting, different, and still worth a read, but it is not JDatE2. That is not what this book is, and hopefully if you do not expect that you can enjoy it more than I did.
on January 1, 2013
Let me preface this by saying that I was a big fan of John Dies At The End. I discovered the book back when it was still freely available on the internet; before it exploded and became a cult horror sensation / movie / etc. That said, John Dies was never a perfect book, or even a very good one. Fans love the book for its deeply character-rooted humor, bizarre Lovecraftian monster-horror, and compulsive, borderline-addictive readability. This let us see past patchy pacing, spotty storytelling, and some questionable exposition dumps.
Having just finished "This Book Is Full of Spiders" at 2 AM this morning, I'm happy to report Wong has ironed out the kinks without losing the charm.
Somewhere between these two books, I think Wong must have taken a class on story structure, or maybe sold his soul to the devil or something. In either case, Spiders is a polished, carefully-crafted piece of storytelling, and it shows. Though Wong hits the gas on the scares and action pretty early, he's now smart enough not to keep his foot on the pedal the whole time. John Dies was comedy-horror fired out of a shotgun. Spiders cuts like a surgeon's scalpel.
Starting within the framework of your basic "zombie outbreak / city on lockdown" story, Wong slowly layers on the sense of mystery and dread. This IS a Wong book, though, so we always know that it's just a matter of time until something horrible and otherworldly explodes out of someone's ass, and the story takes its next sharp left turn into deeper weirdness, more dire straits, broader humor, bigger action, higher stakes, and even tighter tension. Wong shoves the reader into one bats***crazy scenario after another -- and then before the reader even has time to orient, he shakes the hell out of them, cackles gleefully in their face, makes a dick joke, and shoves them on to the next one.
The characters are deeper, the jokes are more relevant (if less frequent), the scares are bigger (and darker, and loom larger), and Wong even has a thing or two to say about the nature of mass hysteria.
Spiders comes highly recommended.
on October 16, 2012
I am a fan of JDATE the end from way back. I have the original book- the one that eventually was going for over $200 on Amazon (I got it before inflation!). It's probably one of my favorite, if not most favorite, books of all time. JDATE was so great because all the disparate elements- goofy plot, goofy protagonists, horror....it was a perfect blend. It's like Evil Dead 2 for books. The writing style was really 2 or 3 different stories, kind of loosely thrown together in a "narrative." And it all worked.
This Book is Full of Spiders (TBFOS) reads like a more traditional novel. David Wong (I know, not his real name, but that's ok by me) is clearly trying to develop his writer-ly voice. I give him credit for trying to go beyond the admittedly freer-formed JDATE. He is trying to mature as a more traditional writer.
However...is it wrong for me to have wanted more JDATE, and having hoped that TBFOS would be "more of the same?" Wong has a fan in me for life- I'll buy all his books (I even bought both Kindle & hardcover to support him since he allowed folks to read on his website. Did that for JDATE too). A part of me is vaguely ashamed to admit that I was a little disappointed with this book. I wish he had tried to mature as a writer with a different cast of characters or world.
Please note that the above isn't a review- it's just my own feelings. You may or may not have similar thoughts when going in.
With that in mind, here's the review: Wong still has his trademark humor, but it's subdued and lessens as the book progresses. The horror and pathos is much more pronounced. Funny, unique ancillary characters, like the ones in the first book (Jim, The Legend of Fred Chu, etc.) are totally MIA. The character of Dave is still depressed, even more so. But he was sort of the straight man to my favorite character, John. And that's where my biggest complaint is:
Wong tries to humanize John. Yes, we spend entire sections of the book from John's perspective. And we learn that he is just as damaged as Dave (broken home, a very, very clear alcoholic with the resultant issues). And, unlike the first book....he kind of gives up. In JDATE, he was kind of a force of nature. Or, force of ID. He was a brilliant character. Not so much here. He's human after all. Is it wrong to miss the fun John??
That, more than anything else, bummed me out. Your mileage may vary, but let's remember this: when we first meet John in JDATE, we learn the lyrics to Camel Holocaust. And it's gets funnier from there. Not so much here.
Still, the book is entertaining. There are bits of the old humor, and the narrative is tighter. They all spend most of the book apart, which is also a bummer. The plot is serviceable, and reads like a Stephen King book, for lots of reasons that I don't want to get into here (spoilers). The end is pure King, that I really don't want to spoil.
In short: it's a good book. It's not a great book. JDATE gets 5 stars from me. This gets 3 stars. If the JDATE legacy wasn't there (you do not need to read JDATE to read this), it would have gotten 4 stars.
So please take my review with a grain of salt. 3 stars is NOT bad. I am saying that it is good, and yes, buy it and read it. But, if you are expecting the mad genius of JDATE, temper your expectations, and enjoy TBFOS it for what it is.
on October 3, 2012
This book blew my mind. I laughed, I cried, I didn't sleep. This book is exceptionally well written, with sharp prose and just the right amount of poop jokes sprinkled in. This is a page turner that will have you questioning what you think is real and what you really know about the monsters hidden in the shadows. Also, there's dicks.
on October 11, 2012
**This review contains some spoilers regarding themes of the book, but does not go into many specifics**
Spiders is a really entertaining read that fans of the horror comedy genre should definitely enjoy reading. The book is touted as the second book of the John and Dave saga, but (as advertised) it comes off more as a disjointed sequel than a continuation of the original story line like how Super Mario Bros II still had Mario, Luigi & the Princess etc, but felt completely different than the first in terms of gameplay and mechanics.
As far as the writing goes, the book is paced really well. The majority of the chapter headings allude to various forms of impending doom which makes putting the book down difficult because of that urge to find out what happens. ** Spoiler(ish)** The payoff when you reach those points in the book doesn't really blow your socks off, but are just as integral to the storyline as the chapters preceding them. It's like watching the fuse get closer and closer to a large bank of fireworks to find out that when they go off it makes for a good show, but you wanted more. Then you look to the left and right and see that there are other lit fuses leading to other, more menacing banks of fireworks so you sit back with a smirk on your face waiting for the next spectacle**End Spoiler**
Where the original book trumps the sequel is in the story department. JDatE (must read if you like this genre) had many existing themes (drug use, monsters, dimension hopping, dongs) and blended them in a very unique which resulted in a beautiful thing much like a plate of spaghetti is the organized chaos of twisted, tangled noodles and sauce, but looks completely appetizing when plated. Much of that chaos could be due to the story originating from a series of posts on an internet forum. Spiders was composed with book writing in mind. It's less a series of situations that John and Dave (and Amy) get into, but becomes more a story of their characters. ** Spolier(ish again)** What makes it significantly different than the original is that the characters become separated from each other and the book becomes three separate stories. Dave and John seem more down to earth than the first book and frankly somewhat depressing at times (John's urge to drink knowing that his friends need him to function). The characters personal flaws are more central to the storyline in this book whereas their abilities gained from the Soy Sauce in the first book sort of dictate the flow of the story. Speaking of Soy Sauce, it does reappear in the sequel and serves a necessary purpose, but is not central aspect of the story line. If the series was intended to be more of a direct saga than a sequel then it would have taken the idea of the Soy Sauce from the first book and rolled with it. Who made it, what is its purpose, what's Korrok doing with himself these days etc. I don't even think pi was mentioned once in the book. **End Spoilers**
Entertainment wise, it's all there. The book has many themes in line with what make readers nerdgasm (Reavers from Firefly/Serenity are mentioned). The story acknowledges the fact that some characters act like they are living in a video game fantasy. At times Undisclosed seems reminiscent of City 17 from Half Life 2. The antagonists even have a Dr. Breen (HL2) & G-Man feel. What makes the book different is that Dave and John spout off a multitude of dick jokes and wise cracks unlike the silent crowbar wielding hero in the HL series. The support characters are nearly as colorful as the main characters which really gives the story a feeling that it is Undisclosed vs. the World rather than just John, Dave and Amy. Wong (author) is very vivid in describing the town, events and characters making it easy to get absorbed in the book and visualize being right there with them. I hope this book is lucky enough to get a screen adaptation because there is real potential to create a creepy, bloody, action packed and humorous flick from this tale.
Is this book for you? If you read the first book then absolutely, but know going into it that it is a different animal than the first. If you like dick jokes, monsters, blood and guts and juvenile humor then pick it up. If you liked the "50 Shades of Grey" books just for the depraved sexual acts then there is potential that you'll like this (not that sex is a key theme, sorry). If your idea of entertainment is watching child beauty pageant TV shows, then this book probably isn't for you.
+ Story is top notch and pacing is solid
+ Great characters and visceral details in storytelling
+ Many themes blended nicely together: horror, comedy, ethics, even politics etc.
- John and Dave seem more entertaining when paired together (don't worry, they do double-team evil)
- More serious tone than the original; where are John's one liners when ripping new holes in monsters?
on October 3, 2012
Previous reviewers have done an excellent job detailing why you should purchase this text, but I will keep it simple. I do not like horror, or shock, or terror, but since JDATE (the first book) I have loved reading Wong's works because of the effort he puts into making every sentence worth reading, whether it be funny or thought provoking. So even, if like me, you don't want horror, you will love the humor and writing style, which seems so natural. But if you do like gory, disturbing and scary, this book has plenty of that gross stuff too.
on February 21, 2014
I love this book. It's just that simple. I was nuts for John Dies at the End (let's not talk about the movie...ugh) and never thought the sequel could top it. I bought this book with my fingers crossed that it could come close to matching the wit and twisted story of the first book in the series.
Not only does the book reflect a more mature (in writing style, not subject material thankfully) work, but it takes the story into new dimensions (pun not intended). While the first book was world-creation and pure brain-melting insanity with every page, Spiders actually offers quite the opposite - oppressive regiment. It pushes the characters of David, John and Amy forward in unexpected ways, and doesn't stick to the same groove of the first book. It's almost like going from Raiders of the Lost Ark to Temple of Doom...same love of adventure...totally different tone.
If you liked the first book, you owe it to yourself to go further down the rabbit hole into the quirky, violent and deadly world that David Wong has created for you.
on January 25, 2016
This sequel to John Dies at the End is just as raunchy and strange as the first. While taking a more serious tone, it does illustrate an extremely interesting take on the Zombie genre. If you loved the first John book, you will probably love this one. If you did not like the last one, you probably will not like this one. I give this book a solid five out of five stars