John Dies at the End by David Wong
This book has been on my radar for a while, and when I saw it in a charity chop for £2 I had to buy it. This is not really a summary, but it’s what it says on the back cover:
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 Wong. 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 drug is called soy sauce, 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 IS MY FAULT.
Yeah. John Dies at the End is unlike anything I usually read (and probably also unlike anything I will ever read again). It’s weird. It’s about a young man named David and his friend John, who become accidentally involved in a battle between good and evil. After taking a drug called ‘soy sauce’ they find they can see things that most people can’t – such as shadow people and electric jellyfish – and must try and protect their friends from the forces of darkness, which are trying to infiltrate earth. In the process of saving the world they must fight meat monsters, murder possessed policemen, make dogs explode, and travel through a portal to another world which they nickname ‘Shit Narnia’.
The whole book isn’t so much a story as a mixed satire on several genres – namely science fiction, crime and horror – and as such it feels rather hodgepodge for most of its duration, more like a series of sketches or skits than a cohesive novel. That said, it did make me laugh, though I did tend to find that a lot of the American humour and references went over my head. I’ve been a fan of the humour website Cracked.com for years (of which the author is the Executive Editor), and as such am familiar with David Wong’s particular brand of humour. I think that helped me to overcome the general ‘WTF?’ experience this book instils in the reader.
I think I would have appreciated it more if I were more familiar with the genres it pastiches. I felt it to be a sort of mash-up of the content of Stephen King’s more terrible stories and Kurt Vonnegut’s odd writing style. (The blurbs on the back compare it to Douglas Adams, Philip K Dick and Hunter S Thompson, none of whom I’ve read). I’ve read all 466 pages and I’m still not sure whether to recommend the book or burn it. Perhaps I’ll compromise and do both.