Review: John Dies at the End by David Wong

John Dies at the End
David Wong

Thomas Dunne Books (2010)
469 pages
Adult / Fantasy / Supernatural

Purchase it from Amazon

STOP. You should not have touched this flyer 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. 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. 

Saying this is the strangest book I have ever read would probably be an understatement. John Dies at the End is a bizarre amalgamation of frat boy humor, lost Ghostfacers episodes and the occasional dash of creative ingenuity. But mostly it's a giant bizarre mess of epic proportions written by a man who has some sort of penile obsession.

The first third of the book is a pretty awesome thrill ride (minus the many, many penis jokes crammed into every crevice possible - double entrendre only partly intended) about a bizarre adventure a group of young twenty-somethings have after meeting a fake Jamaican Rastafarian and being exposed to a drug simply called Soy Sauce. When the fake Jamaican explodes and people who took the Soy Sauce start dying in really freaky ways, David finds he's in a time-twisty adventure of insanity that leads him, his best friend John, Jennifer Lopez (not the celebrity, just a girl David has the hots for) and a couple of other guys to Las Vegas. There's a lot of blood shed involved, demon and monster attacks, and general nonsense that occurs during this adventure and it was generally entertaining.

But then, once the adventure to and in Las Vegas is over, David conveniently loses six months of his memory and the second part of the story begins. The rest of the book is a disjointed mess of short vignettes barely tied together in a plot line that made little to no sense to me. The character of John becomes even more ridiculously over the top while our narrator David becomes more and more of a passive slub, watching the insanity swirl around him. Another romantic interest is introduced during this second part of the book, a one-handed girl named Amy, who everyone had previously thought had brain damage from a car wreck that killed her parents. Instead she is just really, really weird and rightfully so given recent events in her life.

Throughout the entire story there's a dog named Molly that acts as bodyguard, alarm system and general guide to batshit insane trouble for David and his associates. Nothing is really explained about her origin, much as with the other incredibly odd creatures the characters come across. By the end it becomes even more convoluted and nonsensical as multiple parallel worlds are brought into the equation and no one really seems to want to give or ask for a straight answer. Instead David and John remain the same slubby guys with no ambition and even less intelligence as they were at the beginning of the book.

Told in the first person, there are some funny moments that made me laugh out loud, but mostly I read this book with a growing dread that I was not only wasting my time, but also killing several brain cells in the process. John and David personify the type of fratboy slackers that I generally want to hit with baseball bats, not spend 400 some-odd pages with on a weird adventure. Neither of them have any redeeming qualities and seem only to survive on luck. It's never explained exactly how they became "skilled" at hunting these monsters and ghosts and whatever else weirdness is floating around, conveniently swept away by the six months of time David forgot and the strange fame they seemed to have garnered during that time.

There were a few compelling plot devices that disappeared as quickly as they appeared. Instead the book is filled with crude jokes and short stories that make no sense within the whole framework of the plot. If you asked me to explain the last third of the book to you, I honestly don't believe that I could. It made no sense when I read it and it makes even less sense to me now that I've attempted to process it.

So with that I'm going to forget that this book exists. Unless you really like what some in my book club described as "boy humor" and slacker characters with no redeeming qualities going on adventures that don't make much sense, I suggest you forget it exists as well.