John Dies at the End

by David Wong

“He gathered all of his concentration and went about rolling the one, perfect cigarette that could save our universe.”

This books is crazy and not in the Hannibal Lector way. More like the Douglas Adams meets Ace Ventura way.

Mainly concerning the two friends David and John, and later Amy, the story begins when John stumbles across a drug ‘Soy Sauce’ at a party which opens his mind in unimaginable ways. Not only does time lose its linear quality, but matter itself is no longer to be trusted and Johns sees all manner of horrifying creatures populating our world while those not on the drug remain oblivious. Many of the effects, including a super-computer of a brain, wear off hours after use, but other effects seem more permanent. David doses as well, and the friends attempt to discover what’s happening to the world, why these creatures are crossing dimensions, and eventually, if they can be stopped.

Even that brief synopsis starts to sound a little wacky, but that doesn’t begin to touch how this reads. To better describe the sense of humor reference Douglas Adams, a master of revealing the absurdities of our lives and ridiculing them. While Adams would often reveal profound truths in his jokes and the author here generally does not, there are exceptions (“When a man plans, a woman laughs”). David Wong (pseudonym) is every bit as funny as Adams, though, and uses the same irreverence. Nothing is sacred and pop culture is often in the crosshairs. Add the Ace Ventura comparison to the mix because of the idiocy these guys constantly exhibit, even though the jokes are mostly delivered with straight faces.

What can sometimes be a bit jarring, but welcome nonetheless, is when this humor butts up directly against a horrific event. This happens quite often, and while you’re guffawing and nearly choking on your food, in the next sentence when limbs are flying you might lose your appetite. You’ll certainly find the smile wiped off your face a couple of times.

There is also an interesting Afterward about how the book came about, with its origins in all but ignored online posts until momentum started to gather. And gather. Almost a proof of concept to those who may be frustrated by big publishing.

All in all you’ll probably find yourself very happy with this read. It’s a rare gift combining humor and horror and even rarer when that humor is maintained throughout. By the second half of the book events have gotten serious enough that the laughs die down comparatively to the first, but they are still present.

This is another highly recommended book, but mileage may vary. Horror is not really a genre where we find an overabundance of humor, but this book is one of the major exceptions. But because this level of humor does not appear too often in the field the book doesn’t exactly sit well on the shelf between IT and The Exorcist. It’s right at home next to Jeff Strand, though.

John Dies at the End is comically, foolishly, dangerously epic.

4- stars

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