Friday, June 1, 2012

John Dies at the End (Or, Monsters! Limbs! Blood! Snot! More Monsters!), by David Wong.

John Dies at the End doesn't know how to finish. But we forgive it. It's just that adorable.

I don't mean to sound patronising. The book is like that one very drunk friend at a quiz night: full of non-sequitors, rude words and gross bodily functions. But that's ok - that's why he's there.

The world is in danger. An unlikely hero and his idiot/genius friend have been chosen by fate to save us all from certain doom. Other universii are seeping through the cracks, bleeding into our world and coveting its resources like Smeagol's possessive brother. 'Resources', in this instance, taking on a vaguely Soylent Green connotation.

David Wong, protagonist and psyeudonym for Cracked writer Jason Pargin, is unlucky enough to gain the ability to see these paranormal invaders by the ingestion of the drug 'Soy Sauce': a living, breathing, organic substance that won't let you just say no.

I would recommend reading the book before you see the movie, due for release in October this year. I would always recommend reading the book before you see the movie, but in this case it's particularly important. Wong/Pargin's imagery is so incredibly visceral, so utterly, imaginatively disgusting, it's only fair (to both the author and you) to give your mind free reign to play amongst all the blood and mucus. Before someone else's sets it in concrete. A sort of... two-for-the-price-of-one philosophy.

You don't get to be a senior Cracked editor without a great deal of wit (some might disagree), and a bucket full of pop culture knowledge. So, John Dies at the End will give you your money's worth of bellyachingly hilarious moments. John himself provides many of them: lovers of puns and Arnie movies, strap yourselves in.

You know what? I think I like Jason Pargin. He seems like a pretty cool guy. He wrote that article
- "5 Modern Ways Men Are Trained To Hate Women" - which is a brave thing to do on the internet, where even the women are mysoginist (go on, go to 9gag right now and have a look, if you don't believe me). And before John Dies at the End became a Big Deal, you could read the whole thing for free, here.

No more, my friends. But you should buy Wong's book, and preorder the sequel, anyway. Why? Because fuck the publishing industry, that's why. Because ART.

Wong explains it all better in his sales pitch, here.  But it breaks down like this.

You might have a great idea for a book.

You might execute that idea beautifully.

But how the hell are you going to get people to read it? Well, you could put it on the internet for free, and that's great, but it doesn't keep you in mac 'n cheese. You could sell it on the internet, but who's going to buy a book written by an author who isn't even good enough to be picked up by a real publisher?

The logic is somewhat cyclical, but the point is, other than providing authors with editors and access to a bookstore; publishers add legitimacy to the works they pick up. They give you permission to buy the book. Unfortunately, the publishing industry is about making money, just like any other business. And if you've noticed the number of action flicks/reimaginings/sequels/gritty reboots floundering about at the movies lately, you'll see how inclined producers are to take risks.

Life is tough for an unproven author.

But if you preorder a book, the publishers will be all like, "Hey, people actually want to read this shit!".  They will print more copies and the bookstores will buy more copies and David Wong will get paid, which means he will get to write more things!

This is something you want him to do.

So, the guy might not be so great at endings. So, the structure might peter out a bit towards the end. He's still a masterful creative genius that must have wanted to claw his skin off in a nine-to-five job. John Dies at the End is full of Cthulhu-esque monsters, chainsaws, nightmarishly warped faces, and reflex sympathetic pain. The suspense will choke the breath out of your lungs.

It's lovely to meet a new type of drug. Chemicals are something I have a bit of a fascination for, although I suppose I have to admit that the concept of a substance that opens up a new world perspective is not exactly earth shattering. But the way that manifests, and the physical presentation of the drug itself, is absolutely delicious. It's also a huge relief that the concept of addiction isn't tiresomly dragged along behind the speeding vehicle of the narrative. The drug is a conduit, not a parable.

John Dies at the End calls itself horror, but it's not particularly chilling. It's more unsettling and dystopic. Despite its outlandishness, you don't have to be an imaginative heavyweight to suspend your disbelief. The protaganists are ordinary schmucks who have to turn up to their shitty day job, even if the fabric of reality is falling apart.

Wong's genius as an author lies in his ability to present himself as just an ordinary guy who wrote a humble book, with humble characters, to lift us for a blissful few hours out of our mundane, souless lives. Don't believe it. Wong knows what he's doing. His intellect sears loudly though each page. He hasn't just woven a story, but created that rare thing all authors leap for - a world.

The sequel - This Book Is Full Of Spiders - is out in October (hey! that's the same time as the movie!). You should read both, if only for inspiration. Wong writes books like they should be written - raw, and messy, and ambitious, and bold.

And fun, dammit. Really, really fun.


  1. I agree. He sure needs to learn how to write an ending. I'm hanging out to see the film just to see how it ends.

  2. Oh yes. You have seen the trailer? Exciting.

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  4. Thanks Candace! I already am! x