Book Review: John Dies at the End by David Wong

There's a new drug in town and it seems to be driving people insane. Or perhaps it is only opening portals to another reality. Let's face it... It is hard to say exactly what is happening when a strange new substance that is hard to say "no" to, "Soy Sauce", hits the streets of an undisclosed town somewhere in the Midwestern United States. Our intrepid if somewhat unenthusiastic heroes, Dave and John, are tasked with saving not only the world but our very reality from the evil forces of Korrok.

Throughout the story the somewhat level headed David Wong tries to make sense out of the madness while his insouciant friend John "Cheese" seems to be determined to go deeper and deeper into the insanity. Despite Dave's reluctance, the "Soy Sauce" drags him along for the ride. Along the way the dysfunctional duo encounter exploding dogs, phone calls from the future, fake Jamaicans, a man made of cockroaches, a police officer who looks like Morgan Freeman, ghosts and demons... And then there is also some weird stuff.

While John tries desperately just to mind his own business after running across the new drug at a party where John's band has played, his friend delves deeper and deeper into the chaos that is a "Soy Sauce" high. As time warps and alternate dimensions bloom, the two become minor celebrities while stumbling through a series of misadventures that do not always make a lot of sense, especially to them. But in the end (while John doesn't exactly die but then doesn't exactly not die) everything is wrapped up in a neat little package, albeit with a tentacle or two protruding out the sides along with maybe a chunk or three of something that looks vaguely like raw meat.

Written sort of like a shaky camera film, the book is authored by "David Wong" (who is really Cracked .com Senior Editor Jason Pargin). John Dies At The End began as online serial that around 70,000 people read it before it was removed in late 2008 following the release of a paperback edition of the novel in 2007. The book has developed a strong cult following and movie rights have been acquired by Phantasm mastermind Don Coscarelli. There is also a sequel planned possibly to be called John and Dave and the Fifth Wall. So does this mean John did not actually die at the end? Read the book and find out!

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Update: The Movie & The Sequel

Fans of John Dies at the End have certainly had plenty to entertain them since the first book, though many fans feel the book and its subsequent offspring have not received the respect it deserves. For instance, the film adaption received no theatrical release and despite the cult status of the first book, many fans felt the second book still did not receive the advertising push that would bring it into the mainstream.

The sequel, This Book Is Full of Spiders (and sometimes subtitled Seriously, Dude, Don't Touch It) was released October 2, 2012. Reviewers described the book as "Kevin Smith's Clerks meets H.P. Lovecraft" (SF Signal) and "The Walking Dead written by Douglas Adams" (Washington Post). Fans described it as a fitting follow-up to the first novel. All the principal characters return -- Dave, John, Amy, and even Molly. Things get a little strange when spiders start attacking and taking over people. Wait... strike that. Things get a lot strange when spiders start attacking and taking over people.

Chase Williamson as Dave
Chase Williamson as Dave
Rob Mayes as John
Rob Mayes as John
Fabianne Therese as Amy
Fabianne Therese as Amy

The film version of John Dies at the End began filming in October 2010. The film was written and directed by Don Coscarelli, a true master of oddball horror films such as the Phantasm series and the cult classic Bubba Ho-Tep (which will soon have a sequel, Bubba Nosferatu: Curse of the She-Vampires). He was a perfect fit for the project, delivering a film that was both heavy on the horror and filled with the weird. In other words, it was exactly what you would expect in an adaption of the book.

A lot of the success of the film centered on the casting of Dave, John and Amy. For Dave, relative newcomer Chase Williamson was chosen. Though his resume at the time was rather short, he turned out to be an excellent choice. John was portrayed by Rob Mayes, best known for his recurring roles on the television series Jane by Design and 90210. For Amy, another unknown was tapped in the lovely Fabianne Therese. But the relative anonymity of these actors doesn't mean the film lacked star power.

The role of reporter Arnie Blondestone was filled by veteran actor Paul Giamatti (Lady in the Water, Sideways) while Dr. Albert Marconi was portrayed by Clancy Brown (Cowboys & Aliens, Starship Troopers). Genre mainstays Doug Jones (Hellboy, Pan's Labyrinth) and Daniel Roebuck (Rob Zombies' Halloween, Final Destination) also appeared in the film as Roger North and Largeman respectively. Overall, the cast was well-chosen and really added to the film's atmosphere and appeal.

The film never received a theatrical release but a DVD and Blu-Ray was released April 2, 2013, after the film debuted at the Sundance Film Festival on January 23, 2012, and then played at the South by Southwest Festival on March 12, 2013. While fans would have loved to see the film on the big screen, it was still a thrill to finally have the film in hand.

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FunabashiJ profile image

FunabashiJ 5 years ago from Bridgeport, CT

A very interesting sounding book. Definitely something I'll have to look into.

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