David Wong and his best friend John are slacker college dropouts who find themselves the unwilling saviors of the world from evil forces beyond our understanding (theirs, too). The suck at it pretty bad but, you know, they try. Some new drug called soy sauce gives its users the ability to do really cool, bizarre things like time travel, know really obscure information about people, and dimension hop. It also uses the person as a portal to allow things from the other side to enter our world. John Dies at the End chronicles David and John’s completely messed up journey of discovering just how nasty their new enemy is, and trying to figure out how the hell a couple of twenty somethings are supposed to defeat evil incarnate.
They do not know. At all. Ever. But dammit, they try, because nobody likes it when people try to come through the television.
This book was the closest I’ll ever come to a trippy acid experience. It’s sheer lunacy on every other page, and I enjoyed every minute of it. I understand now why a lot of people say it’s hard to summarize what happens in this book without sounding like you’re out of touch with reality. The book is basically David’s recount of past events to a reporter who thinks he’s full of shit. David as a narrator is pretty fantastic. Sometimes unreliable, but bitingly sarcastic, self deprecating and self aware, and hilarious. I enjoyed viewing the story out of his headspace. He’s a bit of a coward, except when he’s not and doesn’t give himself enough credit, has a love hate relationship with his best friend, and genuinely tries to do the right thing most of the time.
There’s some much unbelievable WTFery going on, and it’s so over the top that you just can’t even believe what you’re reading, but you’re kind of laughing because it is so over the top…until you realize how gross it actually is. I just kind of went with it after awhile, and the characters basically did, too. David and John became so blase towards the paranormal goings on around them that their lack of reaction was funny in and of itself. ‘Oh, the dog imploded? Whateves. There’s a giant floating jellyfish hanging out in someone’s bedroom? We’ll deal with that later. Cockroach man driving my car away? NOTHIN’ BETTER HAPPEN TO THAT CAR, ALL I’M SAYIN.’
I haven’t laughed that much since reading Good Omens. The horror was so kitschy yet grotesque that you’re just chuckling uncomfortably, like this shouldn’t be funny, and on some level you’re really disturbed and grossed out, but that nervous laughter keeps bubbling up.
I also enjoyed the fact that I really didn’t know what to expect. I could not guess what would happen next (sure as hell didn’t see wig monsters coming), who was going to die, what was going to explode or visit the characters any time of the day. I also didn’t know what obscure little reference or weird…thing might be important later, so I absorbed everything, and it paid off. I felt David’s paranoia at being constantly watched, not knowing where the shadow people were or who was compromised by the other side, having no one to confide in except his batshit crazy best friend. Since it was so campy (Meat monsters. Phone bratwurst. Elton John and Co. Jellyfish. Kittens. Molly.) there weren’t a lot of genuine scares, but there were a few solid creepy moments that struck a chord. Waking up knowing you lost an entire night – with no recollection of what you did or where you went – has to be a bone chilling experience. And I can’t talk about the television.
The characters were fully fleshed out people; deeply flawed, funny, with just the right pinch of heroism to make you root not just for their survival, but their happiness. We all know someone like John; hell, I dated someone like him. At first I didn’t understand why David hung out with him, since he was such an astounding screwup, but I got it the further I read. He’s the friend you feel a little responsible for, that you can’t shake because you really care about them even when you want to punch them in the face. Who might be the only friend you have. I liked how there’s no blatant info dumps on any one character. Amy was kind of refreshing, and the relationship that blossomed between her and David was unexpected and rather sweet. David’s background was revealed slowly, peeled back bit by bit through occasional self reflection and relayed to other characters when he was good and ready to tell them.
I give this marvelously messed up book five out of five Wig Monsters.
“I’m a retired priest. Did you know that?”
John asked, “Are you one of those priests who can shoot lasers out of their eyes? Because that would be really helpful right now.” – 164
“On an evening a few weeks later, I was driving home from work with one thought cycling through my brain: I would go to the grocery store, buy a pie, and just eat the whole thing. In one sitting. A whole pie.” – 197
“Well,” I said. “Nothing to do now but wander the fuck into that abandoned building, totally unarmed.” – 224
“She broke it,” John said. “Like a fever. It passed from you into her, but it couldn’t live in her.”
He turned his attention to the girl.
“How do you feel?”
“Like I could sleep for a thousand years.” – 244
He said, “You think it was like the thing with Danny Wexler? The demon thing we ran into at the mall?”
At the mall, he says. Like we saw it folding pants at American Eagle. – 286
“And watch out for Molly. See if she does anything unusual. There’s something I don’t trust about the way she exploded and then came back from the dead like that.” – 312
I read a small excerpt from a Teaser Tuesday a few weeks ago that I didn’t understand revolving around Ronald McDonald, but OH. OH, I UNDERSTAND.
I know all about Ronald McDonald’s eyes now. *shudders*