John Dies at the End by David Wong

Abnormal, crazy and utterly weird.
John Dies at the End book cover

Book of the Year 0000 (see all)

On the street they call it Soy Sauce, it is a drug that promises an out-of-body experience with each hit, and lets users drift across time and dimensions. But some who come back are no longer human. Suddenly, a silent otherworldly invasion is underway, and mankind needs a hero. What it gets instead is John and David, a pair of college dropouts who can barely hold down jobs. Can these two stop the oncoming horror in time to save humanity? No. No, they can't...

If you mixed 'Ghostbusters' with 'Shaun of the Dead' and added some abnormal fantasy drugs into the mix then you’d almost be in the right genre for this story. The writer, going under the persona of the main character 'David Wong', makes clear from the start of the book that no one can be trusted; not even himself, even telling us that parts of the story have been elaborated or made up. This makes the story very clever and the reader therefore has no clear idea of what is truth and what is not when they start reading, setting them up very nicely for the question they all want to know - does John die at the end? This lack of trust, along with the weird simultaneous mix throughout of horror and humour is what makes the book truly scary.

The story focuses around the main character "David Wong" (not his real name) and his penis-obsessed friend John who both unwittingly take the drug "soy sauce" which, rather than killing them like it has other people, has the permanent effect of enabling them to see creatures from another hell-like world for which they are landed with the job of saving their "undisclosed" town and the Earth, from take-over. This description of the story is in itself inefficient as the book is so bizarre and weird it is somehow beyond any accurate description. In some ways, it could be described as a stereotypical boys' book as it is full of swearing, penis-references, flailing body parts and spoof shoot-em-up scenes with alien creatures and definitely isn’t for those offended easily, but the story as a whole and the creatures within it are so far beyond anything done before that it is also in no way stereotypical. Whilst reading Tolkien's novels the reader can pretty well imagine what a hobbit looks like, or an elf, or a goblin, as they have probably read about similar things elsewhere and know how they should and will behave, but how can you imagine elusive unfamiliar creatures with a malicious sense of humour without an accurate description of them and when their killing methods and behaviours are less than normal? That’s when it becomes slightly more scary.

What is also disconcerting is the fact that the weird slowly becomes normal for the reader as the book progresses. This means that, along with the fact that none of the characters, with the possible exception of Amy, are truly likeable, when anything happens to someone, the reader, like the other characters, accepts the fact that it has happened and moves on.

Overall, abnormal, crazy and utterly weird are a few of the words I can think of to describe this book but I saw the trailer for the film the other day and though it looks tamer than the book, I will be seeing it.

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