Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Book Review: John Dies at the End

Trying to stay on top of my reviews, since I read faster than I can review. John Dies at the End is by David Wong (pen name), head editor of websational (web+sensational) site

Quick synopsis: Our unreliable narrator David Wong takes through a crazy tale of drugs, demons, portals, and more drugs. It all starts with the Soy Sauce, introduced to him by his best pal John, that allows them to see supernatural stuff. When high school acquaintance Amy is kidnapped by shadow men, John and David have to enter a whole new world of weird to save her and our world.

To be perfectly honest, that synopsis only covers the last story arch of the book; there are three, and the book is split up accordingly.  

When I first started this book, I didn't have the highest of expectations. It looked like a fun, kick-back novel, not to be taken seriously. And for the most part, it is. The beginning comes off as a Scooby-Doo adventure on LSD. It's weird, like really weird. You have a house filling up with shit (literally), and a boogie man made out of deli meat (also literally).

It's not all goofiness, although a good chunk of it is. There are some gruesome side-effects to using Soy Sauce, such as becoming a living portal to another dimension, which may lead to the unattended consequence of your body exploding. For some unknown reason, David and John are immune to this, thus allowing them to not only survive their gift/curse, but to also use it for good.  

For me, the book doesn't truly hit its stride until the third part, which is the longest story arc. Before that point, it was mostly silly weird stuff and I wasn't completely invested in David's character. The third part changed that. We see a deeper level of David, hear his backstory how was bullied in high school and one day, finally struck back at his bully in a most unpleasant way. He was transferred to a special program where he met Amy, whom at the time, everyone assumed she was mentally challenged. He also gave Amy the nickname "Cucumber" because she did nothing but puke like a sea cucumber (a sea cucumber pukes in self-defense).

This was the point where David became defined, besides the backstory, we see he struggles with self-esteem issues, how he thinks he's shittier than everyone else. Which is why he's willing to put himself in the hard spots, because he rather it be lowly him than someone good, like Amy.

I also really liked Amy, the one-handed girl with odd quirks, and the budding relationship between her and David. John never came into his own, but that's okay, he was the reliable, if not whacked, buddy.

Weird stuff is fine and all, but without real characters, and heart, you don't have much of a story.

As a disclaimer, this book is filled with dick jokes (and you'll find many variations of the word 'dick' throughout), which I find is okay in small doses, but is nonetheless juvenile. Some of the jokes are funny, and I did laugh out loud a few times. Other times I found the humor more stupid than funny. But this may be a matter of taste. I prefer dry witty humor of the British kind.

However, to Wong's credit, there are some clever allusions to more famous works such as LOTR and Kafka.

I'd say this a book for the younger crowd, not YA. Though, if you enjoy Cracked articles, you'll probably like this.

Rating: 4 out of 5 exploding dogs. 

Oh, and check out the teaser trailer to the movie that will be coming out this year!

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