Cannonball Read #33: John Dies at the End


I recently finished a pretty dense non-fiction book. It was thoroughly enjoyable, and afterwards I began reading another non-fiction book but could not get into it. I decided to put that one down and pick up something fictional to take a break from reality. Oh man, did I succeed. John Dies at the End by David Wong is a twisted, gory, thrill-ride – emphasis on the gore. It caught my attention and would not let go.

David Wong and his best friend, John, live in small town in the midwest and manage to both be exposed to a drug called “soy sauce.” I should probably have put the quotation marks around “drug” though, because this substance is more than just a hallucinogen, it allows David and John to see demons and alter time. Soy sauce opens a window into another dimension.

It also congeals into a pellet that grows wings, attacks David, and burrows into his cheek! (See? I told you there was gore!)

Strange things happen in this novel – parallel universes, demons, possessions, levitating dogs – and none of it is for the squeamish. In fact, I thought at several points that if it were made into a movie, I don’t know if I’d could watch people explode all over the screen. Wikipedia tells me that Don Coscarelli is attached, which I’m sure fans of Bubba Ho-tep will appreciate. I still don’t know if I can handle the gore splashed, literally, on the screen.

Let me just show you what I mean:

“…it took me a moment to realize that the massive, spreading pool down the ceiling was not motor oil, but blood.

I craned my neck over and saw hunks of meat flying off w3hat had been Officer Freeman/Appleton in juicy ragged pink-and-yellow layers, bone and ribes and spongy mass that must have been lungs.”

Visceral and disgusting? Yes. Thrilling and suspenseful? Yes! I’d even go so far to say that certain parts of the story were touching. Hey, when you’re fighting for the future of mankind, you’d better have some mankind worth saving.

I won’t give away anything of the plot, because Wong plays masterfully with it, and any idea of what comes to happen should be a surprise, as it was for me. I highly recommend this book, if you’re a Stephen King or Douglas Adams fan (two authors noted on the back of the dustjacket), and especially if you are a fan of William S. Burroughs or even Franz Kafka, who is noted by one of the characters late in the novel.

John Dies at the End made its first appearance online as a web serial.

…then as an edited manuscript in 2004 and printed paperback in 2007 via Permuted Press. An estimated 70,000 people read the free online versions before they were removed in September 2008. Thomas Dunne Books published the story with additional material as a hardcover on September 29th, 2009. (wikipedia.com)

Further installments in the saga of John and David can be found on the official website, which I will be checking out for sure. As for the movie? We’ll see, Coscarelli. We’ll see.


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