John Dies at the End by David Wong
Permuted Press, 2007
Review: If you like gory horror with a twisted sense of humor stop reading now and order this book. Seriously. If you don’t like jokes about genitalia, feces, and any number of things that wouldn’t be considered acceptable in polite company than stay the hell away.Seriously. I have to wonder if something is wrong with me for having enjoyed this book. Sure it doesn’t feature nearly the same level of disturbing imagery as Conrad William’s Unblemished (the amputee stuff in particular *shudder*) but still. Having spent just under twelve hours watching horror movies this weekend I realized that this book is endearing because it is similar in tone to those great schlocky horror movies that persisted throughout the 70s and 80s; and I mean that in a good way.
The plot centers around two guys, David and (the titular) John, who after an encounter with a crazy Jamaican named Robert Marley (get it?) get suckered into taking a reality altering drug called Soy Sauce and are forever changed. Soy Sauce reveals to the two the hidden horrors of our world (and others) that everyone else cannot see or percieve. Various and sundry hijinks ensue.
The story is narrated by David and pays homage to untrustworthy narrator of Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart.” David’s credibility is further thrown into question by his partner John (a compulsive liar and general wacko) and the strange effects of Soy Sauce itself. All-in-all David’s dry wit adds a certain brevity to a story that, without it, might have wallowed too much in its own seriousness. The fact that David is also the actual name of the author serves the same purpose of Horace Walpole’s prefaced claims that The Castle of Otranto was based on an obscure italian manuscript. This device allows the reader to get closer to the horror (Danielewski’s House of Leaves is another good, more modern, example of this technique) through the attempt to ground fiction elements in our own reality.
Permuted Press is a small publisher so if you really want John Dies at the End you’ll have to either order from Amazon or BN.com (a local B&N could also special order it for you if you’re not down with the whole online thing). For the computer junkies out there Johndiesattheend.com is the place to go. The novel was originally an online thing (similar to Wellington’s Monster series) that is slowly being reposted (they’re up to Chapter 8 as of 11/1). If you’ve already read the book you can also go there to check out the sequel. John Dies at the End was a fun read, reminding me of that first magical time I saw Hellraiser. Horror fans (film and fiction) should check it out now.
Final Grade: A