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John Dies At The End By David Wong – Review

John Dies At The End is a novel from David Wong, alter-ego of Cracked.com editor Jason Pargin.

Right from the start let me tell you I loved this book, but I can see it being a hit and miss afair with others. If I were to call it a mad mix of David Lynch and H P Lovecraft, mixed in with a dash of American teen comedies, would that interest you?

Comedy novels by their very nature can divide their audience. It’s nothing like my other two favourite SciFi/Fantasy comedy authors Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams, and not as clever. However the sheer absurdity and invention carries it along.

David, who works in a video rental store, is the teller of this first person tale as he regails us with his story of strange happenings in the small town of (Undisclosed).

Right from the start he, and his best friend John, are in the midst of the action, taking on a case of an unusual “haunting”. But as the story progresses we discover exactly how David and John got involved in this business.

It starts when a group of kids take a mysterious mind-blitzing new drug called Soy Sauce. This soon results in a race to Vegas as those who used the drug slowly begin to unravel with the exception of our two heroes. This drug opens them to a horrifying alternate universe, where they discover a being known  as Korrok is watching them, with his Shadow People as agents in our world.

Don’t despair, this is no carbon copy horror. The creatures that appear and the ways in which they are dealt with, as well as the alternate plane itself, and nothing you could imagine. If you did, you’d probably be locked up by now 🙂

The bulk of the book is John talking to a reporter – rather like Interview with a Vampire. The story catches up in “real time” near the climax of the story, but up until then we follow David’s adventures as he tells them, including lapses in memory or parts of the stories conveyed to him by John – often highly exaggerated.

For all it’s humorous stylings the story does sometimes give you the chills. The two main characters are well written, with bolshy John and semi-neurotic narrator David perfect foils for each other.  John doesn’t seem to have a nervous bone in his body taking on new dimensions and strange beings in passing, while David – at first a little scared – soon seems to be resigned to his fate and is willing to walk into impending death alongside him..

It’s a real page turner as the story hurtles along so you might find yourself finishing this in a sitting or two if it grabs you. It’s very imaginative and I haven’t read anything else like it – with nothing ever turning out quite as I expected and the creatures… well, I guess you’d have to read it to find out.

One thing I liked is the way the story drags in pop-culture references sometimes. Like when I was thinking about David Lynch a character is given Mulholland Drive to rent. Or the fact that I had just finished Dean Koontz’s “Odd Thomas” and the story mentions the fact that Koontz had written something similar!

Another point that did strike me is that book seems to jump from story to story within the overall plot. Once I read the authors footnote I discovered that this is based on the tales of John and David, written while he was a data input clerk, that had gained a following on the internet. This is a true success story similar to the way recording artists sometimes find a following on MySpace before hitting the big time!

I await further tales with these two characters – if there are any forthcoming – with anticipation.There’s also news that Don Coscarelli (he of Phantasm and other 80’s horror classics as well as Bubba Ho Tep) has optioned the book.

You can find out more on the Internet at www.JohnDiesAtTheEnd.com – including a new short story featuring John and Dave and other fun stuff, such as a video featuring John “ghost hunting”.

You might also like the humor at Cracked.com if you like this story. That is one of my favourite time wasters with a new Top 7 or 10 nearly every day.

Rating : 8.5 / 10 – Unusual, but excellent.

Here’s a “radio adaptation” of part of the novel on YouTube