John Dies at the End
By David Wong
Permuted Press, 2007
John Dies at the End is a comic horror novel, originally published online as a webserial, but now available only in novel form. David Wong is actually Jason Pargin, executive editor of Cracked.com.
STOP. You should not have touched this book with your bare hands. NO, don't put it down. It's too late. They're watching you. My name is David Wong. My best friend is John. Those names are fake. You might want to change yours. You may not want to know about the things you'll read on these pages, about the sauce, about Korrok, about the invasion, and the future. But it's too late. You touched the book. You're in the game. You're under the eye. The only defense is knowledge. You need to read this book, to the end. Even the part with the bratwurst. Why? You just have to trust me.
The important thing is this: The drug is called Soy Sauce and it gives users a window into another dimension. John and I never had the chance to say no. You still do. I'm sorry to have involved you in this, I really am. But as you read about these terrible events and the very dark epoch the world is about to enter as a result, it is crucial you keep one thing in mind: None of this was my fault.
-- From the back jacket.
David (the narrator) is a foul-mouthed, neurotic, and oft-drunk slacker. John is his best friend. David is the responsible one; John is the one who gets addicted to an alien drug that often causes people to explode. Together, they are the preeminent supernatural investigators in this universe, and at least one other.
The plot goes thusly: David gets drunk, does something awkward, stupid, or self-defeating. Then John invites an eldritch horror into their lives. David tries to fix things, John tells jokes about his penis. The monster kills someone and/or causes our heroes to kill someone. Optionally, the beast injects someone with a mysterious substance that the characters call soy sauce because that's what that one rastafarian that exploded named it. Wash, rinse, and repeat. This goes on for 466 pages, and spoiler alert, John dies in the end. A bloody, painful death.
This sounds stupid, and boy is it. But, once you get past the disembodied limbs and a narrator that turns anti-hero up to eleven, there are some strong positives. John Dies is a good example of laugh-aloud humor mixed with a slow-reveal plot, making an insane first chapter become fairly reasonable (but still stupid) once you know the backstory. There are plot twists, redemption, and romance, and really really creepy monsters watching you from your TV.
There are some flaws -- starting with the fact that the primary goal of this book is to be stupid and horrible. The book's 'prologue' was originally a stand-alone short story, written to be Douglas Adams on drugs and overdosed on cheap horror films. The rest of the book is increasingly more serious, which is good in that 400 pages of this nonsense would be too much, and bad in that the tone changes a bit over the course of the story, with the primary continuity being provided by an unending series of bloody deaths. Pargin always saves it before it gets tiresome, but it gets close at points.
Apparently, there was some movie made off of the book. Perhaps more importantly, John Dies is the start of an ongoing series. The second book is This Book Is Full of Spiders, followed by What the Hell Did I Just Read.
The easy way to avoid giving away to much was to lie. So I did. But not about anything important.