John Dies at the End by David Wong

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John Dies at the End by David Wong

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Category: Horror
Rating: 3/5
Reviewer: Melony Sanders
Reviewed by Melony Sanders
Summary: Initially a webserial published online, John Dies at the End is a comic horror novel about two men who can see things that other people can't. There is plenty of horror and a few laughs, but generally, the book doesn't live up to its excellent reviews.
Buy? No Borrow? Maybe
Pages: 480 Date: June 2011
Publisher: Titan Books
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0857684837

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'John Dies at the End' begins with friends John and Dave going to a party and meeting a Jamaican drug dealer who provides John with a hit of something called 'soy sauce'. Thereafter, John starts to see things that others can't see. Dave thinks he has had a bad reaction to the drug until he accidentally takes a hit and also starts to have strange experiences, seeing odd shadow creatures, none of whom are very friendly. Even worse, people start to die and a dog takes on human characteristics. Before long, John and Dave are facing death on a regular basis and are aware that they have access to dimensions that normal people don't know about.

The book is most definitely comic fantasy horror. Nothing seems to make much sense; the author has come up with a highly original story that will please any fan of fantasy. As a webserial, it was read by about 70,000 people before it was removed and then published as a book. Like any good fantasy, it really is impossible to guess what is going to happen next and so every page is a surprise. This can sometimes be a disadvantage, however, because if the reader puts the book down for a few days, it can take a long time to pick the story back up again. Even so, the plot is overly complicated at times and needs a lot of concentration to follow. It is split into three main parts, each of which has a slightly different focus and outcome, although they do all come together in the end.

Although the book is largely plot-driven, the characters are well drawn and most certainly add to the comic value. Dave is, in many ways, the innocent bystander, drawn into the horrors of the book by John. It is therefore very easy to feel sympathy for him. What makes him really human is his love for Amy, a character who comes to the fore as the book progresses, and has lost a brother as a result of the encroachment of the other dimensions. John is a real lad. He thinks of his crotch, women and self-pleasure before anything else, although he is obviously fond of Dave. Amy is really the only other character that stands out, simply because all the others either die, or only come into the story periodically. At times, it is incredibly difficult to remember who is who and how they fit into the story.

This isn't, in my opinion, a book that will make you laugh out loud, although there are many online fans who would appear to disagree. The humour is most definitely of the toilet variety and it does raise a smile, unless you're averse to that sort of humour, but it is mainly in the form of one line quips from John and their impact is often lost in the whole confusion of what is going on. They do add to the overall entertainment of the book, however. Perhaps because of the underlying humour, it is hard to take the horror part of the book seriously. Some fans have described it as scary, but it's unlikely to have the average fan of horror hiding under their bed.

The book is generally well-written. It is hard to follow at times, because of the bizarre nature of the plot and because it skips from Dave narrating the story to a journalist to Dave telling the story to the reader. It also skips around in time because Dave occasionally loses a couple of hours and then goes back in time. Fortunately, the chapters are relatively short, so there is some respite for the reader. The writing style is very much pop fiction, with plenty of crude terms and swearing, so it may not be everyone's cup of tea. It does, however, suit the tone of the book.

On the whole, this is an average book that will most appeal to the audience it is aimed at – youngish people with an interest in horror/fantasy mixed with crude humour. For anyone else, the plot is just too bizarre and complicated to follow easily. The characters are fun, but don't add enough to the story to make it a really good read. It has been made into a film and is at the post-production stage, so it may be best for all but the most diehard fans of this genre to see if it is any better when translated onto the big screen.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.

Further reading suggestion: If you enjoy this type of fiction, you may also like Zombie: An Anthology of the Undead by Christopher Golden (Editor), a collection of short stories which include a few with a similar comic value.

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