Spoiler Alert! This review contains spoilers!!!
If you want to avoid them, do not look past the 4-pearls image, but know that if you like your LOL’s wrapped in a gory story about invading creatures from a parallel universe, you’ll like this one.
Now on to the full review beginning with a big-ass spoiler.
David Wong is a liar. John does not fucking die at the end. This really sucked because despite loving John as a character, by about the three-quarter mark, I was desperate for him to bite it so that the story would hurry the fuck up and finish. But it just kept droning on and on and on.
However, if you take out all the bullshit and boil the story down to its essentials, you’re left with a tale about two guys in their early 20’s, Dave and his best friend John, both pretty respectable townies if such a thing exists, in a small undisclosed town in the Midwest. They wind up ingesting a mysterious black sauce that not only gives them the Rain Man-like ability to instantly count the number of grains of rice on someone’s plate, but also the ability to see things from another dimension.
It also may turn them into doors through which creatures from another dimension can pass through into ours, but it also may not. It’s hard to tell and that’s one of the reasons John Dies at the End is kind of a botched abortion.
But before I begin viciously hurling feces at the plot and at how the story drones on and on and on, I want to be clear that there is a lot to like about this book.
It contains a lot of big and little LOL’s and has passages that are extremely witty and well written.
Further, Wong has created an outstandingly entertaining character in John. When captured together with some friends, they discuss what their fate may be at the hands of their creepy kidnapper.
“Do you guys understand what it wants with us?” Fred said. “Man, I think he’s gonna make a fuckin’ suit of human skin, using the best parts from each of us.”
“Holy crap,” said John. “He’ll be gorgeous.”
That’s pretty much all you need to know about John. He’s hilarious and always upbeat. Also, he never dies. Did I mention that they’re on the third book in this series? The dude is a cockroach. A hilarious, fun-loving cockroach.
Another strong point that struck a particular cord with me was Wong’s use of creative low-brow expressions like pants-shittingly.
“In that, I was pants-shittingly wrong.”
I’ve already been stealing “groin-grabbingly good” from The Simpsons, so I will be adding this gem to my stolen repertoire as well. Thanks, Wong!
Further, he dabbles in wordplay gags like the following, one of many bits to be enjoyed.
I drove downtown, scanning the alleys until I saw a rail-thin Mexican kid standing by a dumpster wearing a St. Louis Rams jacket. The kid was wearing the jacket, not the dumpster.
Lastly, Wong continuously ponders and plays with the concept of time. There are some interesting scenes where phone calls are taking place at one point in time on one end and at a completely different point in time on the other end. Having said that, he has a tendency to stretch concepts that he’s playing with beyond the breaking point such that they no longer make sense and are frustrating as fuck.
This can only mean one thing. It’s feces hurling time.
The plot is confused and convoluted, and the story drones on and on and on. At first, I thought the story was about zombies, then ghostbusters, then body snatchers, then I thought it was a gore-fest, then a creatures feature, then for one bizarre section a 1st person shooter game, then a serial killer psychological thriller, then back to being about creatures from another dimension and so on. It was all over the map.
What the fuck, Wong?! You need some God-damned focus. It’s one of the four cornerstones to success, asswipe!
Regardless, the crux was that they were on a mission to Las Vegas to stop a portal to this world from being built. About 250 pages or so through the book, they succeed. This would have been a great time for John to die, but he didn’t. The story just re-booted into a new quest where they were on a suicide mission to blow up the main villain in the parallel universe. That’s fine I guess, but the fucking story just droned on and on and on.
We went down another hall and into another large, domed room.
They just kept walking down halls, going in and out of rooms, sometimes small sometimes large, and encountering strange creatures without any point.
I guess if you really like reading about meat scarves and armsnakes and white flying wormy things and seven-legged wig monsters and little black beasts and roach men and shadow people etc., and/or you really like reading about going down halls and into rooms, then you will devour this book at full mast.
But for me, it was tiresome. And toward the end, even the funny lines were no longer funny. I just kept thinking to myself, ‘That probably woulda been funny if this fucking retarded story wasn’t droning on and on and on and on.’
Plus, there’s the shit that just didn’t make any sense.
For instance, the sauce that they ingested turned people into holes, letting stuff from the parallel universe into ours. However, the reason the supernatural beings, which should be able to destroy John and Dave at any time, allow them to live is because they need to learn how they are able to pass through dimensions. Isn’t the answer the sauce? The fucking mysterious black sauce that the next-dimension creatures gave them?
Also, John and Dave discover that the creatures, who are natural discordians, have a weakness: Music. So why do John and Dave abandon boom boxes and decide to instead fight with guns and makeshift flame throwers? Were they just not into winning easily? Was it a challenge that they were after? Do they get off on the thrill of near-death experiences?
Further, the creatures have the ability to zap someone out of the past, present, and future. If John and Dave are such pains in the asses, why don’t they just zap them out of existence?
I can go on and on but the bottom line is that there’s lots of confusing, convoluted parts that I just lost interest in trying to figure out. I didn’t have the energy to try to make everything work. I just finished with the feeling that everything was confusing and pointless.
However, none of the above is the worst part. The worst part is that this book could have been awesome! Like one of the best books ever, regardless of genre. For whatever reason, Wong dropped a bunch of clues that the main character might in fact be a deluded serial killer. His father abandoned him, his mother was bi-polar, he was gang-raped in a school locker room, and now he’s admitting to killing people whose bodies he says were taken over by monsters. It could have all added up to a satisfying ending where we find out that he’s a mentally ill serial killer who sees visions of evil to help him cope with the atrocities he commits.
That would have been fucking awesome. And the best part would be that you could trim out all the bullshit and whittle it down to a tight, 300-page gem.
And you know what? John could’ve fucking died at the end. He could’ve been Dave’s last victim. How about that, Wong?! What the fuck, dude? What the fuuuuuuck?!
Here’s what the fuck. While John doesn’t die at the end, what we do discover is that Wong began blogging this story in 2001 and by 2005, he had 150,000 words. That’s why this book drones on and on and on. Because it’s like 4+ years of stream-of-consciousness writing. Wong was just making shit up as he went. If he could’ve plotted this shit out in advance, and decided on the ‘sci-fi horror turns serial killer psychological thriller’ above, he could be holding a Nobel Prize for Best Fucking Book Ever right now.
But he didn’t.
So to sum up, John Dies at the End, while a fucking lie, does have a lot of big and little LOL’s as well as many interesting and well-crafted observations. In the end though, it’s just too confused and too convoluted, and not good enough to be among the best of the best.
3.5 pearls rounded up to 4 because there really are a lot of big and little LOL’s to be had.
Bonus quote: “That ability to see the right choice, but not until several hours have passed since making the wrong one? That’s what makes a person a dumbass, folks.”