Title: John Dies At The End
Author: David Wong
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
It says book club right in the title, so, like any book club, I think I can assume you’ve read it even if you’re only here for some alcohol & snacks. (My fave? Hard cider + snickerdoodles). I’m going to exercise that prerogative now, so skip to the next paragraph if you’re not interested in spoilers: I cannot figure out why the title is “John Dies At The End” when he, basically, is the only one that doesn’t. I suspect that there is some cool, meta reading of the novel that solves this problem for me but I don’t know what it is. I suspect neither David or John would be concerned about it. The two are the most blasé guys I’ve ever met – and yes, I did mean “met.” You can totally meet fictional characters. Let me live.
Anyway, for being an underachieving slacker, David (both the pen name of Jason Pargin, the author, and the name of the protagonist), has a lot of virtues: he’s good with dogs, he takes care of intoxicated friends, he’s respectful to women, and he shows up on time to work most of the time. On the other hand, he makes some dumb mistakes. Which leads me to one of my favorite things about this book: the characters (well, the human ones) feel so real. There aren’t any characters that don’t have any flaws.
This book essentially covers two separate but related stories: the first is John and David’s discovery of “soy sauce,” the monsters that come from it, and trip to Vegas – funny, fast-moving, unpredictable chaos. The second story is the best (at least in my opinion): the monsters re-appear, causing chaos and confusion, and John and David bumble their way towards saving the world (and the girl). If you’re feeling kind of “eh” on the first story, stick around for the second. It’s a fast read, and you won’t regret it.
You’ve probably already realized this, but just as a warning: this book is weird. It probably fits best in the “science fiction” category, but it has some horror flavoring and some of the segues more typical of literary fiction. The opening “riddle” is a good litmus test – if you find it intriguing, you are in for a treat. If you think it’s dumb, this may not be the book for you.
Let me know what you think – happy reading!