Scrolls Review: John Dies At The End by David Wong

John Dies at the End by David Wong (ISBN 978-0-312-55513-9)

I am sitting here trying to pull my thoughts together for this review of John Dies at the End (or JDATE as I’ll call it from now on) and I’m struggling to know where to begin. Not because it is a bad book – quite the opposite – but because there is so much going on here.

Ok, let’s start with the basics. JDATE is a comedy horror that works and it works very well. David Wong and the eponymous John are two college dropouts living in ‘Undisclosed,’ America trying to hold down jobs and fight off the coming apocalypse. Now to frame this properly I need to get you in the right mental state, try and define the style. Right… think Evil Dead meets Clerks, throw in some Resident Evil, a shot of South Park and then a few mind altering drugs, stick it in a blender and flick the switch. What you get comes out is as near as I can get to defining JDATE. Oh and inter-dimensional time travelling and a bit of The Matrix – don’t forget to stick those in there too.

David and John see things that we can’t. They’ve taken the ‘soy sauce’ you see, an otherworldly drug that lets them see the way the world really is, lets them see the ghouls, the demons and the gateways to other dimensions. With nothing better to do our spirit hunting pair find themselves up against shadow people, body snatchers and spider monsters in a battle to save the world from the evil god Korrok. Along the way people die. Lots of people die, including main characters – and this is something that works. Too often you get stories where you always know things will turn out ok in the end, but this isn’t one of them.

Jason Pargin (writing in the guise of David Wong) has written a book that just grabs you; I actually became a little obsessed with it. The story is narrated from David’s point

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of view as he recounts his tale to doubting reporter Arnie Blondestone, letting the story unfold and pulling us back to ‘reality’ when we need to come up for air. I found myself gripped with this story from just twenty pages in, which hasn’t happened to me in a long while. The writing is slick and well paced, the horror is gory but resists the urge to go over the top, and I found myself genuinely laughing out loud throughout. Beware though, some of the humour is a bit puerile, hey I laughed, but if that’s not your thing you might be slightly disappointed. There’s also a nice human touch to most of the characters, people you can believe in rather than two dimensional caricatures. I did find John very shallow but he is intentionally written that way.

What is done really well though is the story arc. There are multiple strands that Wong weaves throughout the story and he manages to keep them all going as the story progresses. The twists when they come are proper ‘I didn’t see that coming’ moments. My

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biggest worry was that I would be taken along on this wonderful ride and then right at the end he would screw it up, but somehow he’s just about managed to pull it off. Everything came together satisfyingly, so that everything was answered; well almost but some elements are left hanging with good reason.

Go out and read this book. It has the ‘next big cult classic’ written all over it and the conspiracy fanatics will have hours of fun. My favourite line from the book: ‘The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing us there was just one of him’.

GS Reviewer: Phil Ambler

Rating: 5/5

Seriously. I

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thought it was that good. Best book in its genre that I have read and I see myself picking this up again in a few months for a re-read.

I ordered my copy from the States, but it has now come out in the UK.

For more info visit www.johndiesattheend.com or follow @JohnDiesattheEn

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