St. Martins / Thomas Dune Books
Every now and then, I pick up a book that engages me almost to a point of addiction. You know the feeling—a story so entertaining that you won’t, sorry, can’t put it down. John Dies at the End by humor writer and Cracked.com executive editor, David Wong (Jason Pargin), really raises, or rather sets, that bar here, to me at least. Don’t let the title fool you, cause… well… **SPOILER ALERT** John, in fact, doesn’t die.
The first in a series of books set in the same universe, John Dies at the End introduces us to two friends, John and David, who, through a series of really odd and messed up events, land the task of saving the world. A bit of an odd couple, John is the quick-to-action type while David is more level-headed and methodical in his dealing of things. So just how do two guys like this save the world? Easy, by using their shared ability to tap into otherworldly powers granted to them by an inter-dimensional substance (drug) called Soy Sauce. This drug basically lets them to see things they shouldn’t be able to see, creatures from other worlds, creatures like the “super-being” named Korrok who’s looking to invade our world and just make things generally very unpleasant for all mankind.
The book could have easily been split up into three separate books, there’s just that much going on. The first act of the story breaks everything down for us, explaining how the Soy Sauce drug works, what it’s capable of doing, and why it kills some people while it benefits others. We also get to see how John and David get caught up in all this madness. The second act meanwhile—and the part I enjoyed most which, unfortunately, is partially left out of the Don Coscarelli’s film adaptation—finds John and David following a bloody and beaten trail to Las Vegas where they end up teaming with Marconi, a former priest with extensive knowledge of the unknown. The third and final act brings everything full circle to some of the events that happened at the beginning of the book, specifically where the sauce comes from and who sent it here.
As previously mentioned, Don Coscarelli (Phantasm, Bubba Ho-Rep) got a hold of this story and adapted it to film back in 2012. The movie does a very good job translating the story in a cohesive way, but like 90% of books that become film a lot of “good meat” was cut to fit it into a watchable running time.
OUT OF 5
Gripping, funny and dark John Dies at the End wonderfully displays how imaginative the human mind really can be. The humor reeks with good, old-fashioned crudeness, while the plot lands some where between Lovecraftian lore and the weirdness of Naked Lunch (which, if you haven’t seen is another odd slice of awesomeness).
+ Very, VERY, fun to read
+ Horror/Comedy balance
+ Crude, but also smart
– Drugs are bad, mmmkay
– Unnecessary slur here and there