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Book Review

Book Cover

John Dies at the End


Author: David Wong
Titan Books
RRP: £7.99
ISBN: 978 0 85768 483 7
Available 24 June 2011

David Wong and his slacker friend John live in an undisclosed town in the Midwest of the United States, a fact which becomes more significant and impressive when you discover that the two are very successful at beating off the forces of evil. This was not always the case and in the beginning they led relatively mundane lives, lives which were forever changed when they encountered soy sauce...

John Dies at the End is the debut comic horror novel from David Wong. What started out as a collection of prose written online for no one in particular blossomed over the years into a manuscript, a book and soon to be a movie starring Paul Giamatti and Clancy Brown.

Of course the 'soy sauce' mentioned in the book is not the same soy which you liberally spread across fake Chinese food, but rather a potent substance more akin to a living creature. Once infected, either deliberately or by chance, the soy opens the recipient’s eyes to a whole new experience of the world. Now time travel, of sorts, is possible, the ability to talk through fast food comes almost naturally and these things would be fun on their own was it not that the sauce also allows you to see horrors which lurk just beneath the surface of reality. With heads full of sauce and few brains between them, Dave and John do their best to hold back the minions of chaos.

The book has, in effect, three stories, although to set the scene the first tells how Dave and John were exposed to the sauce and their battle to save the world from an unspeakable evil which means to use their friends and the boys as a conduit to bring forth a monster in Las Vegas,

It’s quite difficult to categories the book. It is written from Dave’s point of view and whilst he encounters many horrors his reaction to most is confusion, fear and bemusement, usually in that order. The description of the horror is not meant to gross out the audience but rather to act as a foil for Dave’s reactions; it is his reactions and often the general situation which makes the novel amusing.

For a first time novel, this book is genially funny. Wong balances his prose this side of farce, giving the main characters rounded emotional reactions to the absurd things which happen to them. The book dips into surrealism on more than one occasion for comic effect, certainly lovers of Douglas Adams's work will find much to enjoy here.

The book represents something of a critic’s nightmare as I genially could find little fault with it. The construction is good as is the character development, the main thrust of the narrative holds to its own internal logic and the warmth that Wong feels for Dave and John is very much in evidence. It's greatest asset though is that it is consistently funny.


Charles Packer

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