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Sunday, May 13, 2012

Drawings of Pee-Pees and Wee-Wees: John Dies at the End

John Dies at the End is, without question, the most unusual book I have ever read, and considering I've read every Chuck Palahniuk book in existence and numerous other strange novels, that's really saying something. That says one whole hell of a lot. It's absolutely true, though. At least until the sequel comes out later this year, this book is one of a kind.

Written by contributor David Wong, the story is told from Wong's perspective, but as a fictionalized version of himself, and as this version, David is telling his incredible story to a reporter named Arnie, who has heard numerous stories about David and wants to see things for himself. David is a seemingly typical guy, but has a strange power. Thanks to a run-in with a bizarre faux-Jamaican man, David and his best friend John (loosely based on fellow writer John Cheese) get involved with a drug known as "soy sauce", a thick, black substance that seems to come alive when removed from its container. When David and John inject themselves with the stuff, they begin to see things and people no one else can see, become partially psychic, and wind up in the center of a war don't even understand.

The book is broken into the three parts, with the first part seeing David, John and several others be kidnapped by a creature from another dimension, who has taken over the body of one the other guys in town. The kidnapper leads them to Vegas, where he plans on more or less opening a portal to Hell. At the same time, an expert on the paranormal, Dr. Marconi, is holding a seminar in the same city, and he is the key to shutting the portal and sending the creatures or demons back to where they came from.

The second part is a year after the incident, in which David wakes up from a sound sleep with no recollection of what happened during the previous year. John fills him in on the events that occurred, although not completely sure of them himself. They still have their abilities thanks to the soy sauce, and have become minor celebrities as a result, with people wanting their help dealing with various paranormal activities. They are contacted by a woman named Krissy about her boyfriend, who seems to be possessed by one of these creatures. Her boyfriend also happens to be a local celebrity himself, sportscaster Danny Wexler. In something straight out of Dawn of the Dead or Dead Rising, David, John and Krissy chase after Danny to an abandoned mall, where the demon that has possessed Danny is waiting for them.

The third and final part involves a local girl named Amy (who is featured throughout the story, but whose most prominent role is featured in the third part), who can't see what David and John can, but still senses that things are not as they seem, and is convinced there are demons everywhere trying to get to her. Amy disappears, and John fears he may have killed her during a mental blackout, especially when he finds a dead body at his house. However, he's too afraid to look at who the body belongs to (it's wrapped up in a tarp), and convinces himself Amy is still alive. His suspicions are correct when Amy suddenly reappears one day, making things even more bizarre and confusing. Eventually, Dave, John and Amy come face-to-face with those in charge of these creatures as they cross a portal into another dimension, vowing that they must do whatever it takes to stop them.

While my description doesn't sound that strange, that is because I've left out of things that are vital to the story and could give it away. It sounds like typical sci-fi fare, but that couldn't be further from the truth. David Wong is a very unique author with a great attention to detail, not to mention a very different perspective on things. While I have read many stories involving paranormal beings and creatures from other dimensions, never have I read one with such a unique twist, as well as a very dark, dry sense of humor. Every aspect of the story is very original, and if you read it, not once will you ever think, "Oh, I've read something just like this before."

Although the title might indicate otherwise, this is not the end of John and David's story, and is in fact the first part in a series. The second novel, This Book is Full of Spiders: Seriously Dude, Don't Touch It, will be released in October, and the film adaptation of John Dies at the End debuted at the Sundance Film Festival this past January. It's worth your time to check out the first novel now, as if you're anything like me, you can't wait to get going on the sequel.

I can say that, with almost complete certainty, that you have never read a novel like this before. Those of you who have read it know exactly what I'm talking about, and those of you who haven't really need to see things for yourself. It is a bit slow-going at first (and a fairly lengthy book overall), but once you really start getting into the meat of the story, it's very, very difficult to put down. A must for sci-fi and satire fans, in my opinion.

3.5 out of 5 stars.

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