Monday, January 25, 2010
Cannonball Read Entry #13: John Dies At The End - David Wong
Easily one of the most frustrating books I've ever read, John Dies At The End is either the most brilliant or the most shitballs fucking stupid book I have ever read, although I'm not ruling out the possibility that it may be both. Whether it's a story that uses seemingly random and overtly sexual symbolism as a way to tap into darkest taboos of your subconscious or one long drunken clusterfuck of a dick-measuring story is entirely up to you, because quite frankly even I can't tell, and I READ the motherfucking thing.
The story begins with David Wong (Yup, that's also the name of the main character) and a group of other soon-to-be-very-fucking-dead twenty-somethings be infected by a mysterious black substance known as soy sauce, brought into a Rastafarian named Robert Marley. Yes, he actually has a Rastafarian character named Bob freaking Marley. Just roll with it. Eventually, people start dropping dead, which means he, the titular John, a couple other eventual corpses and Wong's love interest, Jennifer Lopez (...), go to Vegas to get to the bottom of it.
A year later, the soy sauce returns when it starts infecting people, driving them to full-on fucking murder people and generally just acting bananarama batshit insane. So of course, we go through it again. Another year passes, and David and John find themselves being watched through their TVs, and are forced to travel into another dimension filled with biotechnology to kill the being behind the soy sauce.
Despite being ridiculously funny, an innate ability to get under your skin, and being one of the few legitimately scary novels I've ever read, part of me couldn't help but feel like I just paid good money for what is essentially a really good drunken bar story. Between the numerous characters named after celebrities, the fact that the author is the main character of his own book and the sheer fucking absurdity of the book, the entire affair just borders on masturbatory fantasy.
Even worse, the three stories are barely even connected at all. Aside from a few tenuous strands holding it together, the stories really have very little, if anything, holding it together. Hell, even the writing style seems to change with each story, and the overall plot just wraps things up with a series of loose ends.
As comedy, John Dies At The End is hysterically funny. As something to scare you, it succeeds whole-heartedly to freak the shit out of you. But as a collective work of fiction, it just feels sloppy. It's just so loosely tied together that everything good and unique about it just got buried in my own frustrations with it.