John Dies at the End

by David Wong
Reviewed date: 2006 Apr 3
Rating: 3
406 pages
cover art

"...I'm here to tell ya, immigration, it's like rats on a ship. America is the ship and allllll these rats are comin' on board, y'all. And you know what happens when a ship gets too many rats on board? It sinks. That's what."
"The car is dead, John. You can't submerge an engine in water. The water gets in the cylinders and the pistons break when they try to compress it. You can't compress water."
"Actually, I think you can, Dave. Are you sure you're not thinking of ice? Because things wouldn't float if you couldn't compress water."

David Wong describes John Dies At The End as a "horrortacular," which I can only assume is a kind of spectacular horror novel. I'm not sure how I would best describe it. It is a horror story of sorts, filled with malevolent beings from other-worldly realms, but it's also chock-full of humor. Not just any humor either: a unique brand of surreal deadpan humor, unlike anything else I've ever read.

The basic plot: David Wong and his friend John Cheese get caught up in a web of visions and manifestations of evil after they meet a strange Jamaican at a party in their small town. It's small things at first--half a dozen people at the party wind up dead, and John and David are dragged into the police station for questioning. The plot soon thickens as both John and later David become sensitive to creatures that inhabit a shadowy plane of existence parallel to Earth's. These creatures seem violent and are bent on infesting Earth, so John and David end up on the run from the police, trying to defeat the shadow creatures and stay a step ahead of the law.

After a violent showdown in a Las Vegas casino, John and David emerge victorious and manage to return to a semblance of normal life. But they remain sensitive to the paranormal, and word spreads in their community that John and David are ghost-hunters. Thus it is that when a local girl disappears without a trace from a bathroom locked from the inside, the police investigator calls John and David.

John and David find the girl, but discover that her disappearance was no accident. With her permission and help, they track down the reason for the girl's mysterious disappearance and reappearance. (This of course leads them through a gateway to another dimension, from which they escape in the nick of time.)

It's difficult to do this book justice in a review because so much of its charm lies in David Wong's style rather than in the plot itself. It's a passable horror story, if a bit lacking in cohesion. But the real treat is the way Wong can turn a phrase.

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