I really enjoyed this re-read of David Wongs debut novel from 2007. Of course, the book has aged, especially the pop culture references feel really old (you guys still remember Fred Durst?), at the same time it takes you down nostalgia lane, because I cannot be the only one remembering listening to Limp Bizkit CDs, right? Right??
But apart from that, it has aged very well. The story itself is still unconventional and out of the ordinary, although it is hard to explain why without giving away too much.
Wong has a great sense for syntax and a black, very dry humour. I am not kidding when I say that this book will make you laugh out loud or at least giggle even while being in public. It is well structured, the episodes are not long-winded (as they unfortunately are in his follow up novels), but above all, I have to praise the atmosphere. He manages to create a realistic uncanny environment that can turn from uncanny to simply horrifying to hilarious within two pages. One of the central statements of John Dies at the End must be (in my opinion), that ghosts, demons and whatnot don’t haunt specific places, but minds. They haunt minds. And this novel kind of does the same to you, it really messes with your brain and with your perception of reality up to a point when you question everything and everyone – and then Wong suddenly cracks some dick jokes so that the world feels alright again.
I really like John Dies at the End, but I have to admit, that I remember loving it the first time I read it. The first time, I was just not expecting half of the crazy plot twists and sudden turns, therefore I was not braced for them and this book left me staring dumbfounded at its pages with my mind going “wtf?!” more often than I like to admit here. Naturally, there were not that many surprises now, but I noticed a lot of details which I completely missed the first time. I still really like it and I can see myself reading it a third time when I need a break from serious literature.
And as far as the title goes… Well, you will just have to find out yourself if John dies at the end or not.