John Dies at the End by David Wong
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
"Soy sauce" is the name for the mystifying new drug that begins to plague David Wong's life. David Wong isn't actually his real name. Did you know that "Wong" is the most common surname in the world? And "John" is the most common first name in the world? And yet there's not a single person named John Wong! Wait, where was I?
(WARNING: This review doesn't actually have any spoilers, but here's a warning anyway.)
I'll be truthful - I was hesitant to read this one. I actually contemplated altogether skipping the monthly read of HA, as after scanning over some reviews I wasn't left with a great first impression. A plot that many didn't even consider a legitimate plot? Juvenile humour, including penis and... uh, toilet jokes? Suffice it to say, I was severely put off by the amount of criticism. Fortunately I bought it anyway, as I took into account the thoughts of the select few that largely share my literary tastes. They seemed to enjoy it, so surely it wasn't as bad as I thought.
Well, turned out that it was as bad as I thought, but it was also so, so good.
“Every man is blessed with his gifts from the Lord. One of mine happens to be a penis large enough that, if it had a penis of its own, my penis’s penis would be larger than your penis.”
It's hard to adequately describe this book without calling it a steaming hot mess, because that's what it was, and it didn't apologise for it. It revelled in being bizarre, ridiculously far-fetched and downright stupid, yet in amongst the rolling of my eyes, I couldn't help but laugh out loud. In fact, I chuckled so loudly that my partner enquired as to what was so funny, which resulted in me reading some passages aloud. Said partner, who is a man by the way, responded only with a reluctant nod. He simply proved that the assumption that this is a man's book is, quite frankly, inaccurate. It's entirely up to the individual, and plenty of women adored this just as much as I did, just as I'm sure plenty of men hated it.
“You're the kind of man a man wants when a man wants a man.”
Rife with conspiracy theories, pop culture references, outlandish ideology and crude irreverence, I thoroughly succumbed to the entertainment that was Wong's narrative. I admit, it seemed a bit odd, almost like two or three books were stuck together into one volume. It later made sense when I took the time to look into the book's origins, and how Jason Pargin ultimately created the chaotic adventures of Dave and John through webserial episodes on Cracked.com. I'm so very happy he didn't give up after the novel was initially rejected by publishers! I firmly believe the world needed this in it.
“I keep the gun in a hollowed out copy of the Koran. And there the big book was, tossed on the bed, open and gunless. Nothing else disturbed. I mean, they actually checked my Koran to see if there was a gun inside. I knew I was dealing with a sick son of a bitch.”
I didn't even entirely like Dave either; he was so very disrespectful and vulgar to nearly everyone he met - certainly an unorthodox "hero". John, whilst endearing in a man-child sort of way, was hugely self-obsessed (with his genitalia). Amy was the sole character that was truly likeable, well, that's not true. How can I forget the actual star of the show? The lady that brought just as much characterisation, if not more, than her human counterparts?
“And watch out for Molly. See if she does anything unusual. There’s something I don’t trust about the way she exploded and then came back from the dead like that.”
In conclusion: It was difficult to write this review and put into words how my brain regarded this disorganised heap of madness. Give it a try - you'll either love it or hate it.
“People die. This is the fact the world desperately hides from us from birth. Long after you find out the truth about sex and Santa Claus, this other myth endures, this one about how you’ll always get rescued at the last second and if not, your death will at least mean something and there’ll be somebody there to hold your hand and cry over you. All of society is built to prop up that lie, the whole world a big, noisy puppet show meant to distract us from the fact that at the end, you’ll die, and you’ll probably be alone.”
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