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Review: John Dies at the End

Warning: This review is full of spoilers. Seriously, dude, don't read it.

If the phase "rehashed creepypastas interrupted by sophomoric guffawing by unlikable characters" doesn't strike you are appealing, give this book a pass.

My problem with this book might start with the title. To begin with, John doesn't. The last thing he says is something crude and dull, followed by a request for the basketball. Nor does John change at all, remaining the same flat, static character whose only joy is homophobia and dick jokes. I do not admire these traits in people and I certainly won't in a title character.

What galls me about this book is that there is a worthwhile story in there. It just happens to be around 150 pages too long. Wong (the author pseudonym, not the character of the same name) is a victim of his own success, both on his original website Pointless Waste of Time and as the editor for the popular It seems no one was willing to tell him what was good and what succeeded only in providing a cheap laugh. If the book were edited at all, I will be shocked.

As my readers know, I tried to get my first novel, We Shadows, published for years. Again and again and again, it was turned down. It took me having a relationship with a critical woman to have the courage to kill my darlings, as the phrase goes, and cut out as much of my book as I could to leave the core story (which was almost immediately thereafter picked up by Double Dragon). Wong has a highly uncritical fanbase built-in while he published installments of what would become John Dies at the End every Halloween, because he had the capability (possibly never exercised, but present nevertheless) of banning anyone who issued a cross word and they knew it. To look at the reviews on other sites, you would think that Wong was the Second Coming because his internet army hits the "five stars" button as though it is attached to a machine giving them orgasms from Wong's personal caresses. John Dies at the End suffers because of these sycophants.

This book will date badly, not that I believe Wong's intention was to create a work that would outlast bronze. It is rife with internet meme-worthy action (in a parallel dimension, one is healed by being covered with kittens) and bathroom humor that would barely get a giggle outside a middle school. Of course, the standards of the internet can be rather lower.

But, again, I am sincere when I say there is potential in this book and that is the worst part. Some of the twists are compelling, if a bit overused. For twenty or thirty pages at a stretch, I found myself reading happily, until it came time for a supernatural beastie to punch Wong in the crotch (as most everything inhuman in this book does, since crotch shots must be as entertaining to read about as watch on YouTube) or for John to talk about his feces. (People have equated Wong with Douglas Adams and I vociferously disagree. Adams was charming and demonstrated whimsy instead of fecalphilia.)

Another prominent issue is the narrator is unreliable. Now, I am not opposed to this device, but it comes off more as glossing over the books want of editing. It is so severe that David Wong (character or pseudonym of Jason Perrigin) goes through most of the book before realizing that one of the characters has only one hand and is not, in fact, severely mentally impaired. Rather than correcting this misapprehension or making someone else a secondary love interest, a woman erstwhile referred to as a vegetable gets a vastly different description because it is convenient. This device sometimes works, as with the reporter character, but it mostly falls flat.

I understand that Wong was not attempted to write high art, but I do not think I am judging it by an unfair standard. I do not want to feel as though my time were wasted and I definitely did with this book.

Thomm Quackenbush is an author and teacher in the Hudson Valley. Double Dragon publishes four novels in his Night's Dream series (We Shadows, Danse Macabre, and Artificial Gods, and Flies to Wanton Boys). He has sold jewelry in Victorian England, confused children as a mad scientist, filed away more books than anyone has ever read, and tried to inspire the learning disabled and gifted. He is capable of crossing one eye, raising one eyebrow, and once accidentally groped a ghost. When not writing, he can be found biking, hiking the Adirondacks, grazing on snacks at art openings, and keeping a straight face when listening to people tell him they are in touch with 164 species of interstellar beings.

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