David Wong - John Dies at the End

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John Dies at the End What Did I Get Myself Into?

Jul 25, 2010
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:A couple of laughs

Cons:So bizarre I couldn't understand it

The Bottom Line: John Dies at the End is a confusing, disjointed story that I apparently failed to understand.


I love that moment when I close a book for the last time. I like the sense of accomplishment of having finished the book. Also in that instant I know if I loved, liked or hated the book. In the case of David Wong’s John Dies at the End, when I closed the book, I wasn’t even sure I knew what it was about.

The Story (at least as far as I can figure)
John Dies at the End is the story of David Wong and his best friend John, a couple of twenty-something  (for lack of a better term) losers. Both take a strange drug known as “soy sauce,” which gives users a hypersensitivity to the worlds around them; if they survive taking it. The shadow you think you saw move out of the corner of your eye, but once you turn to look isn’t anything at all? Well, when John and Dave turn their heads, they see creatures that are attempting to invade and take over the world as we know it.

My Thoughts
I just didn’t get this book, but perhaps I might not be part of  the target audience. A blurb on the back cover of the book from Phantasm director, Don Coscarelli, describes David Wong as a “mash-up of Douglas Adams and Stephen King.” Considering Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy was another book I “didn’t get” and I’ve never met a Stephen King book I could wade in beyond the first 200 pages, maybe John Dies at the End simply wasn’t written for me.

First, I really expected a horror story of some sorts. While there are lots of weird monsters and gore, I didn’t find any of it even remotely frightening. The creatures sound like something my eight year old would invent, describing one incongruent feature after another until there was enough to make a complete creature. To me they ended up silly, not frightening. As for the gore, there wasn’t enough detail in the writing to make that frightening either. Disembodied heads, people ripping their own limbs off are presented matter-of-factly so they do nothing to create any fear within the reader.

John Dies at the End is randomly funny in spots. While much of the story is so ridiculous as to be funny in a sad sort of way, there are few lines good for a chuckle. Wong’s ability to comment on the ridiculous, such as the scoring algorithm of a computer basketball game, does make for some good reading. Unfortunately to enjoy those tidbits you also have to read all of the out-of-this-world insanity. The book felt very disjointed, as though it were written as several short stories that were then put together to make a novel.

Perhaps John Dies at the End gets better the more times you read it. Sometimes knowing where you end up makes it easier to understand the journey there. But I’ll never find out. The story was boring and reparative enough the first time, I have no desire to subject myself to this series of random, confusing, seemingly unrelated events again.

Final Thoughts
I have come to learn that John Dies at the End was some sort of internet phenomenon from Jason Pargin, writing under the pseudonym David Wong. I had never head of it until Kimm mentioned it as part of my book quest . Thanks, Kimm, “bizarre” doesn’t even begin to describe John Dies at the End. For ME, I think it is time to return to some dull historical fiction, or perhaps, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.


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