Sunday, January 6, 2013

Review: John Dies at the End by David Wong

John Dies at the End (John Dies at the End, #1)John Dies at the End by David Wong
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book does a lot to draw the reader in within the first hundred pages. Unfortunately, it then shifts in tone throughout. Had the book been able to sustain its tone of psychological horror mixed with a wry sense of humor, I'd be rating it much higher. Instead, it devolved into silliness, seriously undercutting the earlier horror.

In this book, David (both the author's pseudonym and the narrator's name, for reasons that escape me) is accidentally injected with a drug called Soy Sauce, a substance that kills a large portion of its users, but gives survivors a perceptiveness akin to psychic power, which lets them see demons from another world who are infecting ours.

Initially, the horror comes from demonic entities who haunt people's minds, rather than physical spaces. It was effectively done when it kept to this aspect, because the author is able to catch the inescapable inevitability of it rather well. But then, the story turns into an interdimensional travel tale, and there it sags. The demons lose all of their mystique, being outside and limited to a dimension, and the author leans far too heavily on disgusting elements to try to make up for it.

Had the story started out with the juvenile humor and gross-out antics of the latter half, I don't think I would've held it against it as much as I did when it had such effective horror at the start. Had it maintained that level of horror, I'd likely still be hiding under my covers, but I would've had a lot more respect for the author.

I can see why the book is popular. The notion of there being things only the narrator and those who understand him can see is a popular one, and getting there with drug experimentation is bound to appeal to a large swath of the population. A lot of the book is well-written, and I did find several laugh-out-loud moments, especially toward the end.

But, overall, I expected better of this book. It feels like two very different books, cobbled messily together. I would've liked to have read one or the other, but not this mishmash.

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