JOHN DIES AT THE END by David Wong

JOHN DIES AT THE END

KIRKUS REVIEW

Two wisecracking slackers attempt to thwart an invasion by supernatural beings.

When smart but troubled video-store employee David gets a peculiar late-night phone call from a friend, he assumes John is just having another of his semi-regular drug- or alcohol-induced freakouts. But as progressively more bizarre events unfold over the next few hours, David realizes that things are different this time. It turns out John had spent the preceding evening with a man with a fake Jamaican accent named Robert Marley and had taken a strange drug called Soy Sauce, which gives users incredibly heightened awareness—along with a few odd side effects that all too often include a grisly demise. By the next afternoon, David has also inadvertently taken some Soy Sauce, been dragged to the police station for questioning about a series of gruesome deaths and received another odd call from John, after John has expired in the interview room next door. Things only gets stranger from there, as David and John (who doesn’t stay dead for long) discover they are the thin, oddball line of defense between life as we know it on this planet and dark invaders from somewhere else entirely. Originally offered online in serial form, Wong’s debut is creepy, snide, gross, morbidly dark and full of lots of gratuitous weirdness for weirdness' sake, not to mention penis jokes. So why is it so funny? Perhaps it's the author’s well-tuned eye for the absurd, which gives his tale a compelling-against-all-odds, locker-room-humor-meets-Douglas-Adams vibe. The characters are also unexpectedly sharp, rarely the kind of two-dimensional cutouts frequently found in genre fiction. While the clunky text sometimes reads as though Wong had shoved together several different episodes against their will, it nonetheless satisfies narrative demands that could have conflicted. When it’s funny, it's laugh-out-loud funny, yet when the situation calls for chills, it provides them in spades.

Lowbrow, absurdist horror/comedy that works—a difficult trick to pull off.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 2009
ISBN: 978-0-312-55513-9
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 2009




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