I finally broke the reading dam a few weeks ago when I sat down and powered through John Dies at the End.
It had been a while since I read something, so I was very fortunate to dive back in with something I genuinely enjoyed.
Naturally, I wanted to keep the forward momentum going, so I immediately went out (by “went out,” I mean I overnighted it through Amazon) and bought the John Dies sequel – This Book is Full of Spiders: Seriously Dude, Don’t Touch It.
David Wong (Jason Pargin), “literary genius” and Cracked.com humorist, has a way with titles (I expect it involves tequila, late nights staring at index cards with name options, and a dart board). The sheer ridiculousness of them bleeds right through the cover and into the prose.
Like its predecessor, Spider is chock-full of crazy imagery and sometimes classy, sometimes kindergarten-esque humor. However, it also matures in multiple ways.
Let’s start off with the plot: This time around, our heroes, David Wong, John Cheese, and Amy Sullivan, face off against a zombie apocalypse. Sure, it may not sound like the series has matured compared to the previous book, but there’s a lot more to it.
For one thing, there’s only one storyline. While the first book was a series of tales strung together into an overarching narrative that had a bit of trouble melding at the end, this is one story, beginning to end.
The individual plot threads of John Dies are replaced by countdown clocks to three separate “disasters.” So, while the three-story structure still stands in this sequel, it remains in a much more cohesive way. Each disaster escalates a central conflict, instead of each section beginning and ending a smaller story.
While the plot structure is figuratively maturing, the characters are literally maturing, age-wise. No, wait – there’s also important character development, so I guess “maturing” in that sense is figurative, too? Whatever, you get my point. I hope.
I’m not going to go into detail on how they mature, because, spoilers, but it’s very entertaining – and involves more than the fairly limited first person David point of view we got the first time around.
That’s right. We’re not trapped only in the mind of David Wong. John and Amy are both explored deeply, which is good, since the trio is apart for a good portion of the novel. Without the separate narratives, we would only have a David-centric story to deal with.
So, let’s see. Plot maturation. Character maturation. Also, theme maturation. Typing that makes me feel like I’m reviewing highly sophisticated literary fiction here, which is always a good ego boost.
Anyways, there are indeed darker themes in Spider; it’s a zombie apocalypse after all, and everything that would usually be explored in that type of scenario is explored in this book.
Nowadays, “darker sequels” have become so commonplace such that people are relying on that formula way too much (thanks Christopher Nolan), but I swear it works here. The humor is still present, ensuring that, despite the horrific/existential things going down, there will always be a guffaw at the end of the tunnel.
With that great mix of character, horror, and humor, you can bet I want to hear more from this author. David Wong has already sucked me in and won’t let me free of his telekinetic tentacle grip. I’m scared and excited at the same time.
- Author: David Wong
- Genre: Science Fiction
- Pages: 416
- Get a copy: This Book Is Full of Spiders: Seriously, Dude, Don’t Touch It