Fans of David Wong’s effervescently deranged John Dies at the End saga can rejoice and prepare to ask themselves “what the hell did I just read?”. The third installment of the series is on its way.
The book – actually titled What the Hell Did I Just Read: A Novel of Cosmic Horror – is now available for preorder with a release date set for October 3. The third installment will continue the “gruesome yet baffling adventures of John, Dave, Amy and other characters who may or may not still be alive”.
The first book, John Dies at the End, was adapted into a film by genre legend Don Coscarelli. If you’ve seen the movie, it’s remarkably loyal to (most of) the details of the book. His dedication to recreating the delirious energy of the book makes it clear that Coscarelli is a fan – he both wrote and directed the film version. That being said, the film only covers about a third of the action because, really, there’s a lot to cover, and the majority of it might be… challenging… to convince a producer that it should be committed to film.
Reading John Dies at the End is like consuming way too many psychotropic drugs with your best friend and listening to them describe an extraordinarily batshit crazy dream that they had. Told in the style of first-person narrative, each sentence is personal. It carries the complexity of an unreliable narrator with ease, building tension when appropriate to create horrific and hilariously bizarre scenes of confusion and carnage.
John Dies at the End was first published online as a webserial beginning in 2001, then as an edited manuscript in 2004, followed by a printed paperback in 2007 before it was published by Thomas Dunne Books in 2009. The events unfold in the (hopefully) fictional town of [Undisclosed] – an apex of unusual and supernatural activity.
The plot is difficult to describe, but in brief, two best friends (John and Dave) are exposed to a new drug called Soy Sauce that has the unsavory side effect of either brutally killing the user or unlocking their ability to see inter-dimensional beings – among other things. Needless to say, they find that they must become the most unlikely of unlikely heroes to stop evil forces from invading the universe.
The sequel, This Book is Full of Spiders: Seriously Dude, Don’t Touch it, extends Wong’s delightfully specific descriptive writing style (there’s mention of a “turkey Voltron”, which, in context, is a helpful descriptor). It occasionally switches to a third-person narrative to follow the perspective of other main characters. While at first the transition is a bit jarring, it’s necessary to tell all sides of the much larger story.
In This Book is Full of Spiders, the town of [Undisclosed] is overrun with parasitic spiders that violently take over their hosts, however, it is not easy to tell who is infected and who isn’t. As everyone reacts to what they are certain is a zombie invasion, the reluctantly heroic team of John and Dave once again find themselves thrown into the center of the chaos.
David Wong (the pseudonym for Cracked editor Jason Pargin) has built a vivid world with a visceral and palpable absurdity. Both books have a high rating on Goodreads and Barnes & Noble, which is no small wonder. They’re well written, viciously captivating, and outrageously entertaining. We may have to sit tight until October 2017 for the next installment, but if Wong keeps up his track record, it should be well worth the wait.