‘John Dies at the End:’ zany and bewildering

Steele Giles, Staff Writer

A flying jellyfish is no cause for alarm. Mutated lobster-deer drop boxes of shotgun shells. A drug called soy sauce is the attempt of an extradimensional intelligence to breach our world and causes effects in its users that would make LSD look downright benevolent.

Meet “John Dies at the End,” a book whose title will lie to you from the start and continue to mess with you pretty much the entire time you’re reading it.

“John Dies at the End” effectively has two narratives: the first is the frame, David Wong (coincidentally, the name of the author) meets with a reporter to tell the stories of himself and his friend John and the three major adventures they have together.

Truthfully, it’s a pretty zany book. The first couple of pages involve a spot-on description of the Ship of Theseus paradox (is an object that, over time, has lost all of its original components still the same object?) as it applies to an axe and the zombie of a neo-Nazi, and it only gets crazier from there.

The narration, a sort of sarcastic and lighthearted voice similar to the Percy Jackson series, actually manages to preserve the sheer terror of the situations that John and David find themselves in, by giving the readers a look into David’s mind through all of it.

The moment things get freaky, David freezes and begins going off on odd spiels that only sort of relate to the situation at hand, much like how any sane person would react to a spider with a wig springing from a pit of ethereal darkness. John, on the other hand, sees it as an opportunity to grab a chair and act like Macho-Man Randy Savage, spouting chair puns the whole time.

“John Dies at the End” started its life as a serialized blog in 2001 before transitioning to book format in 2004 and it really shows. In places, the narration will slip into stream-of-consciousness, which is an entertaining way to show the processes of David’s mind, but also leads to the use of conventions that may be acceptable in online publication but tend to fall flat for the print media crowd.

My biggest complaint by far, is that the villain is utterly ridiculous. Korrok, a mind-corrupting biocomputer from another dimension, is a genuinely terrifying concept, until it opens its mouth.

But when it comes time to insult and belittle people, it acts like an obnoxious fourteen-year-old kid on Xbox Live, spouting racial slurs and misogynistic comments so clichéd one would think it’s just reading down a list it poached from Urban Dictionary. Once you realize that, and you will realize it since David himself points it out halfway through, it becomes impossible to take Korrok seriously, regardless of the flesh-eating demons and mind-warping drugs.

That said, the book is still great fun to read. David’s narration swings between utter terror, wry sarcasm and irrelevant tangents at the drop of a hat. The plot is bizarre enough to be unpredictable, and the characters are a good mixture of believable and odd. On a scale of one to ten, I’d have to give this book a “The disemboweled ghost of Jim Belushi threatened to eat my dog,” for a bewildering, terrifying yet humorous experience.