John Dies at the End (John Dies at the End, #1) Book Review


This book is probably the most entertaining and FUN book I have read. . . in a decade. I genuinely had a really good time reading the majority of the book. So much so that the few scenes that weren’t riveting had that consequence — of being smushed in between some really interesting stuff and thus became way more boring then they would be if they were in another book.

Cover of "John Dies at the End"

Cover of John Dies at the End


Interpretations will vary, but for me, where this book thematically goes well is in the realm of Meta. What a book is and what a writer’s powers are becomes really clear when you read something so . . . absurd. This book heavily plays with the fact that whatever the author writes becomes very real to the reader. Even if it isn’t likely to happen. Plot holes, dialogues, and images that are extremely psychedelic just make sense in this Universe. Even it is as retarded as a half gorilla half crab. Retarded being a descriptor of the self-deprecating MC. . .

. . .Who’s voice I love. Yeah he has a curious plot twist but that’s not actually why he is interesting. He is interesting because he is very. . . real. This book really takes advantage of first pov when it has a MC with a really distinct 21st century young voice. Though I loved some of the puns (“Anybody else want to donate blood to chair-ity?”) this book was more. . . fun than funny. And a lot of the “fun” of it was the MC’s really casual voice. I would also argue that it is the casual voice that makes the horror so striking. Because you don’t expect this every-man to be as dark as he is.

So yeah, this is horror. I wouldn’t argue it isn’t. There are some images and ideas in here that reached to my fundamental fears and phobias — like Cockroach Man and people in your TV — but the real horror comes from the things that will last. The big ideas, y’know? Like, I’m always going to wonder about Todd now. It is deep in my subconscious.

Some other Theism/Free Will/Hell ideas were discussed. But Vonnegut and Anne Rice did it better. I guess that isn’t fair, but I read too many Vonnegut books that really spine-shaking deconstruct fee will (and same with Anne Rice and Heaven/Hell) for me to give this book its props. It was there but there were a lot of other things going on too in this book. For these themes and ideas to really take hold it needs more space. That’s my take.

Though I have some other critiques most of it I can really just push under the rug and still give this book five stars. I had a lot of fun reading it and I really appreciate all the risks Wong took in writing such a unique story. Yeah other books discuss similar big themes but whatever. That’s a vague similarity. I would be really surprised to read anything that is like this book unless this book IS the inspiration. Vonnegut is the closest thing but the Voices are way different. A key lesson to new writers to find and master your voice.

I’m ranting but I get like that when I get this excited.
This book in brief: Fun and casual but at the same time spilled-oil dark.

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This Book Is Full of Spiders (John Dies at the End, #2) Review


I have decided I will rate this book five stars because I don’t want to punish if for being the sequel to a favorite. That This Book is Full of Spiderssaid, if the only way to evaluate this book was comparing it to John Dies #1 it would have an entirely different rating.

The Good Stuff: 
This book continues to have a fun and engaging plot and voice. It is fully entertaining and. . . like I said, fun. It might sound shallow, but reading is supposed to be enjoyable, and this is a by-far enjoyable read. The writing is strong not because of flowery-prose but because the MC is pronounced. It is mostly written from David’s POV and that is not just indicated with pronouns but with the characterization of every description. I really respect that. When it shifts POV it isn’t so strong, which disappointed me, but I really did appreciate the character development of the other secondary characters. It was right on. I also thought a lot of the plot points in this story were very sharp. The author combines modern warfare tactics like drones with a supernatural apocalypse scenario which was very believable. He also combines modern technology and Internet hysteria in his discussion of the apocalypse. His contemporary discussions had to be a step ahead of the cliche because the cliche doesn’t live in the modern times. I appreciated this innovation.

The Bad Stuff:
It is mostly shallow, like an action movie. It is really entertaining and I love it for that but John Dies #1 had meat behind it and this book basically didn’t. There were some moments of this book where I stopped to think and philosophize but most of the time it was just meaningless action. It didn’t have the harsh bite that the first one had behind the plot. The nihilistic horror came up a couple of times and I loved those parts but they were segmented. It didn’t drive the story.

Also, besides being in the same universe and following the same absurd metaphysics, this book really isn’t a sequel. There were a lot of huge questions left unanswered in book one. On one hand, if all the questions were answered it would lose a lot of the horror. On the other, shouldn’t the confusions at least be addressed in the sequel? They didn’t even have to answer them. There was only one quick dialogue between [Carlos/Amy/Dave] that seemed to hint on the truth-about-Dave that was revealed in book one but it was really ambiguous and like three lines.