Okay, so I recently read and reviewed David Wong/Jason Pargin’s first book, John Dies At The End. In that review, I basically took the position that the book was a definite “guilty pleasure,” incredibly fun but at the same time over-the-top offensive and not at all one I would recommend to the easily offendable. The same is true of the sequel, This Book Is Full Of Spiders (Seriously, Dude, Don’t Touch It.) **** If you’ve not read John Dies At The End and wish to avoid spoiling the ending, you might want to skip reading this review. It’s really hard to review sequels without spoiling their predecessors. Just saying.
When we left Dave and John, life had settled back down to what they consider “normal.” John was still bouncing from job to job. Dave and Amy got engaged, to no one’s surprise but Dave’s, and Amy started college classes a couple hours’ drive from Undisclosed.* Weird stuff still happens on a regular basis, but at least Korrok and his minions are no longer an issue. The Shadow Men, on the other hand….they’ve just begun their endgame for the fate of the human race, and surprise, surprise, it starts in Undisclosed. Specifically, in Dave’s bedroom, where he wakes up to find a nightmarish creature–body of a spider, legs everywhere, and a human-looking tongue–crawling up his leg. Needless to say, he freaks out. Long story short, these things are parasitic monstrosities that get inside you (without your noticing, nobody can see them but John and Dave. Sometimes Marconi. And Molly, of course….) and take over your mind, making you extremely violent. There’s an outbreak, and of course the internet labels those with the (invisible) spiders Zombies. The government throws up a full lockdown quarantine, all communication with the outside is cut off, and those still stuck in Undisclosed are….well, stuck in Undisclosed. What is the purpose of all of this? What do the Shadow Men hope to gain? Who is really running the show? And can John and Dave somehow manage to stave off the apocalypse again?
Whereas the first book kind of just rambled on (a side-effect of its genesis as an online serial, no doubt) this second volume is much better structured. Every so often you will jump back several hours to visit a different character and see how/why they happen to be in the situation they’re in, but on the whole the story is pretty straightforward. There are a few inconsistencies with the first book or even internally within this one, but this really isn’t the kind of book where that matters. If you care, however, I’ll point those out after the break. The writing continued to exhibit Wong/Pargin’s signature brand of humor, with the added element that near the end it is implied that this is a true story that he is simply writing up in the most ridiculous form possible (not so different from the first one where he admits to embellishing when he gets the impression people already don’t believe him). I’m honestly not sure how to take the author’s stance on Christianity (MINOR SPOILERS FOLLOW, as generic as I can make them), since Dave and John are definitely not Christians and yet the story does seem to demonstrate the power of God at the climax. Dave talks about how his adopted family crammed his childhood with Christian videos (and I can’t disagree with him on the general quality of those things, across the board, though there were exceptions), and so when the chips are down and he has to think of the most powerful thing he can use to counter the Shadow Men, what he comes up with is Christ. And it works, implying that the author (and thus Dave,) despite not being a part of the fold, realizes the truth of the Lord’s power. On the other hand, it’s a horribly done painting of Christ, so there may be less respect there than I’m implying. Or the fact that a mere painting has that much power could be a sly nod to just how much power Christ has, that even simply his name or his image (however poorly executed) can dispel the Darkness. I don’t know. I would be interested to hear other people’s take on this, honestly.
At the end of John Dies At The End we meet a character who basically saves everyone involved, then hints that he may have been Molly the dog all along. In this book, Molly is back to being a dog–no ordinary dog, certainly, but still a dog with a dog’s priorities. Inconsistent? Not sure. Then we have Amy and her missing hand. Amy was in a car accident as a child, losing her left hand. The pain from this, along with the side-effects of the pain meds, are what places her in the special needs room at the high school where she and Dave meet for the first time. It is later revealed that her hand still exists in spirit-form, and she can manipulate spiritual and invisible objects such as latches and doorknobs. This was essential to John and Dave’s assault on Shit Narnia in the first book, as well as their ability to get into the case and retrieve the fur gun in this book. Where am I going with this? Well, one of the more horrifying aspects of the Shadow Men is the ability to remove people from existence. Not kill them–make them so they never existed. Rewrite history. And it’s implied that up until a particular moment near the climax of this second book Amy had both of her hands before her history was rewritten to include the loss thereof. If that’s the case, how did certain things happen in the first place? How are the characters not all dead, since it was Amy’s “ghost hand” that allowed them to survive and save the day? Not sure. There’s no good answer, so don’t think about it.
Content: Again, VERY R-rated. Profanity galore! Blood and gore! What, you didn’t expect that to all disappear did you? The sexual innuendo and content is a bit more explicit this time, if a bit more purposeful and relevant than John’s rampant penis jokes from the first volume. Those still show up every once in a while, but nowhere near as often. Some content that would be considered “occult” by some, notably the spectral “Shadow Men” who are basically spiritual beings. They are from another dimension, not divine or diabolical, but their nature remains spiritual.
*David refuses to name the town he lives in, claiming that the tourist traffic would only make the town more “****ed up.” Given the fate of Forks, the setting of Ms. Meyer’s monstrosity, I can’t disagree with him.