Tag Archives: Jason Pargin

Review: “This Book Is Full Of Spiders” by David Wong

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.

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Review: “John Dies At The End” by David Wong

John Dies At The End (****) has been existing at the fringes of my cultural awareness for a couple years now. I would hear rumblings about it from an old college pal, then my good buddy Nathan posted on his blog about the book and his adventures in acquiring a copy, and I knew I had to read it. Eventually, at least. When I could find a copy (I was libraryless, at the time). I kind of forgot about it then, as it faded into the harsh background of all the other things I’ve been meaning to read when I get the time. Nevertheless, I recently found myself at the library browsing their shelves (a dangerous habit I can’t seem to shake) and ran across not only John Dies At The End but the sequel as well, This Book Is Full Of Spiders (Seriously, Dude, Don’t Touch It). This gave me the kick in the pants I needed to check it out and read it, and I have to say that I am very glad that I did.

John Dies At The End began its life as an internet serial adventure, the author posting a chapter at a time and growing by word-of-mouth until it seemed like the entire internet had read it. It was so popular that a publisher approached him about doing a print run, and soon the book you see before you appeared on shelves. The credited author, David Wong, is actually the main character of the novel. The real author, Jason Pargin, currently works as the editor-in-chief of Cracked.com, which should tell you everything you need to know about the content advisory I’ll be adding below.

Dave and John are probably not the guys you want to be depending on when the time comes to save the world. Both are outcasts, underacheivers and slackers either stuck in dead-end jobs or floating from one short-term opportunity to another. The kind of characters you would find in a Kevin Smith movie, with about the same amount of profanity. John has embraced this, living life to the fullest and, as he would put it, just generally not giving a #### what anybody else thinks. Dave, the protagonist and narrator, has a bit more trouble. He’s got some issues in his past, some violence commited in high school when he took a knife to school, blinding a bully who (reading between the lines) may have raped him in the locker room after gym. His life isn’t going particularly well, but at the same time it’s not exactly a train wreck. Then one night at a party Dave encounters this crazy black dude (his words, not mine) who seems to be tripping hard, claims to be magic, and can accurately tell him what he had dreamed the night before. He claims to be named Robert Marley, and has sufficiently impressed John, John’s band “Three Armed Sally,” and a bevy of partially-inebriated female partygoers to entice them back to his trailer after the party. Not Dave, he has to work an early shift the next day, plus he’s mildly freaked out by the supposed “Robert Marley” and his act. But then he gets an incoherrent call from John in the wee hours of the morning, with John obviously having a bad trip. Dave manages to get John calmed down enough to head into work, but then the cops show up. It seems that everyone except John who went with Mr. “Marley” last night is either dead or missing. Some seem to have exploded. The cops want to know why, and whether Dave knows anything….the resulting tale involves immaterial beings from another plane, a dark entity known as Korrok, doppelgangers, sausage demons, hidden doors, a realm John dubs “Shit Narnia,” and a drug called “Soy Sauce” that heightens your perceptions, may allow you a bit of temporal freedom, and may or may not be alive. Dave and John are not really who you want to be calling when the world’s about to end. I would probably call Harry Dresden, or the Ghostbusters, or even John Constantine, but this time Dave and John seem to be all we’ve got….

This was one of the most fun books I have picked up in ages. I’m not sure I can say it was “good,” from a literary or moral standpoint, but it was definitely fun. And offensive. Boy, was it ever offensive! High levels of profanity and crude humor, some sexual references, frequent gross-out moments played for horror or humor. If you offend easily, this is really not the book for you. But if you’re in the market for some fun that’s a little more on the rowdy side, you might want to consider picking this up.

CONTENT:  R-rated language throughout, but this was one of those times that I actually accepted its presence. I can’t really picture these characters NOT talking this way. Sexual references, nothing too horribly explicit. John makes a plethora of jokes about the apparently-massive size of his junk. Gory gross-out violence all through the book. There is also a fair amount of occult material throughout, of one form or another.

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