John Dies at the End

John Dies at the End

Author: David Wong

I quite like insects. I don’t mind them on me unless I can feel the weight of them. If one is stuck somewhere I will administer a gentle transport of cardboard over glass jar and dispatch the creature outside. However, while reading John Dies at the End, I developed a fear of bugs. If you are the kind of person who is paranoid about insects crawling in your ears at night and building a nest, this book may not be for you. 

Misfits John and David can see things other people can’t see. They see shadow men, demons, floating worms, people talking to them on the television, ghost doors, and portals into Hell. They can also see the future of every human on earth. And it doesn’t look good. Despite being two of the most useless bums around, John and David have to quit their jobs at the video store to save the world.

They gain their abominable abilities by accidentally taking soy sauce, a drug that gives users a window into another dimension. The soy sauce is difficult to avoid as it can shape-shift into an insect and fly at your face, then stab into your skin, then get into your brain . . .

And the soy sauce isn’t close to being the worst insecty thing in the book. John and David are plagued by flesh eating “wig monsters” (pictured) —dog-sized, wig-wearing, human-handed, scorpion-tailed, beaked creatures that nobody else can see. People are pushed into a pit full of spiders, who eat just enough of them to not quite kill them. Then there are the colonizing maggot-flies who get into you and breed, bursting out when they are done to infect other people. They make a sound like this: “Imagine fifty thousand men trapped on a desert island, deprived of food and water and sex but somehow kept alive for fifty thousand years. Then, after they’ve been tormented a hundred steps beyond insanity, tortured past self-mutilation and cannibalism, somebody drops off a sculpture of a naked woman made from T-bone steaks. If you could then capture the sound of them simultaneously fucking and eating and tearing her to shreds and broadcast it into the center of your skull at ten thousand watts, it would still sound absolutely nothing like what I heard.”

David Wong (pen name of Jason Pargin) is my favourite Internet writer. The first thing I do when I wake up in the morning is see what’s new on I ordered his book off Amazon expecting to not talk to anyone for two days while I read it. I couldn’t do it all at once though - the pages are so full of action it’s kind of difficult to read. The book was written as an Internet serial and it shows. Each chapter is like a mini short story. It’s exhausting. There are plenty of cracked-esque dick jokes. Observe: “Every man is blessed with his gifts from the Lord. One of mine happens to be a penis large enough that, if it had a penis of its own, my penis’s penis would be larger than your penis.” 

I soon learned the spoiler in the title doesn’t reveal much about the story. Characters live, appear to die, come back to life, find their own dead bodies, reanimate them, kill themselves, come back for revenge, lose limbs and grow them back, etc etc. 

John Dies at the End is a horror parody, but a distressing one. It really reminds you what a breakable lump of talking meat and bone you are. If you are feeling delicate, be prepared for real fear and angst that sticks around between reads of the book. The fear of God? The fear of science? Or the fear of insects? John Dies at the End really gets under your skin and scratches around with its nasty little legs.

This article first appeared in Issue 9, 2016.
Posted 12:55pm Sunday 1st May 2016 by Lucy Hunter.