Book Review: John Dies at the End

john-dies-at-the-end

I admit it, I broke the rule.  I saw the movie, then read the book.

The adaptation’s admittedly pretty brilliant, but it spoils quite a bit of the book.

But not all of it.

The story follows small-town burnout, David Wong (which also happens to be the nom de plume Jason Pargin published the novel under).  The plot is filtered through a paranoid, untrustworthy narrator.  Much like the movie, it’s hard to describe the novel’s plot without divulging major spoilers.  The general outline is that there’s an inter-dimensional body snatcher plot that a few stoners and their magic dog (or something) have to fight.

In any other novel, a plot like this would be the work’s greatest strength.  It’s a brilliant plot, with rich twists and turns.  The sudden reversals aren’t a bunch of M. Night Shyamalan gimmicks.  They grow organically out of the story.  The novel portrays things like time travel, nonexistence, and true evil in a fascinating way while telling a story.  But in this novel, the brilliant plot isn’t even the best part.

The novel has a real sense of style.  It knows what it is.  It has themes and motifs that grow so organically from the story that the reader can’t help but wonder if they were carefully crafted by a genius or the kind of lucky accidents that drive evolution.

The novel also features some great characters.  The characters have a depth and realism that contrasts with all the bizarre crap happening to them.  It helps the audience connect with them.  They’ve been through some dark times, and not all of it involved giant spiders.

If you’ve seen the movie, there’s still plenty of material in the book to catch you off guard.  One curious aspect of the adaptation process was the reveals.  In both the movie and book, various parts seem nonsensical, partly because of Catch-22/Quintin Tarantino nonlinear story telling, and partly because it’s a goddamn meat monster.  But some of these parts come together and make sense as the story moves along.  When you go from the movie to the book, a lot of the weird, disjointed bits in the movie that weren’t wrapped up get explained.  But at the same time, the novel introduces a whole other level of weird, disjointed bits that didn’t make it on-screen on top of this.  You get that same feeling that the majority of it makes sense by the end, but enough deliberately doesn’t.  If you liked one, you’ll like the other.

Read the movie review HERE.

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Robert J. Boumis
Robert is a science geek with a passion for science fiction. He has a BS in general biology and currently works in an occupational health lab at The University of Arizona. Additionally, Boumis has published three short stories, all science fiction, and does costuming in his spare time. His interests include classic science fiction novels, sci-fi films, filmmaking, UFOs, and video games. Follow his Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Robert-J-Boumis/142544852462290?ref=ts
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