Friday, May 7, 2010

Review: John Dies at the End by David Wong (2007)

This was a pretty good book - stupid, but good. Because it was initially written as a serial, there are some character inconcistencies (like the whole reporter thing seems like it wasn't worked out until the end of the book, otherwise why does he keep acting as if he thinkks David is crazy?), and the plot sometimes has a stop-start momentum, and sometimes there are scenes that have a sort of, "been there, done that," kind of feel to them, but all in all it is pretty good.

Although, the title is just a lie. David dies at one point, but John doesn't. Why is it called John Dies at the End?

I usually don't finish horror novels - I got to the end of Stephen King's Salem's Lot, and I've read one Caitlin R. Kiernan novel, but usually I just sort of get bored and stop reading. I tried to like H. P. Lovecraft, I really did, but I just can't. He just bores the shit out of me. Oh, a scientist sees something big with tentacles, huh? Great...

And every Lovecraft story is the exact same structure, as well! Why the hell is that? Why is every story exactly the goddamn same? I mean, alright, Herbert West, Reanimator was different (and actually reasonably good, even though Lovecraft himself said that he didn't really like it), but every other story is: scientist or explorer goes somewhere uncharted, sees a thing with tentacles, and goes mad. Why is this scary? And why is it scary more than once? I just don't get it.

Yeah, so, my problem with most horror fiction is that it is so inspired by Lovecraft that it is basically incapable of doing anything else. And that is where this book was different - I mean, yes, it is still a part of that whole post-Lovecraftian copy-fest that all horror literature springs from, but it has jokes in it, godamnit. Sometimes they are even... good ones.

Don't get me wrong, the jokes aren't particularly clever, and they certainly aren't highbrow (unless you consider Kevin Smith movies highbrow), but they are legitimately funny, and this allowed me to actually enjoy the non-joke bits. Sort of like Buffy: the Vampire Slayer - the jokes allow you to enjoy the stuff that you would otherwise be bored by.

There is one problem I had with the book - it has this weird racist undertone. I mean, most of the characters that are racist in the book are evil demons, so I guess that is supposed to make it all okay, but, well, when you are trying to get laughs out of rewriting an R.E.M. song into a hate-speech, maybe you have gone a little too far. And the fact that every black character in the book turns out to be evil, as well as the one Asian guy (the main character, David Wong, is not Asian, he just changed his last name to the most common last name on Earth - which does actually raise the question of what was actually happening with the "McWongalds" sign). I mean, when you have your only initially sympathetic (and not possessed by a demon) black guy (the police officer who David keeps thinking of as 'Morgan Freeman' despite the fact that he doesn't look anything like Morgan Freeman - yeah, not racist at all) eventually trying to shoot your protagonist in the face, it does raise some serious questions. Are you racist, David Wong? The world demands to know!

1 comment:

  1. I just watched the movie, and I did enjoy it, but yes, there was a racist undertone, especially with the use of the n-word at the end, even though it was a clever scene; it does make me wonder about the writer's motivations.