Warning: this review contains spoilers for both the book and filmed versions of John Dies at the End. And, I mean, like in the first paragraph. So, be warned.
While the character of John does indeed die in David Wong’s first book, John Dies at the End, when I got to the final page of the book I was rather surprised to learn that he survived the entire novel. Good thing, too, because without John, Dave and Amy and the rest of the town of Undisclosed certainly wouldn’t have survived the events of Wong’s second novel, This Book is Full of Spiders: Seriously, Dude, Don’t Touch It.
No, really. That’s the title. And it’s an accurate one at that.
In case you don’t remember, the general plot of John Dies at the End was this: John and David are two guys living in the town of Undisclosed (think Sunnydale, except in the midwest) and somehow they can see things others can’t — monsters, demons, creatures like that, all of whom exist but who normal people are completely unaware of until it’s too late. They mostly exorcise ghosts using patently-unorthodox tactics, but when they happen upon a drug called Soy Sauce, they’re catapulted into a nationwide manhunt… and then a dimension-hopping battle… and then to a universe where they play a little basketball.
Now it’s a few months later — November, to be specific. Amy, David’s one-handed girlfriend, is off at college some two hours away. John and David are doing whatever it is they do — John works construction and odd jobs; Dave works at a videostore. Also, David is in court-mandated therapy for shooting a delivery guy with a crossbow (as you do).
That’s when things get weird. David wakes up to find a spider-like monster climbing its way up his leg. He manages to fight it off, but when the police arrive in the form of Franky, a guy David knows from back in the day, David basically comes across as nuts — and if you met him you’d probably agree with Franky. The spider monster possesses Franky, and then things get weird.
Because the spiders are multiplying — you did read the title, right? — and the government is trying to hush it up and people are being put in internment camps and anti-zombie groups are mobilizing and Amy is trying to find David and John has found himself working alongside a famous Porsche-driving detective named Lance Falconer and Molly the dog is still doing dog stuff and oh yeah did I mention there are these weird doors all throughout Undisclosed that lead from bathroom to bathroom in various places across the city? And a guy named Carlos whose daughter calls David “Walt”? And time dilation?
Yeah. It’s one of those books.
This Book is Full of Spiders is in some ways better than John Dies at the End. The first book, by Wong’s own admission, is a series of tales stitched together into a single story. Spiders is a single story — the spiders attack Undisclosed — and the nature of a story like that allows Wong to tell things in a more linear fashion. That’s not to say he actually does, because there are flashbacks and “two hours ago” chapters, but on the whole Spiders is one cohesive, neatly-plotted, fast-paced story full of great characterization, hilarious situations, even hilarious-er dialogue, and the requisite amount of poop, fart, and penis jokes (including one in the climax that you pretty much see coming* a few miles away).
This Book is Full of Spiders: Seriously, Dude, Don’t Touch It is a fun, fast, grotesque read that fans of horror, action, and humor will enjoy, especially if — like me — they have the sense of humor of a 12-year-old boy (or at least appreciate a good fart joke). And let it not be said that you won’t learn anything — there’s a really interesting discussion of Dunbar’s Number in the text, and a very well-thought-out computer hacking scene that uses social engineering instead of computer science. So there’s that.
I recommend this novel, and when Wong’s next book comes out, I’ll probably recommend that one too. Great stuff. Absolutely worth your time.
Note to Parents: This book is not for children or teenagers. It contains violence, gore, profanity, and adult situations. That said, it’s in some ways less violent than Wong’s first book. Honestly, if your kids can handle an R-rated horror film, they can probably handle this, but I wouldn’t recommend it. Of course, you should use your own best judgment when it comes to your children.
* That’s what she said.