Audiobook Review: John Dies at the End by David Wong

21 04 2011

John Dies at the End by David Wong

Read by Stephen R. Thorne


Genre: Horror Comedy

Quick Thoughts: An highly entertaining, often adolescent mashup of science fiction and fantasy tropes with a solid performance by the narrator.

Grade: A-

David Wong’s horror comedy John Dies at the End is one of those novels that has taken an untraditional road in publishing, yet with the internet being such a powerful tool for aspiring writers we are seeing more and more of. John Dies at the End began as an internet serial, before being published by Permuted Press, an independent publisher whose main focus is on apocalyptic fiction. Eventually in 2009, 8 years after its initial serial founding, it was published as a Hardcover, and a year later, in audiobook form. As big fan of Apocalyptic fiction, I often heard about titles being produced by Permuted, but would turn my nose up at them, considering them barely a step up from self-published. Yet, when JL Bournes Day by Day Armageddon and ZA Recht’s Morningstar Strain novels were given greater exposure, I checked them out, and was impressed. John Dies at the End was one of those novels I had heard buzz about, and although it was not “post apocalyptic” like the majority of Permuted’s offerings, there was something intriguing about it. When I saw it was released in audiobook, I though, heck, it’s time to check this bad boy out.

John Dies at the End is a twisted, adolescent romp through a multitude of science fiction and fantasy tropes, which author David Wong has bitten into, chewed thoroughly and rewarded his readers by having them repeat on him over and over, like bad chili. That is to say, this novel isn’t for everyone, but, if it is for you, you’re in for one hell of a unique trip. How can you tell if it’s for you, well, if you like you sci-fi horror buddy comedies laden with dick and fart jokes, a surprising number of puns using the word “chair”, wig wearing beaked spider creatures and an extremely unreliable first person POV, well, congrats, someone wrote the perfect book for you. Now, if you were offended that I used the word dick in the last sentence, then you can continue reading about romantic sparkly vampires. John Dies at the End reads like if Douglas Adams wrote the novelization of a Bill and Ted movie while stoned. What impresses me the most about this novel was it wasn’t afraid to take on any standard genre plotline, magical portals to other worlds, time travel, genetic engineering, paranormal occurrences and so much more and just utterly destroy it and make it its own. John Dies at the End isn’t the perfect novel, even for us who love dick and fart jokes, at times it can be a bit scattershot, but for pure entertainment value, it’s a winner.

One word of warning on the audiobook, this isn’t one you should listen when doing complicated work. The author uses some tricks that work well on paper, but are tougher to pull off in audio form. There were times I needed to rewind my mp3 player to make sure I hadn’t missed something important. Narrator Stephen R. Thorne gives a solid reading. He’s not going to blow you away, as some narrators do, but he has a crisp pure voice with a low key delivery that works well with the outlandish style of the book. So if you’re sick of traditional fantasy, tired of Euro-trash vampires and frustrated with science fiction novels that read more like a physic textbook, then give John Dies at the End a try.



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