What are any of you bastards reading these days? Believe it or not, I put down the band bios for a minute and I’ve been enjoying the hell out of John Dies At The End. It’s got kind of a MIB vibe, if the agents were a couple of twenty-something college dropouts.
In this reissue of an Internet phenomenon originally slapped between two covers in 2007 by indie Permutus Press, Wong — Cracked.com editor Jason Pargin’s alter ego — adroitly spoofs the horror genre while simultaneously offering up a genuinely horrifying story. The terror is rooted in a substance known as soy sauce, a paranormal psychoactive that opens video store clerk Wong’s — and his penis-obsessed friend John’s — minds to higher levels of consciousness. Or is it just hell seeping into the unnamed Midwestern town where Wong and the others live? Meat monsters, wig-wearing scorpion aberrations and wingless white flies that burrow into human skin threaten to kill Wong and his crew before infesting the rest of the world. A multidimensional plot unfolds as the unlikely heroes drink lots of beer and battle the paradoxes of time and space, as well as the clichés of first-person-shooter video games and fantasy gore films. Sure to please the Fangoria set while appealing to a wider audience, the book’s smart take on fear manages to tap into readers’ existential dread on one page, then have them laughing the next.