Posts tagged: stuff I like

One chapter reviews – John dies at the end – chapter 14


A new series of articles, highlighting outstanding individual chapters from the books that I’ve read.

Starting off with – John dies at the end, by David Wong


Cover © Macmillan

Chapter 14 – John Investigates

“Two steps in, John found himself standing on a faded pink stain on the snow, as wide as a car. He deduced that this was blood, though the truck driver’s body was gone. He stood over this large bloodstain and said, out loud and in the presence of several by-standers, “This is blood! David must have been here””

There’s the unreliable narrator, and then there’s this.

This chapter sees the protagonist relate, with some justifiable skepticism, a parallel series of events as described to him by the titular John. At this point in the story we have already established that John is a pathological liar, a borderline sociopath, and, frankly, not terribly bright. Nevertheless, the book’s main narrative is one of bizarre, reality warping, horror.

So not only does the author get to have tremendous fun writing a riotously funny, Munchausen style, mini narrative, he still gets to keep most of it credible within the framework of the book, something that can continue to pay off within the rest of the story.

This is incredibly funny writing, and magnificent story construction, especially as it’s interweaved to soften some of the heavier components of the main story.


The Rest of the book –

This is not a very mature book, at least, not on first examination. There is plenty here that will offend some of my readers.

But it also has to be said that it’s very genuinely immature. This is the voice of the twenty to thirty year old, with nothing apparent to aim for, and with no obvious reason to engage their intellect. It is a voice that, distressingly, is becoming more and more common online. But it’s one that very rarely gets as widely heard as it should, mainly, it has to be said, because of the politically incorrect epithets and the bodily fluids, and the references to genitalia.

Anyone who is already familiar with this book is probably about to accuse me of over sensitivity here. And in the specific context and market in which it has already been incredibly successful, they are probably right. I’m sure the author is happy with the book’s success, and comfortable with the audience that he does have. But this is a book that deserves a wider audience, and I’d like to think that at least some of that audience deserves it.

This is an assured story, especially for a first effort. It’s clever and observant. It can transition effortlessly and instantly between real humor and genuine horror in both directions. It makes a lot of very valid observations, often about things that don’t get talked about nearly enough. It is painfully honest.

It isn’t a perfect book. It loses steam towards the end, and never really delivers on some of the conceptual promises delivered in the blurb. But I’ve never read a perfect book.

You will not get many opportunities to read a story like this, in a voice like this, delivered so assuredly. Frankly, it’s not a story that could survive being sanitized, even if the author was inclined to try.

I’m not trying to sound all literary here; I wouldn’t know where to start. All I’m trying to say is, if you are reading this review, and you sound like the kind of person who would never read a book like this, then this is a good opportunity to try something different.

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