John Dies at the End by David Wong (a.k.a Jason Pargin) feels like what would happen if Douglas Adams and Stephen King got drunk and tried to modernise Lovecraft, except with slightly less tentacles. If that description doesn’t quite make sense then it’s a perfect description of the book itself. David Wong is the protagonist of the story and he is only hanging onto his sanity by the very tips of his fingers, mostly by diving headfirst into the pool of insanity that is his life. With an intentionally inconsistent plot and an unreliable (and mostly unlikable) narrator, the reader despairs for the fate of the world that could be their own.
John Dies at the End follows David (a coward and a jerk) and John (a charismatic drunken asshole) as they try to prevent creatures from another dimension from invading their Earth. They have variable success but are both alive (sort of) at the end of the book to continue haplessly fighting back the forces of evil. The book is filled with fascinating lunacy that I couldn’t do justice without getting drunk and drawing a diagram. Short of that I can say that the book does an excellent job of representing what it must feel like to be resigned to being simultaneously the sanest and the craziest person in the room. David shrugs off everything that happens to him with a fatalistic air of inevitability as the world continues to disappoint him by being exactly as ridiculous as he has always secretly thought. David’s complete and despairing acceptance of events pairs with the shadows you see move in the corners of your eyes, to bring you a story that is simultaneously the most ridiculous thing you’ve ever read and so depressingly real you can feel it pressing against your chest as you read.
If you like your stories a bit odd and wholly original give this one a go. It’s worth melting your brain a bit for.