John Dies at the End
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Cover of the Permuted Press edition, now out of print
|August 15, 2007|
|Media type||e-Book, print|
|Followed by||This Book Is Full of Spiders|
John Dies at the End is a comic horror novel written by David Wong that was first published online as a webserial beginning in 2001, then as an edited manuscript in 2004, and a printed paperback in 2007, published by Permuted Press. An estimated 70,000 people read the free online versions before they were removed in September 2008. Thomas Dunne Books published the story with additional material as a hardcover on September 29, 2009. The book was followed by a sequel, This Book Is Full of Spiders, in 2012.
The main characters, John and Dave, are friends from an undisclosed town in the Midwestern United States.
The story opens as Dave is discussing, with a reporter named Arnie, the unusual events he has experienced. The first story opens as Dave goes to help John's band play at a local party, just outside town at a lake. At the party, Dave finds Molly, the dog, and meets a strange Jamaican person dealing a drug called "Soy Sauce". After taking the drug, John begins to see things. Thinking John is having a bad trip, Dave contemplates bringing John to a hospital. Dave pockets the syringe containing the remains of John's dose of the Soy Sauce (carefully removing the needle at the end so as to avoid being pricked) and begins to drive. However, after receiving a phone call from "John" (who is clearly present, and not on the phone), the two end up at the home of "Big Jim" Sullivan and his sister Amy, trying to return Molly to its owner. Amy tells Dave that she's afraid that Jim is dead, and he didn't come home after the party. Not knowing what else to do, and wanting to put the whole episode behind them, the two go to work at the local video store.
At work, Dave is "bitten" by the Soy Sauce in his pocket (which is described as having a will of its own) and begins having unusual experiences as well. Dave and John are brought down to the police station for questioning regarding others who have taken the drug, and are now missing or dead. While they are being questioned, John mysteriously collapses and is taken to the hospital. Dave receives another strange phone call, telling him to go to the pseudo-Jamaican's trailer. Dave finds the fake Jamaican's stash of 'Soy Sauce', but is interrupted by the police, getting shot in the process. However, due to a miraculous occurrence, he survives relatively unharmed. Molly rescues him from the burning trailer and leads him to John's comatose body, which has been kidnapped by an evil force on its way to Las Vegas. The evil leads them to the Luxor Hotel, where Dr. Albert Marconi is having a conference on the paranormal. The conference descends into chaos as the evil attacks, and Dr. Marconi helps in sending it back to where it came from.
The second major incident Dave explains to Arnie happened a year later. Dave and John are called in to help investigate a strange death apparently caused by Molly. It turns out that the evil is on the loose again in Undisclosed in the form of a sports reporter, Danny Wexler, who has been possessed by a shadowy entity, likely after taking Soy Sauce. With the help of Wexler's girlfriend, Krissy, John and Dave have a car chase with a man made of cockroaches, and are led on a video-game inspired chase through the abandoned mall, where they have a stand off with the entity that has taken Wexler. There the evil possesses Dave, but it is ultimately defeated.
The third story starts the next summer as Dave notices that someone is watching him through his television set. The feeling continues until one winter night he has an episode of missing time just as Amy disappears. While they investigate Amy's disappearance, Dave begins to feel that he may have killed her, and peeking into his tool shed and seeing what appears to be a dead body, he is sure of it. When Amy reappears, however, the mystery deepens. As the darkness descends on them, Dave has to come to terms with how his paranormal encounters have irreversibly affected him.
Dave and John link the shadow people to an abandoned shopping mall. The two discover a hidden door and enter an invisible floor. They fight their way to a portal, where they are transported to an alternate universe that is run by the biological computer, Korrok, who plans to invade our universe. The two narrowly escape.
Ultimately, it is revealed that despite the title, John survives the conclusion of the novel, but Dave does not, having been replaced by an exact copy down to his memories who murders the original David Wong during his missed time, but was unaware that he was a fake.
Throughout the book, all of these stories are being told by David to Arnie, the reporter he met in the beginning. It is revealed that Arnie is actually a ghost who is unaware that he is dead yet. Dave realizes this and reluctantly tells Arnie he is dead, who refuses to believe so. Arnie disappears after the realization and Dave moves on.
At the very end of the book John and Dave find a portal to another dimension. After traveling through, they meet a futuristic police force. The police men tell John and Dave that their world is being invaded and they need their help to save their planet. John and Dave walk away and it is clear that they will not be helping them.
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David Wong: Author surrogate and the novel's protagonist. Dave narrates the novel from the first-person perspective. Dave is self-conscious and sarcastic, thus his narration is unreliable as the truth (he says he has been "mostly" honest with Arnie, and thus the reader). Dave does not immediately believe or trust people. Coupled with his sarcasm and bitterness, he intentionally makes himself difficult to get close to, potentially stemming from the fact that Dave was adopted, his birth mother being in a mental institution and his biological father is unknown. He has a distant, withdrawn kind of emotion when discussing his adoptive parents, putting the word "dad" in quotation marks, as if he never considered his true parent. During his initial meeting with Arnie, Dave claims he had his name changed to make him harder to find, suggesting that Wong is the most common surname in the world.
When he was in high school, an emotionally damaging bullying incident caused him to bring a knife to school. Dave lashed out at his attacker, severely injuring and blinding him, which led to the bully's eventual suicide later in the year. His adoptive father—a lawyer—kept Dave out of the juvenile justice system, instead shunting him into a Behavior Disorder program in school. Amy was also in this program.
At first, the paranormal lifestyle does not sit well with Dave. While John was excited about their new world of unusual encounters, Dave initially would rather not acknowledge the horrors he had seen. He gradually accepted his moral obligation to do what was right and help if necessary, and his interview with Arnie shows he needs people to believe in him and understand there is a second layer of truth to the world. He willingly walks into the darkness. He willingly keeps silent to protect his loved ones. He doesn't want to be a hero, but knows that he and John are the only ones who can do the job.
John "Cheese": Long-time best friend of Dave. John is an eccentric, alcohol- and drug-addled slacker who finds it impossible to keep a job. He tries to live his life as big and loud as possible, leading to exaggeration for dramatic effect (including boasts about his sexuality and embellishments of his personal achievements that border on and—in many cases—infringe on outright falsehood), and Dave knows not to take what he says at face value. Dave says that John lives under a fake name as well, "John" being suggested as the most common first name in the world. John, unlike Dave, still has family in Undisclosed, including his Uncle Drake, a police detective. John has spent a short time in jail, but Dave narrates it as being not a big deal.
John and Dave met in Mr. Gertz's computer class (from which John was later expelled for lewd behavior). Dave's relationship with John wavered through the story, especially when Dave and Jen were living together. John's enthusiasm for the lifestyle of "expert" in the field of unusual phenomena was resented in part by Dave. Later it became apparent that John was really the only person Dave had in his life that he could trust.
John is a loyal companion and, in spite of his idiosyncrasies, surprisingly moral and upstanding. John also promised to follow through with the last wishes of the two hostages who didn't make it back from Vegas, spreading the rumors of Fred Chu's ghost haunting the city, and keeping an eye on Amy for Jim. Later, when Amy is uncomfortable about digging into her brother's old stuff for information, John said something wildly inappropriate to make her laugh, making Dave remember why he "keeps John around". By the third act, John and Dave both feel that even though their mission is doomed from the start, they had better try. John's enthusiasm when saying "Let's go, we're going to be late for certain death," shows they knowingly walking into ridiculously bad odds. John is pivotal in helping resolve Dave's identity crisis, recruiting Amy to protect Dave from himself, and keeping the situation light and humorous to reduce the need for negative consequences.
John owns six videogame systems, John and Dave are frequently playing, typically sports or gunfight-type games. This becomes an interesting tie-in while chasing Danny Wexler in the abandoned Mall. Through the Soy Sauce, Wexler projects monsters to defeat them, but they project the scenario as it would in a shoot out game. They spend the chapter collecting ammo from kills, breaking crates for items, numbered keys to locked rooms, and specifically for John's benefit, what appears to be a 1-up mushroom that saved him from the gunshot Dave delivered to his head, reversing the titular death.
John was in a band called "Three Armed Sally". He played guitar and sang. Their most popular song is "Camel Holocaust".
Amy Sullivan: A timid girl who needs John and Dave's help. Dave begins the story believing Amy is a mentally handicapped or special needs girl, the fragile little sister of "Big Jim" Sullivan. Dave knew Amy from his school's Behavior Program and was responsible for her unflattering nickname "Cucumber" due to her habit of vomiting like sea cucumbers, (but not for any innuendo reason as was typically assumed). Amy is the rightful owner of Molly, though her fear of strangers leads her to give the dog to whatever stranger that tries to return her (like Dave and Krissy Lovelace). Amy lost her hand in a car accident that killed her parents. She was cared for by her aunt and uncle during that time, but went on to live with her older brother in the family's Victorian style home until Jim's death in Vegas. Jim's last request was that someone keep an eye on his sister, which John respected and kept in regular touch. When Amy is targeted by supernatural forces, John and Dave step in to protect her and reveal the mystery surrounding other similar events.
Amy and Dave are both misfits, through this realization they become a romantic pair. In learning more about her, Dave finds out that she is just as misunderstood as he is, and not as limited as he had been believing for the first two acts of his narrative. Most of her shy and odd behavior was explainable by the medication to keep her well after her car accident. Mood swings (from timid to cheerful) and vomiting were both revealed to be side effects of the meds. Outside of the amputated hand, the car accident also left Amy with her spine damaged, requiring an implanted brace.
With the addition of a set of Scooby-Doo "Ghostvision" glasses sent to Dave from a fan, Amy is able to see some of the unusual things Dave and John can see naturally.
Molly: Molly is David's adoptive dog, an "Irish rust dog", whose tags indicate she previously belonged to Amy. Molly is an easygoing dog but has a mysterious connection to the supernatural events that run through the book. She hosts John's disembodied spirit and experiences effects of the Soy Sauce in the first act. In the second act, she appears to be responsible for a murder while under the care of Krissy Lovelace, and soon dies violently after appearing hovering off the ground and speaking in a guttural voice about Korrok. In the third act of the book, the "dead Molly" was revealed as likely a doppelganger, as she is found again in the care of Amy. She plays a direct part in the assault on Shit Narnia.
It is generally accepted that Molly has a special supernatural connection. However, a scene near the end of the book, the Fred Durst lookalike that gave John and Dave a ride back from the mall may have been Molly herself. He tells Dave that he is on their side, "I been watching you. In fact, you could say that I've been 'dogging' you the whole time." Some take this to believe that Molly is a kind of angel that has been supporting them, since the word 'dogging' was specifically emphasized in quotation marks so not to be confused with the slang the figure was speaking.
Jennifer Lopez: Dave's ex-girlfriend (and not the actress of the same name). Jen was a primary character in the first act of the book, and lived with Dave for a period of 6 months after the Las Vegas incident. She broke up with Dave after some arguments about a false pregnancy alarm. Currently, she lives with her other friends and rarely has contact with Dave. While being the only other person who had first hand experience with the Soy Sauce, she refused to acknowledge its side effects. She doesn't like John because of his constant reminder of the terrible events of Vegas. When a harmless supernatural event is witnessed by John, Dave and herself at a restaurant, she cries. Where John and Dave take a moral obligation with their "gift", Jen leaves and tries to repress it all.
Krissy Lovelace: Becomes involved with John and Dave after the murder of her neighbor in the second act of the book. She is a temporary owner of Molly, and has a romantic connection to Danny Wexler. In the investigation of Wexler and his connection to the Soy Sauce and Shadow Men, her Christian faith proves useful when Dave is possessed by Korrok in the abandoned mall in Undisclosed, saving his life. She sends a necklace with a cross on it to David later in the book.
Arnie Blondestone: A journalist investigating paranormal affairs, Arnie Blondestone is referred to David by way of Amy. David's relating of his tale to Arnie acts as a framing device for the narrative. Each act of the story is framed with a conversation with Arnie. He is a highly skeptical individual, which proves to be a challenge for David given the absurd (and largely unfalsifiable) aspects of his account. Arnie believes he may have had unusual experiences and memories (involving video games, a shadow, a cat and the Pope), and through that connection, he does seem to want to believe Dave, and gives him far more chances than a true skeptic would.
Korrok: Believed to be an evil deity worshiped by several different cultures in human history, Korrok serves as the novel's major antagonist, with many of the demons encountered by David and John throughout the novel acting as his servants. Korrok is depicted in many ways, both physical and metaphorical.
Doctor Albert Marconi: A former priest, Albert Marconi has researched paranormal activity and, in his travels, has become very learned in all matters supernatural. He is first encountered in Las Vegas, where his knowledge of the occult allows for many demons to be cast back into their own dimension. Excerpts from his book on Korrok are included throughout the narrative, and plays a crucial role in the prologue (albeit briefly, and through a long-distance telephone call).
James "Big Jim" Sullivan: The large older sibling of Amy Sullivan, "Big" Jim is a religious former classmate of David and John's and a science fiction and special effects enthusiast. Jim is among the group of hostages that travels to Las Vegas. Sketches, stories and models that Amy shows John and Dave imply he has significant foreknowledge of the crisis at hand. It was Jim who attempted to spiritually reach out to the Fake Jamaican, and who ended up getting the Soy Sauce to Wexler (though he was hoping someone would investigate it).
"Shitload": One of Korrok's supernatural minions. Shitload's natural form consists of a swarm of small, white insectoids comparable to rods described in cryptozoological theories. He is a vulgar and dangerous presence, speaking in profane street slang and hopping from body to body as he sees fit in a process that is painful and inevitably lethal to his hosts. Furthermore, Shitload has a tendency to attack enemies in the scrotal region and can continue using host bodies without difficulty after they have suffered fatal wounds. The character is a parody of the Biblical demon "Legion" ("For we are many,"). The character similarly introduces himself as Shitload, "Because there's a shitload of us in here."
Detective Lawrence "Morgan Freeman" Appleton: Detective in the Undisclosed Police Department. Appleton questions David on the night of the "soy sauce" overdoses and quickly becomes aware of the dangerously supernatural aspects of his case. David mentally compares the detective to Morgan Freeman, referring to him as such in his narration, even though Appleton shares little physical resemblance with the actor.
Reviewer Bryan Gatchell considered it "a horror novel parody," saying, "The story combined the horror of the writings of H. P. Lovecraft and the surrealism of Heironymus [sic] Bosch painting with the early 20s (i.e., their age) asininity of its two main protagonists, David Wong and John... [T]hey can see things no other human can see such as shadow men, demons, floating worms, obscene fast food murals, ghost doors, men observing them through the television and dog-sized, wig-wearing, scorpion-like creatures... Wong is much more at home when it comes to the humorous aspects of the story... Strangely enough, the best moment of the novel has neither to do with horror (in the traditional sense) or humor. The novel becomes the most gripping when David describes a violent incident as a high school student. The rest of the novel is amusing, but at this moment, the novel breaks away from its jokey Internet origins and seems to come into its own as a genuinely good book."
A sequel to the book, This Book Is Full of Spiders, was published on October 2, 2012. It originally had the working title of John and Dave and the Fifth Wall before Wong announced the official title. Part of the book was originally hosted on the official website under the title of John and Dave and the Temple of X'al'naa'thuthuthu, but was removed from the site. Wong later re-posted the excerpt on the website in February 2009, but removed it the following year.
Filming began on October 21, 2010. The movie stars Paul Giamatti as Arnie Blondestone and Clancy Brown as Dr. Marconi, with Giamatti also helping to produce. Actors Chase Williamson and Rob Mayes play the lead roles of Dave and John, respectively.
- "September 29, 2009 That’s the release date for the book.", Official Site, May 18, 2009
- Gatchell, Bryan (July 1, 2010). "Reader's corner: John Dies at the End". Fort Polk Guardian. Fort Polk, Louisiana: Natchitoches Times.
- "Don Coscarelli to Direct 'John Dies at the End'" , Bloody Disgusting, February 16, 2008
- "John Dies at the End (2012)". International Movie Database. Retrieved February 9, 2013.
- "Quint knows what Don Coscarelli's new movie is! And more importantly he knows Paul Giamatti and The Kurgan are in it!", Ain't It Cool News, October 21, 2010
- Warner, Denise (2012-01-24). "Sundance: Paul Giamatti in 'John Dies at the End' | Inside Movies | EW.com". Insidemovies.ew.com. Retrieved 2014-02-18.
- "JOHN DIES AT THE END | Archives | Sundance Institute". Filmguide.sundance.org. Retrieved 2014-02-18.