Wednesday, May 8, 2013


There are surely worse worlds in the multiverse than the one in which David Wong gets to write all of the books.

The podunk white trash Lovecraftian worlds David Wong writes about, for instance. Worlds which might closely resemble our own but for the presence of Shadow Men and titular parasitic eyeball spiders that get up in people's brains and manipulate first their brains and then their biology and turn them into monsters of various imaginative sorts. Those.

John Dies at the End (JDATE to fans) was one of the silliest, weirdest, most messed-up and entertaining books I've ever read (the film adapted from it somewhat less so, but it was still a lot of fun), so my expectations going into this sequel were pretty high, perhaps unreasonably so. They were sort of met, but only sort of.

This Book is Full of Spiders, having a first act like JDATE to follow, did, alas fall short of delivering the same quality of guffaws and jaw-dropping inventiveness JDATE had but I don't think that's what Wong was going for here. For This Book is Full of Spiders gets surprisingly somber at times. Which is all right as far as it goes; while chucklehead slacker heroes John and Dave are terribly amusing to follow, it would be a mistake not to let them learn from their experiences and develop as characters. Which they have done, sort of, at least inasmuch as Dave is a boyfriend now with duties, responsibilities, lots of hand holding and sighing and oh wait, that's Bernard Black. But anyway, you get the idea.

John, thank goodness, is still John, which might surprise people who have the title of the first John and Dave book in mind, but there he is. He's not making cell phone calls that are unstuck in time this go-around, but he still has plenty of stupid ideas that somehow manage to keep the plot from turning into a straightforward bit of disaster porn (but that also mocks the fans of disaster porn, witness the bunch of college hipsters who load up and RV with a whole gun shop's worth of crap and drive it right into the teeth of the crapstorm and insist that videogames have prepared them for apocalyptic good times and they're the only heroes anybody needs, but I digress).

For disaster there most certainly is, in the form of the aforementioned parasitic spiders from another dimension that crawl into people's heads and take them over, spiders that only John and Dave can see as a residual effect of last novel's unwitting experimentation with the multidimensional drug they call Soy Sauce. It starts off small, the spider problem. One is discovered in Dave's bed in the wee hours of one fateful morning, chewing on his leg. He reacts Davishly. He gets John involved. Everything goes wrong and spirals out of control. Because John and Dave.

Along the way, we are treated to more than a bit of pop evolutionary psychology, not all of it coming from Dave's therapist-nemesis, Dr. Tennet; we could read this book as a white trash excursis on the consequences of primate neurology and the fact that our brains are wired to be able to handle a max of about 150 real social connections, but with gunfire and explosions and monsters. This is pulled off pretty well, actually.

What isn't pulled off so well this time around is the narration. JDATE was all first-person, from the entertaining point of view of Dave, who is an undereducated but wickedly intelligent smart ass of a guy with a talent for undercutting the grandiosity of what is around him by boiling a lot down to fart jokes and the like. TBIFOS, however, intercuts his first person narrative with long stretches of third person omniscient whenever the action goes to John or to Dave's girlfriend, the wonderfully down-to-earth and sensible Amy. That all of these sections are often in anything but chronological order -- we frequently get chapter headings telling us that the next bit is, say, eight hours earlier and the like -- is not as annoying as the shift from first to omniscient third is, to me, but then I like my stories to be a bit wibbly wobbly timey wimey once in a while. What I don't like is when they feel lazy or sloppy, and the narration choices here feel a lot like both. Harumph.

Still, I had a good time. If there's another sequel in the works, I'll have a look. If a film gets made of this, I'll watch it. Because John and Dave.

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