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This Book is Full of Spiders: a Review

Literary criticism has somewhat curled up and died over the years and now we’re at a point where reviews are torn between “I love/hate this book because pew pew awesome raawr!” and “This book displays certain tropes and mimetic principles that onomatopoeia feminism Jungian archetypes blah shit merp.”  Does any of that make you want to read the book?  Why would you read a book review at all, what’s the point?  To find out why it is either good or not good.   David Wong’s This Book is Full of Spiders is a good book.  You should read it.

In a perfect world I’d end the review there and you’d think it was brilliant despite how dumb that first paragraph sounds if you read it out loud.  But I can give you more because I care about your well being and literacy.  You want to know why you should read the book, yeah?  Like I’m some kind of book slut, putting out my literary goodies for you to slurp and jiggle, you filthy user.

This Book is Full of Spiders is the sequel to Wong’s John Dies at the End, a horror/comedy/buddy/mystery something or other, which is the best way to write a book because, even if your life is sorely lacking sentient narcotics and alien spiders, it probably still crosses more than one genre and so should fiction.  You should probably read the first book before you read this one though if for no other reason than you’ll understand the world you’re about to enter that much more.  And plus people who read sequels first are objectionable on a very basic level.  Stop being contrary.

This time out, John and Dave have to deal with trans-dimensional parasites, government cover ups, zombies, abandoned hospitals with creepy shit in the basement and the potential for the end of the world.  That’s kind of heavy, but don’t let it get you down, there’s jokes, too.

Like the first book, Wong gives you an assortment of terrifying monsters, baffling monsters, amusing chains of vulgarities and memorable death scenes to make up for all the times you had to read about someone being smothered by a pillow in a Robert Ludlum book, or whatever the hell he writes about.  I not-quite- literally just pulled that name from my ass. He’s a real guy though, right?  I have no intention of looking it up.

There’s also a decent thread of relatable humanity in all Wong’s central characters – they may be a little off the wall and do outlandish things, but they have their awkward, real life moments to keep them grounded.  And then of course there’s the way the book ends.  But, not being a dick, I won’t even bother mentioning that further save to say that yes.  Yes sir.

While you could be tempted to describe Wong’s style as a literary car accident between Chuck Palahniuk, George Romero and Patton Oswalt, you’d miss a key and overarching approach, a consciousness that underlies his entire work, and indeed John Dies at the End as well, a social conscience and awareness of the world in which he lives and in which you, a fan of this style of writing, also live.  His story is aware of how your brain works, how pop culture has conditioned it to think, and so at times he effectively writes the story you think he’s going to write not because it’s the same predictable story you’ve seen a hundred times, but because Wong himself saw it a hundred times and lead you there with a trail of bread crumbs before he breaks away from the norm with a nod to the fact you both thought you knew what he was doing.  Does that make sense?  It will after you read it.

Wong’s role as editor of Cracked.com is the man behind the curtain through so much of this story, from the “bet you never thought of this” explanations of some threads of the story to the “you ever notice we all do this?” aspects of others.  He knows a horror story, a comedy story, and the way people in the real world want to react to those things, as well as the way people in stereotypical genre stories react to them and he brings all that to the table for a nuanced experience.  I just wrote nuanced on purpose, that’s how much I liked this book.  That word is ridiculous.

Should I toss in some kind of spoilerish highlights to entice you?  People do that right?  I already said I’m leaving the ending alone but I can say I have not been so entertained by literal ass eating in some time, and the idea of a zombie hurling its own ribs like scythes is somewhat appealing in a grim sort of way.  Also the terrifyingly accurate, mail-on-the-head portrayal of the way people rally to an idea on the internet, but of course who better than Wong to understand that?

I find a good way to judge the merit of any book is if, while reading it, I take the time to actually Google something about it because, right in the middle of the book, there’s something I want to know that I am either too impatient to wait to learn, or that the book itself will never tell me.  For instance during George R.R. Martin’s 5th book I had to Google casting news to see who was going to be in the next season of Game of Thrones as a certain character.  It was arguably terribly unimportant, but whatever.  Reading This Book is Full of Spiders I once again had to Google director Don Coscarelli to find out when the movie version of John Dies at the End comes out (still no word).  It didn’t alter my reading of this book at all, but I did it because I liked the story enough to want to see someone else’s interpretation of it.  And what more can you ask for from a book?  Nothing, stop being greedy and entitled.

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