Author: David Wong
I was incredibly excited for this book. It was akin to the feeling of the last Eragon book or the last Harry Potter. The amount of hype I had built up for myself was incredible.
For those who don’t know, this is the sequel to the book John Dies at the End, and picks back up the adventures of David and John in the very episodic nature that they go.
This Book is Full of Spiders is yet-another zombie book. David and John, due to their exposure to the drug known as Soy Sauce, in the previous book, begin to see Spiders around town that go through the process of embedding themselves into peoples skulls and turning them into super human zombie men. The usual sorts of crazy antics build up and implode on them as Detective Falconer begins to look into their reports.
The second act concerns a prison camp as their native town of Undisclosed is immediately quarantined in wake of the outbreak of spider people.
It’s hard to go much further into plot synopsis without spoilers for either this or the first book. In short, I will quickly get to my likes about the book and my frustrations.
In order to illustrate what I like about This Book is Full of Spiders I have to express what I felt was great and groundbreaking in John Dies at the End.
See, for me, JDatE was a merger between the english major school analysis antics that you are trained at in college, the humorous musings of creative writing class, and the pop culture internet lurker conspiracy geek that all call to my personality. It blended the thoughtful with the thoughtless and created world saving heroes out of a couple of lazy drugged up lackeys milling about in the Mid-West.
The trick with John Dies at the End is that at the end of the day it could have all just been a gigantic bad drug trip, and the book includes this speculation with a frame story of the main character/author David Wong talking to a reporter attempting to convince him all this stuff is real. A late-game twist with this story cements in the possibility that David is simply just crazy now and so is his friend John.
Perhaps, that deserves a full analysis sometimes.
Anyways, whenever act 3 of TBifoS rolls around, we get treated to the same sort of extrapolated ideals. What are zombies? What does a zombie apocalypse really mean? What can we do to stop it?
This is all sort of ached on throughout climactic dialogues and introspection. At the end of the day, what is the worst part about the zombie apocalypse? The dead shamblers or the people who react to it?
If you recognize this as the oldest question in the history of zombie films, then you’d be right. But it still is explored through the dialogue here and after going through the 2nd act that was refreshing.
Now, everything has likes and dislikes, and coming from a book that I felt was a modern day classic to a zombie book was certainly a bit of a letdown immediately.
While it can easily be pointed out that JDatE was essentially a Lovecraft horror-esque novel that explored cults, dark gods, possessions, other worldly spirits, and the nature of fear and the nature of personality, then I would still be able to say that I’ve never been highly exposed to Lovecraft in the modern day as much as I have zombies.
Zombies are everywhere, and while I’m sure Mr. Wong started on his novel before the boom in popularity, its somewhat frustrating to see what I felt was a great original voice fall so quickly into pop culture phenomenon.
I know I just said that I enjoyed them talking about the meaning of zombies and the cycle of humanity up above this, but the fact that talking is about all that is accomplished is a bit unfortunate. Four Hundred Pages of dick jokes are never once interrupted or enlightening outside of character dialogue, which can often feel like preaching, and as a creative writer I felt there could’ve been more done to emphasize this point.
Furthermore several plot points and lines get dropped by the end of the book, in what was a cavalcade of madness and frustrated imaginings, its very unfortunate that the book couldn’t feel anywhere near as whole and complete and thorough a package as the first one.
Which leads me to my major critique of the book (everything else feels a bit nitpicky and situational) but what happened to the episodic nature of the first one?
The fact that John Dies at the End takes the first twelve – fifteen pages introducing to me these two characters and the fact that all bars are off in this world exhibits the most powerful strength of the first book. Namely, it didn’t focus on telling one story, it focused on telling damn near four whole complete stories within the same context, it created an explorative nature of the book. In retrospepct…. there are five or six stories with John Dies at the End and a whole whopping none of them were removed from the original context or insight of the novel as a whole.
That doesn’t mean I didn’t still sit down and read all four hundred and six pages of This Book is Full of Spiders and find myself satisfied at the end. I still can’t wait for the next book from Wong, and I hope sincerely that this expose into a novel long single story is shunned in favor of the previous cavalcade of ridiculousness and drug trip fantasy mixed with Cthulu.
Have I mentioned you guys absolutely NEED to read John Dies at the End?
Final Score: 8/10 – Still better than King or Koontz