Among the many treasures waiting to be discovered on the new release shelves at Spokane County Library District locations is “This Book is Full of Spiders” by Cracked senior editor David Wong.
Wong’s latest book is the highly anticipated sequel to “John Dies at the End”, a strange, disturbing and downright brilliant horror/comedy pastiche that was adapted as a film starring Paul Giamatti and Clancy Brown. The movie’s director Don Coscarelli described Wong’s writing as “a mash-up of Douglas Adams and Stephen King.”
That description is quite apt, especially for “This Book is Full of Spiders.”
The second book in the series has more King than Adams in the mix as a series of weird events eventually escalates to a zombie apocalypse-style conflict between people possessed by evil spider-like creatures and the few remaining ordinary humans in the nameless small town where the protagonist (also named David Wong) lives with his best friend John.
David and John (who died at the end of the first book, but got better) are amateur monster hunters. In the first book, they took a strange drug called Soy Sauce that makes them able to see things ordinary people can’t.. This comes in handy, because most people can’t see, hear or feel the evil “spiders” until it is too late.
John is a functional alcoholic with no job prospects and limited social skills who somehow still manages to be friends with a surprisingly large number of people in their community. The only thing he is halfway good at is fighting monsters, and he generally makes a mess of that too in ways that are often entertaining.
The fictional version of David Wong is basically the Bill to John’s Ted. He is the relatively smart one who tries to be the voice of reason during their excellent adventures.
Parts of the book are narrated from David’s perspective. This allows him to share his thoughts about various aspects of modern life in a way that will be familiar to readers of the real Wong’s Cracked articles while also describing just how terrifying and sinister the mysterious bad guys are.
Other sections are told in third person from John’s perspective, or the perspective of David’s girlfriend Amy, or the perspective of Amy’s dog Molly with a few brief interludes that are transcripts of conversations David somehow obtained later.
One of many fun things about the book is how David explains why he knows all this stuff. Several times, he warns his readers that John’s portions of the book probably didn’t happen the way he described them to David which adds an interesting dash of unreliable narration to an already odd story. The book works better if the reader just assumes all of John’s attempts to save the day happened like he said, but that kernel of doubt makes the book more interesting.
David also makes a point of telling his readers that some of the details have been changed or omitted, usually with the goal of keeping curious people from visiting his home town and possibly endangering themselves. Some readers may enjoy pondering the question of just how much of the book should be considered to be true within the novel’s reality. Others may just want to move on to the violent parts.
“This Book is Full of Spiders” is genre-savvy enough to be a lot of fun for horror and science fiction fans, but accessible in a way casual readers will appreciate. Wong manages to present a dark, often violent tale with a high body count in a way that does not feel trashy or exploitive.
Wong does a masterful job of being serious when it is appropriate and wickedly funny the rest of the time. David and John have a certain offbeat charm even when they’re wallowing in self-pity or abusing drugs and alcohol that will make readers cheer for them even though they may not actually deserve it.
In addition to Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and local libraries, “This Book is Full of Spiders” is available at local retailers such as Auntie’s Bookstore in downtown Spokane.