I called it!
Last week, I wrote about the joys of other people's bookshelves and said I would find my next book to read on R's shelves. And sure enough, this week we're looking at David Wong's "This Book Is Full Of Spiders, Seriously Dude, Don't Touch It" (2012).
David Wong is the pseudonym of Jason Pargin, a senior editor and columnist for the humor website Cracked.com. Go there now if you want to never get anything done, ever again. I have a feeling that Cracked is responsible for more lost productivity than Lolcats and pornography combined, at least in my own experience. It has a seemingly endless archive of funny columns and lists on any number of topics, updated every day, and it's affect is best described by this xkcd comic:
This book is actually a sequel to Wong's "John Dies At The End" (which was made into a movie this year). Both are set in a Midwestern town only identified as Undisclosed, an area known to the Iroquois as Seriously, Fuck That Place. It's poor, boring, and quite possibly the portal to Hell, or at least to another dimension of shadow men and monsters. David Wong, both narrator and author, and his best friend John are life-long inhabitants of Undisclosed and self-appointed monster-hunters and protectors of the town. They are also complete drunken fuck-ups. This is a difficult enough situation when they're just trying to save their own skins in "John Dies At The End, " but when they're called on to save their entire town and possible the world from evil brain parasites in "This Book Is Full Of Spiders," they have to somehow rise above their own jackassery and become heroes after a lifetime of being losers.
It's rare that a book can both make me laugh out loud and have to sleep with the light on. "Spiders" is hilarious, especially in the first third (it gets less funny and more action-oriented toward the end), but it's also terrifying. The humor is in the words, the horror in the situations, and it works surprisingly well. The genre of horror humor is pretty sparse to begin with, but books like this one show that the two don't have to be mutually exclusive. Both humor and fear draw their impact from surprise. We laugh more at jokes when we don't know the punchline ahead of time; we don't fear the monster we see as much as the monster we don't see. Wong the author understands the similarities between the two states and takes us on a wild ride to the end of the world and back again.
At the risk of big ole SPOILERS:
"Spiders" is a book about zombies. The brain parasites that begin multiplying through the town can reanimate their dead hosts, exist only to expand their numbers, and can only be stopped by removing the head of the host or destroying the brain. The twist on these zombies is that the parasites change the physical make-up of their hosts, much like the alien in John Carpenter's "The Thing." The world reacts to the news of the zombie apocalypse much like you'd expect them too: by setting up anti-zombie militias and Tweeting.
I have to confess that as much as I enjoyed "Spiders," which is a more technically accomplished work than its predecessor, on the whole I prefer "John Dies At The End." I'm just not that into zombies, and we've reached such a pop-culture saturation point with them that I've lost whatever small interest I may have had with them (and it was a very small interest, because as we've established, I'm a massive pansy).
As far as zombie apocalypses go, "Spiders" is fairly standard, from the shady government goons who may hold the key to the cure, right up to the stirring action movie climax. And if you like that sort of thing, you'll love this book. Wong is clearly versed in the tropes of the zombie genre (zomb-re?) and his love and appreciation for his source material shines through in this well-crafted addition to the cannon. It's done well. It's just been done.
Final Grade: B. Recommended for zombie fans, horror fans, readers of Cracked, and people who like dick-jokes.