Thursday, December 6, 2012

This Book Review Is Full Of Spiders

Anyone fortunate enough to not heed the warning subhead on This Book Is Full Of Spiders by David Wong (a.k.a. Jason Pargin) is in for a wild ride and maybe a sleepless night. The subhead — Seriously, Dude, Don't Touch It — ought to be dismissed outright even if the author (or this reviewer) will not accept any responsibility whatsoever for whatever may or may not happen to you in the minutes immediately following.

Suffice to say that the comically-inclined para-unnormal slacker Wong is back, but he isn't back with the same unsteady hand that penned a web serial-turned-book or writes for Cracked. No, not this time.

Freed from the constraints of the daily grind after the film rights to his first book sold, Pargin proves he is not the same stream-of-conscious short-content author. There is much more to his second novel than sophomoric humor, sarcastic cliches, and silly imagination (even if there is plenty of that too).

This Book Is Full Of Spiders will spin your head around inside out.

Although the framework of the plot is nothing overtly uncommon — a semi-relunctant protagonist is pitted against a sinister force and must save the world by overcoming insurmountable odds in a small and boring town that nobody ever heard of — everything about the story is as fresh and grisly as sausage making. Even the once apathetic Wong steps up. He's still a slacker, but takes his abilities seriously.

The best of Pargin remains intact. This Book Is Full Of Spiders has its fair share of meat, poop, naked people, and penis jokes. But what it mostly doesn't have are the overt editorial interjections that sometimes disrupted the first book, as funny as they could be. By removing tangents, Pargin's second book leaves more room for reader intuition, imagination and, well, equally unhealthy obsessions with insects (or arachnids in this case).

As alluded to in the trailer, Wong finds himself besieged by spiders almost immediately. Except, they aren't spiders exactly. Wong gives a better account in the book. Spider only becomes the operative word because there is nothing else like them on the planet. Besides, how they look is less important than what they do.

These spiders, which are keenly interested in Wong until an unfortunate officer responding to a neighborhood disturbance becomes a better target, are parasitic puppet masters. They either eat you, breed in you, or turn you into a shambling and sometimes augmented sack of deadly meat that bears a striking resemblance to zombies. (Sometimes they do a little of all three. It's all very random.)

Most people don't even know it's happening until it's too late. As other-dimensional creatures, nobody can see them except Wong and his best friend John Cheese. They can see them because of their past affliction and minor addiction to a substance better known as "Soy Sauce." (The really good stuff.)

Soy Sauce, among other properties and side effects, gives anyone who survives it the ability to see dead people or, in this case, parasitic puppet master insects that look a little bit like lobsters but mostly act like possession-bent skull spiders. Being able to see them has advantages and disadvantages, especially when most of the world thinks you skipped too many sessions with your court-ordered therapist.

Unfortunately for Wong, his house is ground zero for what is quickly recognized by anyone seeing a breaking news segment as a real-life zombie apocalypse (even if it isn't). This is patently perfect because the similarities give Wong enough breathing room to weave in pointed observations about the current pop culture fascination with zombies but without any trappings or limitations.

It's a brilliant little split, especially because most of the world is treating the pandemic like a zombie apocalypse, even if Wong and Cheese (and later Wong's girlfriend and a few others) know better. The pathogen isn't a contagion. It's puppet time, brought on by hundreds and thousands of big and little spiders doing what they do as part of an even deeper plot to put humanity through a wood chipper.

Is there a right and a Wong way for this author?

Some people who bounced along with Wong in the always unpredictable John Does At The End will be a bit miffed by the more linear trajectory of This Book Is Full Of Spiders. For them, the entertaining and often thoughtless absurdity of it all made for a good time.

This Book Is Full Of Spiders retains much of the humor (although sometimes more subtle) but without any of the sloppiness. (A few people even called the back two-thirds of the book 'serious.') Serious is a strong word for the world of Wong. He is more mature as an author and the writing is polished, but there are still plenty of surprises and laugh-out-loud moments in his new comedic horror. It's a fair trade because Pargin proves he can master the craft.

This Book Is Full Of Spiders Bites 8.2 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.

Although people who read this book first won't have the full benefit of the unadulterated background of Soy Sauce, This Books Is Full Of Spiders can easily stand alone on all eight or so legs. It's easily one of the funnest books published this year, showing another side of Pargin and giving others a better introduction if they like tighter writing. Otherwise, John Dies At The End is the less structured gateway to a world unlike any other.

Either way, Wong is an addictive presence. And in this book, he gives more space to Cheese, Amy Sullivan, and newcomer Lance Falconer. This Book Is Full of Spiders: Seriously, Dude, Don't Touch It is out on Amazon and can be found at Barnes & Noble. The book can also be downloaded for iBooks or as an audiobook. Narrator Nick Podehl is a perfect David Wong, but also does a splendid job as other characters. It's a must read for anyone who appreciates comedic horror with a tinge of insect exploitation.
blog comments powered by Disqus