Oct 16 2012 1:00pm

You Can Go Ahead and Touch This Book is Full of Spiders

 A review of This Book is Full of Spiders by David Wong / Jason ParginDavid Wong (pseudonym of author and Cracked.com senior editor Jason Pargin) is back in action on another brilliant and ridiculous adventure in an undisclosed American small town that’s infested with scary, scary things. This Book is Full of Spiders. Seriously, Dude, Don’t Touch It is the hilarious, twisted, and heartfelt follow-up to the cult classic John Dies at the End. Both novels follow David and John; a couple of twenty-something college dropouts working at a video rental store by day, and battling inter-dimensional monsters by night. This time around, the monsters are a wild horde of parasitic spider-like fiends sometimes called “spider creatures,” sometimes “spiders,” sometimes “those f*cking spider monsters.”

One day, David wakes up to one of these terrifying, parasitic non-spider/spider critters attacking him in his bed. Turns out it's only one of many terrifying, parasitic non-spider/spider critters looking to inhabit human hosts. As the spiders spread and find hosts panic ensues – panic, followed by fear, followed by a citywide quarantine. David, John, and David’s girlfriend, Amy, soon find out that there are even scarier monsters afoot, including human villains with nefarious plans!

Without going into spoiler-y details I’ll say that Spiders combines some of the best themes and plot devices from all your favorite mass hysteria-based storylines (ie: zombies, epidemics, witch hunts, etc.) laced with justified and drug-enhanced conspiracy theory paranoia. It’s sort of Dawn of the Dead meets A Scanner Darkly meets The Crucible meets Beethoven. (did I mention there’s an awesome dog?) And, if you like it when books get meta-fictional, stick around for the epilogue – you’re in for a real treat. Yes, this book is technically a sequel, but don’t freak out. You do not need to read John Dies at the End to understand what’s going on. In fact, as stated in the book trailer for Spiders, the main character actually gives you a pass on not reading the first book.

“If you don’t know who I am, that’s perfect. That means you didn’t read the previous book in this saga which, to be frank, doesn’t paint me in the best light. No, don’t go read it now. It’s better if we get a fresh start. So, hello, stranger! I’m pleased to have this fresh opportunity to try to convince you I’m not a shithead.”

I read Spiders first and then went back and read John Dies and I can tell you from experience that you’re in good hands either way. As a stand-alone story I think Spiders is the way to go.

If you're not up for reading either one of them, you're still in luck!  There is a film version of John Dies at the End, directed by Don Coscarelli (Phantasm, Bubba Ho-tep, etc.) It premiered at Sundance earlier this year and should get a wide release very soon. But while you’re waiting, if you want something similar, I’d say you rent The Hidden and The Cabin in the Woods. These books are sorta like that.

Fair warning, there’s a good amount of swearing in these books, some decidedly weird drug use, a lot of un-erotic male nudity, and people getting shot in the face.

Structurally speaking, Spiders is… a novel. As compared to what, you ask? As compared to John Dies at the End. A little history for you: Wong published his debut online in serial between 2001 and 2005. Every Halloween he added more to the saga until he revised and collected it into a single story. What that means is John Dies at the End has three separate climaxes, while This Book is Full of Spiders has a single explosive one. As a fan of the traditional novel plot structure I found that Spiders has a more effective and cohesive storytelling structure. Then again, some insatiable blog reading-types may be into the meander-y, episodic feel of John Dies at the End.

There are some really cool philosophical questions and unconventional narrative devices that Wong played with in his first book, he revisits them in Spiders, but with smoother set ups and better executed reveals. The bad guys are also more complex, the rules of the supernatural elements are more consistent and constrained, and all of the clever stuff lands dead on.

In my humble (correct) opinion, the biggest improvement between John Dies at the End and Spiders is Amy. (Relax, Whovians. Wrong time travel franchise.) Amy is smart, interesting, and eager to kick some ass, but in Spiders she ventures off by her badass (though justifiably terrified) self and hacks the planet like a mothafuckin’ genius:

Amy glanced around at the computer workstations and suddenly had a revelation that made her feel like Neo in The Matrix, the first time he realized he had gained the power to stop bullets.

So, ignore the subtitle Seriously Dude, Don't Touch It. Go get This Book is Full of Spiders – seriously touch it, pick it up, read it.

Ali Fisher is a correspondent for Tor.com and lives in New York. 

Disclaimer: Ali Fisher is a Macmillan employee.

Jeremy Goff
1. JeremyM
I was so excited because I got this book from you guys and I had no idea that I had won it or that it was coming. There's nothing better than coming home to a surprise book on your door step. I haven't had a chance to read it yet, but I can't wait to after reading this. Thanks!
Juan Avila
2. Cumadrin
I just received the ARC of this book that I won from one of Tor.com's giveaways yesterday. I was up 'til 6 am this morning reading it. I didn't quite finish, but I feel my sleep-deprived state will better allow me to relate and appreciate the characters' struggle with the spider infestation.

I haven't read John Dies at the End, but I have to say Spiders is a good incentive to convince me to do so. I literally choked laughing exactly 2.5 times last night, and I only made it to page 271.

Would recommend this book to my mortal enemy.
Matthew B
3. MatthewB
Throw the works of Lovecraft, Douglas Adams, Kevin Smith, and Stephen King in a blender with some ice and a peyote button, and "John Dies at the End" is what you'll get.

I haven't picked up this one yet, but i loved John Dies at the End back when it was just a web serial. I bought a copy just to say thanks when it came out in print. I will be getting Spiders too.
Chris Hawks
4. SaltManZ
I found John Dies at the End on the clearance rack at Half Price Books earlier this year, and (having heard of it) I picked it up and quickly read the first page and a half. I was SOLD.

The book was great, despite its episodic nature. I just got my copy of SPIDERS yesterday (thanks again!) and am glad to hear it's a more cohesive novel this time. Looking forward to diving in!
Ali Fisher
5. alifisher
Excellent! I'm so glad you guys all have copies!! I was hooked after the first page and couldn't put it down until I finished it, so hopefully none of you guys have weekend plans...

@Cumadrin You'll be choke-laughing for the rest of the book, but it definitely gets darker.

@MatthewB The swarm of parasitic monsters in this one are a little less Lovecraftian/Is. of Doctor Moreau-ish, but they're much more terrifying. Seems like Wong/Pargin sacrificed some of the silliness for scariness. Peyote button still functional.

@SaltManZ Totally. And yeah, if you weren't into the eposodic structure of JDatE, you should be good with TBiFoS. It's much more traditionally novel-like in that sense.

Report back after you start reading!
Lorraine Ochoa
6. MommyWoman
For the love of God, how can I win a copy?

A Currently Financially Embarassed Mom
Ali Fisher
7. alifisher
@MommyWoman There was a sweepstakes running here: http://www.tor.com/blogs/2012/09/this-book-is-full-of-spiders-sweepstakes. I'm not sure if they've run out of copies yet, but it's worth a try.

Steven Halter
8. stevenhalter
Just finished both of these. Excellent (albeit dark) fun.
Chris Hawks
9. SaltManZ
Finished it earlier this month. It was definitely tighter-focused than the first book, but a lot of the zaniness that made JOHN DIES so unique was consequentially sacrificed. The result was much more your standard zombie apocalypse-type novel, albeit with the Wong touch. I enjoyed it, but not to the extent that I did the first. Thanks for the book!
10. Tannen
I wish I had a copy of this book, I really enjoyed John Dies at The End.

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