Phenomenally interesting and original read. Apart from some well-worn writing cliches scattered throughout, I thought the story itself was great and k...morePhenomenally interesting and original read. Apart from some well-worn writing cliches scattered throughout, I thought the story itself was great and kept my interest through to the end. It starts a little slow and quite mainstream, but halfway through the book, things start to happen that make you suddenly lock in and all of a sudden you're unable to put the book down. It has aspects of surrealism and shockingly violent scenes that mix in well with the ordinary day-to-day struggles of our dear protagonist.
Our protagonist? A fellow named Ricky Rice, a down-on-his-luck recovering heroin addict who, let's suffice to say, is looking for something more meaningful in his life and a way to get out of his present crappy situation. He's immensely likeable and you can't help but root for him.
Overall - the book has some stretches where you really want to just speedread through, but in the end I'm pleased and glad I picked this one up.
EDIT: I'm adding a postscript here to say that this book has really grown on me in the months since I finished reading it. It's hardly one of those books you put down and forget. It really stays with you. A fine-wine thing, maybe?(less)
Finished. Finally. Blazed through the last 300 pages like a half-pissed zombie who had skipped his meds once too many times. That's not a compliment,...moreFinished. Finally. Blazed through the last 300 pages like a half-pissed zombie who had skipped his meds once too many times. That's not a compliment, by the way.
In the beginning: I was thoroughly intrigued to drop some $20 on the book when I came across a thread on Reddit.com that tackled the topic of all-time best book beginnings, and in the mix of the usual "Call me Ishmael" and "The man in dark fled across the desert and the gunslinger followed" stuff was this incredibly intoxicating start to John Dies at the End. Something to do with a zombie and an axe and how the axe's head had been replaced, and then the axe's shaft had been replaced, and then a brilliant question as to whether the zombie was killed by the very same axe or not.
That intrigued me. Something clever and energizing and a bit original, and a very well-written start to what I thought might be one of the more fun novels I'd have the pleasure to read.
But that point - the point before I even started reading it - was the high point of the novel for me. Perhaps I can be faulted for having my expectations too high, and I've been guilty of that far too many times for my liking, but still, I was disappointed with this book.
Two things I particularly didn't like. First, the book had far too many weird and grotesque situations just for their own sake. The same feeling that I got when I watched a David Lynch movie and thought: "OK, Mr. Lynch, I like you, but you're just being a little too weird. Wanna take it down a notch a bit?" And instead of taking it down a notch, Mr. Wong cranked it up a notch.
And second, as a writer and a strong believer in the "show don't tell" dictum, I was surprised how many times Mr. Wong just told me about a character and their actions and their physical descriptions, rather than describing it in such a way that I could paint it in my head. That's right, I felt as if I were just reading words on paper. Which I was, for nearly 500 pages.
Sorry to say that I really wanted to like this book and I appreciated the honest desire of David Wong to write a book and get it out there - in fact, kudos to him for doing so while working as a data entry clerk or some other such job - but in the end, I found it a very mediocre novel. Call me a book snob if you will, but I hoped this would enlighten me, and it didn't.
And stop reading here if you haven't read the book and you don't like spoilers.
This is a SPOILER ALERT.
Stop reading now.
Abandon all hope if ye read beyond here:
One of the driving factors in the book for me was the title itself. John Dies At The End. I thought that was an immensely clever title. It had me thinking in a very Vonnegutian way that John indeed does die at the end and that's what kept me going. I wanted to see how he would die.
And this is one more spoiler alert for those of you who didn't get the hint.
He didn't die at the end. That really, really spoiled it for me.(less)
Really enjoyed this book, if for nothing more than the crackling prose. I found Eggers' writing to be bordering on hipsterish style - if that makes an...moreReally enjoyed this book, if for nothing more than the crackling prose. I found Eggers' writing to be bordering on hipsterish style - if that makes any sense - in that it seemed to try and be too clever, but at the very least I appreciated the effort and enjoyed the story thoroughly.
Also, the staggering gall of Eggers (or his publishers at least) in naming this book gave it many points in my, uh, book. Definitely worth reading.(less)
This book shook me to my very bones. I was a young man of about 25 working at a coffee kiosk in Victoria, BC, and reading The Unbearable Lightness of...moreThis book shook me to my very bones. I was a young man of about 25 working at a coffee kiosk in Victoria, BC, and reading The Unbearable Lightness of Being, when one of my customers suggested Life is Elsewhere as a Kundera book I'd probably like. It got me right in the jugular, and probably was a perfect storm for me. If I had read it a few years earlier or a few years later it may not have had the resonance it did have, and I don't even plan to read it again, because I know a re-read would ruin the first experience I had with this book.
Everyone has a "when I was young and impressionable" experience with culture - for me, Kundera and Vonnegut were those, and Life is Elsewhere and Cat's Cradle are the two books that opened two new worlds for me.(less)