It’s not often that I find myself on a quest.
To go on a quest, you have to really want something: fame, fortune, fair lady’s hand. But I am a confirmed bachelor, happily sedated with a bowl of PastaRoni and a second playthrough of Borderlands 2. No unfulfilled desire could rouse me from my slacker lifestyle.
Oh, fool that I was to think such thoughts.
Firstly, lets ride the recollection train a few months into the past. P13RCE and I are hanging out, and he shows me his new Kindle. I flip through his library and an interesting title catches my attention.
“John Dies At The End?” I ask.
“Yeah, I saw that on Amazon, looked neat.”
I flip to the first page and a half, which features a reanimated corpse and a fork-eating slug, among other things. I am intrigued.
So cut to a month ago, when I discover that the author has written a second book, and I realize that I am Getting Behind in my fiction reading. I allay my fears by checking out ten books, John Dies At The End at the top of the stack.
And then, as I always do when I check out more than half a dozen novels, I forgot about them for a few weeks.
But then Ol’ Man Due Date came a’knocking, and I realized I needed to
so I picked up John Dies At The End, which steadfastly refused to be renewed and picked up where I had left off. The rest of the chapter described an encounter with a demonic monster made of deer tongue and bratwurst.
I immediately chided myself for not starting this book sooner.
I tore through the book. Its blend of absurd humor and eldritch horror creates a mixture that fits me to a T.
But herein lies the unfortunate Inciting Incident.
I had 70 pages left in the book, and I brought it with me when I went to work at the library, as I had done several other days before. I would pull it out during my break, the 10-15 pages I could read brought a much-needed infusion of weird into my day.
But when I went to grab the book for my break, it was nowhere to be found.
Then I realized I didn’t remember checking in the items that I had been returning when I came in the morning. While I had tended to one of my morning tasks, someone had taken the stack of items I’d brought in, including John Dies At The End, and checked them all in.
I leaped to the catalog to see where it had vanished to. With dismay, I realized that it wasn’t on our branch’s shelves, but was in transit to one of the other branches. I ransacked the transit bins, trying to find it, but the book had already left for the other branch. Worse, it was on hold for somebody else.
I looked to see if we had any other copies in the system.
I checked my other go-to library system. Did they have a copy available?
Now, normally, I’m a perfectly ethically-minded, law-abiding citizen. But keep me from finishing a good story and something…changes.
After a while, I decided there was no practical way that I could chase down the courier and run him off the road or sneak around the other library branch and reclaim the book, so I started thinking of less drastic ways to get my hands on the novel.
Once I was finished with work, I took off for Half Price Books. I was already in Whiteland, so it wasn’t that much further to go…
I scoured the shelves for half an hour. There were a number of different places it could have been shelved…fiction, science fiction, fantasy, horror, humor, clearance, paperback, large type…
Next I went across the street to Barnes and Noble. A large multi-national bookstore chain had to have John Dies At The End, right?
Well, not hardback, anyway. I did find one paperback copy on the shelf. I picked it up, doing my best to stave off the feverish addict shivers, and turned to where I’d left off. I just needed a couple pages, just a little fix, just a little…
Ten pages later, riding on the story high, paranoia set in. The bookstore staff were clearly on to me. Every passing footstep was that of the approaching book-police, ready to take me to their Vegas-casino-style interrogation room to rough me up and bar me from ever setting foot in the chain ever again.
Despite the obvious dangers, I was tempted to read the book five pages at a time in different sections, throwing them off the scent with my clever ruse. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to pretend that the book you’re reading came from the art history shelf when there’s a severed arm on the cover.
I mean, sure, I could have bought it, but really? $17 for a paperback? Even a fiction junkie like me has to draw the line somewhere.
And just like that, I remembered…there was another bookstore in Greenwood. Well, north Greenwood. Okay, in Indy.
My wheels shrieked as I whipped out of the mall’s parking lot. I would find this book if it took all day. Which was looking more likely, as two and a half hours had already passed.
After another 10 minutes of driving, I realized I had taken a wrong turn out of the mall and had gone east, not north. But all was not lost. There was a Walmart here! Walmarts have books, right?
Walmarts does not have books. At least, not the book I wanted. I gassed up the car, which was low on gas, for completely unrelated reasons. Cough.
I backtracked back to 31 and rocketed north to the last bookstore within reasonable driving distance. My last hope. I felt the tremors starting again. I HAD TO FINISH THAT BOOK. I had to know: How did John Dies At The End end? I told myself not to look too closely at that question.
I pulled into yet another bookstore and rushed in. No longer messing around with the idle shelf-checking, I asked the cashier if they had the book.
“What’s the title again?”
“John Dies At The End?”
Pause. Computer typing. Pause.
Pause. Computer typing. Pause. Typing. Pause.
“You say David Wong?” He smiles.
“Yes. Do you have it?”
“Heh. Wong.” He looks at the computer again. “Nope.”
I returned to my car, dejected and breaking out in a cold sweat. “BOOK. NEED.” was as far as my thought processes went at this point. But three hours had passed and my best bet seemed to be Barnes and Noble. $17 for a paperback.
And I might have paid it, too.
But before I decided to give in to their mad capitalistic ways, I stopped in at Half Price Books again. Maybe I’d missed a copy somewhere…
“You don’t have John Dies At The End, do you?” I asked the cashier, a bearded fellow not much older than me.
Instead of the computer, he lets his gaze rise up to ceiling, deep in thought. “You know, I think I saw a copy just the other day.”
I was afraid to let myself hope, but hope I did. He went back to the unprocessed books on the other side of the store. He rooted through over a dozen huge piles of books, finally presenting a copy of the very book I had sought these many hours.
“This what you’re looking for?”
I almost cried.
Then I took my much more moderately priced copy of the book to the register, checked out (for $8, not $17) and went home to finish the book, daring hell or high water to interrupt me.
Luckily for hell and high water, they didn’t.
* * *
I loved the book. You might not.
John Dies At The End is about David and John, a couple of midwest slackers/paranormal shitstorm-defusers, a mind-enhancing drug called ‘soy sauce’ (which may or may not be alive), a transdimensional monstrosity called Korrok, a bratwurst poltergeist, an exploding Jamaican, carniverous wig-monsters, and too many other crazy and terrifying things to list here.
We don’t really rate books like movies, but this one would be a solid R for language, crude humor, violence, and really disturbing imagery.
If those things don’t discourage you (or if they’re a plus for you), check it out…well, you might have some trouble getting hold of it, but it’s worth the trouble.
Now to find the sequel: This Book Is Full Of Spiders (Seriously, Dude, Don’t Touch It).