Thursday, September 26, 2013

Book Review: This Book is Full of Spiders

Or to give it the full title, This Book is Full of Spiders: Seriously, Dude, Don't Touch It.

So, my name is Matt, and I am an Arachnophobic.  Spiders really freak me out, in a way that pretty much nothing else does; just watching them move makes me recoil in horror. Z had to hold my hand through parts of The Return of the King, for instance, and vanquishing even the smallest crawling horror in the bathroom can feel like a major, storming-the-beachheads triumph. Whatever my rational self things, a large part of primitive monkey-man me views them as freaky aliens that have no right to live on this planet. So, reading a book who's plot involves parasitic aliens spiders that turn nest in your head and turn you into a monster may not have been the smartest thing rational me ever did.

So, Spiders is the followup to John Dies at the End, again featuring Dave, his best friend John (spoiler for the first book, I guess!), and girlfriend Amy, as they wind up in the middle of an infestation of their hometown of Undisclosed by aforementioned inter-dimensional spider things. As things go from bad to worse, to cataclysmically awful, the book maintains the same splatter-horror/comedy vibe of the first whilst still playing around knowingly with all the conventions it can find to mess with. And of course it all ends up in weirdly transcendent, over-the-top finale that either does, or doesn't make any sense at all, depending on how you look at it.

Part of the charm is that Dave has to be one of the most unreliable narrators I've ever come across. There is a section towards the end where he pretty much admits that he's making some stuff up, and that one of the characters is heavily fictionalized, although its unclear what, exactly he's changing. After all, the story involves a lot of stuff appearing on National TV,  and a full on quarantine zone around Undisclosed, so clearly something happened and not all of it can be in Dave's head. Can it?

What we have on the face of it is another Zombie outbreak that isn't. I mean, it's got all the hallmarks of Zombie fiction, the infections, the quarantines, the collapse of civilization and half-baked military responses, but of course the book is at pains to point out that it's not Zombies, and calling them that is stupid. It's freaky spider parasites, of course. Freaky spider-parasites that can mutate into a horrible flesh-monster and splatter people freely around the scenery.

The whole thing is wonderfully nuts - a bit like John Dies at the End I'm never sure if some of the woolly prose is deliberate, as reality gets messed with and Dave intentionally dissembles, or if the author just doesn't care too much whilst he ploughing on with his Gonzo Horror epic. But on balance, I don't really care; I'm not a huge horror fan and I'n not genre savvy enough to get the all the jokes, but This Book is Full of Spiders is still a rolling good ride, and I really enjoyed it. Bastard Evil Spiders and all.