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Literature / John Dies at the End

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"You're on it right now? That's how you did the thing with the, uh, with the coins and the dream and all that earlier?"
"Yeah. I took some today. It's fading though."
"So the effects don't last that long."
side effects don't last that long. The effects will last the rest of my life, I think... Maybe longer."
David Wong, referring to the Soy Sauce

John Dies at the End is a web serial-turned-published-book by author David Wong (actually Jason Pargin, former head editor of Cracked), written in autobiographical style and narrated by a character named David Wong about him and his best friend's adventures featuring the paranormal.

Dave and John are two college dropouts living in the middle of an "Undisclosed" town in Illinois. John is a deranged, irresponsible, carefree slacker/rocker/drug enthusiast; Dave is an apathetic, bored, snarky, withdrawn young man with a traumatic past and the tendency to get dragged along with whatever John happens to be doing. After a run-in with a living hallucinogenic drug at a party, the pair gain the ability to see ghosts, demons, and into other dimensions. Hilarity Ensues. So does violence. And monsters. And weirdness. And swearing. And an unbelievable amount of dick jokes and Toilet Humor.

The book was available for free at this website, but now that it's been published, it was replaced with a humorous promotional blog addressing the (supposed) rumors that the events of the story really happened.note 

Three sequels to the book have been released as of 2022: This Book Is Full of Spiders: Seriously, Dude, Don't Touch It, What the Hell Did I Just Read: A Novel of Cosmic Horror, and If This Book Exists, You’re in the Wrong Universe.

David Wong is also the author of Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits, an unrelated science fiction novel that has a similar sense of humor.

A film adaptation of the book directed by Don Coscarelli was released on January 25, 2013. Its trailer can be watched here on Cracked.

And hello to those of you from Cracked!

John Dies at the End provides examples of:

  • Abnormal Ammo: When John and Dave get somewhat famous due to the Sauce, people begin sending them bizarre things. One of them is a package of explosive bullets for David's pistol. Later, John uses the Soy Sauce's properties to convert a Super Soaker into a proper flamethrower. Finally, the heroes blow up Korrok's universe with dog shit.
  • Adventure Duo: Dave is more serious and literal-minded (to the point of missing blatant clues), a trait he credits to an array of negative character traits. John is flat-out crazy and rolls better with the insane crap pitched at them, but he also lacks some common sense.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Korrok is a violent, tyrannical, evil, petty, narcissistic, sadistic, racist, homophobic, know-it-all organic supercomputer from another dimension, with the maturity of a 13-year-old playing an online game. It's a tower of flesh and nerves bigger than the Statue of Liberty, wants to rule the entire multiverse, and eats people wrapped in bacon.
  • Aliens in Cardiff: Korrok invades our dimension in Undisclosed, an unnamed town in the American midwest.
  • Alternate History:
    • Other universes are often alternate histories where one or more important details have changed, resulting in often-cataclysmic differences from our own world. For example, Korrok comes from a world where Organic Technology was fully mastered. He's an out-of-control supercomputer.
    • The Shadow Men exist out of time and can make changes in history that echo in the present. Arnie mentions to Dave near the end of the book that he vaguely remembers false memories of John Paul II dying during the assassination attempt and being replaced by a black pope who adopts the name Leo; he also suspects that the timeline was recently altered to add the complete history of video games, which he personally doesn't remember noticing until about five years ago. Much more threateningly, the Shadow Men threaten to suddenly change the timeline to kill Amy if David does not back off.
  • All There in the Manual: The website and several forum comments by the author (and John Cheese, who, as the name suggests, is who John is based off of) detail the back story and side stories of the novel. Impressively, revelations in the novel make throwaway gags in the preview updates much, much creepier.
  • Always Someone Better: Dr. Marconi, a rich and respected former priest, archaeologist, and ass-kicker of the demonic and undead. He resembles the typical Lovecraft protagonist, especially Prof. Armitage, and likely would be the hero in a traditional Lovecraftian take on the story.
  • And Then John Was a Zombie: Dave, in the ending, turns out to be the one who was dead - and he was killed halfway through the novel, to be replaced by a Korrok clone… whom people seem to think preferable to the original.
  • Angel Unaware: Possibly Molly, if "Fred Durst" in the end was really her. The sequel implies it isn't.
  • Anti Anti Christ: When the pair finally get dragged to meet Korrok, it turns out they're Chosen Ones... for allowing Korrok to cross into their universe. They're definitely not down with that idea.
  • Anti-Hero: Dave isn't the greatest guy, and he does some pretty nasty stuff here and there. However, he does enough good to escape being a mere Designated Hero, even if many of his bravest deeds were performed by Monster Dave, and isn't too bad a guy at all when not forced into universe-threatening circumstances.
  • Anyone Can Die: As a result of Cloning Blues, almost every named character (including John, though, ironically, at the beginning, not the end, and he comes back anyway) dies at one point in the novel, most of them onscreen.
  • Arbitrary Skepticism:
    • Somewhat justified, since the majority of the mail that John and Dave get are from bona fide crazies who give them nothing useful.
    • Arnie still seems very dubious of David's story even after David shows him a Wig Monster. It takes David a good deal of luck to convince him from not turning and leaving. It turns out that Arnie really wanted to believe him all along and was just looking for Dave to provide a strong case.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: "Describe yourself to me, Arnie. Physically. Tell me what you look like".
  • Artifact Title: The book originated as a piece of Web Original fiction in which at one point John did die at the end. It just kept going after that point and John quickly got better.
  • ASCII Art: John is proficient with it. Also used in the story to depict the pi-symbol Korrok uses to mark cloned humans and animals. There's a short segment in which there's a passage quoted by a tribe about Korrok - the reasoning is that it's supposed to be Korrok angrily projectile vomiting and pissing at the same time. (Turn the pi symbol on its side, so the curvy part is down).
  • Asshole Victim: Billy Hitchcock, David's tormentor and possible rapist, who Dave clawed the eyes out of and caused him to commit suicide later. Sealing a dog's eyes and mouth shut with a glue gun is the LEAST assholish thing about him...
  • Author Avatar: David Wong. In a book written by David Wong.
  • Badass Preacher: Definitely Dr. Marconi.
  • Bad to the Last Drop: David compares the taste of John's coffee to a cup of battery acid that someone had pissed in and then cursed at for several hours.
  • Berserk Button: Dave snaps and brutally beats down a guy who describes Amy as a liability that he should abandon.
  • Better than a Bare Bulb: Part of the plot when Arnie realizes that Dean Koontz has been writing fiction about Shadow Men lately, much like the ones in Dave's story, and calls out Dave on it. This is done in part because the early versions, according to the author, were a little too close to Dean Koontz's style of plot, down to Molly being an intelligent golden retriever instead of an "Irish rust dog".
  • Big Bad: Korrok.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Happens offscreen to four college students. Dave and John are unimpressed.
  • Bio Punk: Shit Narnia is an alternate Earth where technology branched off into this.
  • Black Comedy:
    • The universe imminently ending is no reason to keep from laughing at the sheer ridiculous horror of the circumstances.
    • David notes early on that the otherworldly forces plaguing him have a very dark and juvenile sense of humor
  • Blessed with Suck: Anyone that consumes the Soy Sauce will become hyper aware, gain powers that range from stopping time, being able to briefly affect events through time and space and overall warping of reality, those are just the side effects though, they are temporary, the actual effects last for life and cause users to see the real horrors of the universe and will probably cause them to lose their sanity in the process.
  • Blue-and-Orange Morality - Robert North and Korrok's worshipers, who, as a result of Korrok's calculations and predictions of events, have adjusted their morals - for example, stealing is okay in certain circumstances of his predictions, since the stolen object could hurt the owner or be used by the owner to hurt someone else. Doesn't apply to Korrok himself, however. He's just an enormous cock.
  • Body Horror:
    • Kicking off with the cop in the interrogation room whose body parts can detach and animate and remains a constant throughout the novel, culminating in alternate-universe humans who can instantly mutate victims from people to animals and whatever is behind those mask-wearing humans at Shit Narnia.
    • There's also the first chapter, in which Dave describes decapitating a neo-nazi cannibal with an axe, who comes back to life a year later for round two.
  • Bond One-Liner: John goes a bit overboard with chair puns when he gets the chance, even deliberately going into battle again after escaping just because he thought of one more and couldn't bear to leave it unsaid.
  • Book Safe: Dave keeps his gun in a hollowed-out Koran.
  • Breather Episode: The time between the trip to Las Vegas and returning to Undisclosed... until the Shadow Men show up to be irritating again.
  • Brown Note: The prelude has John attempting to subdue a meat monster by playing "Here I Go Again" by Whitesnake on a boombox, with Dave comparing it to David's harp (which was once used as a tool of exorcism) in the Old Testament. Later, the heroes manage to stop Korrok's invasion in Las Vegas by playing a shitty song from John's shitty band, which not so much drives the demons insane as makes them stop and stare at them out of sheer annoyance.
  • Canon Discontinuity: The original, free, online sequel, John and Dave and the Temple of X'al'naa"thuthuthu, is being rewritten and expanded into the true, published sequel, and Dave has stricken the original from canon.
  • Cat Scare: Not in the story, but for the reader; while viewing the partially finished sequel (now available online again) on the website, highly disturbing faces pop onscreen unexpectedly at random intervals.
  • Chainsaw Good: Subverted. Dave asks himself if he could have gotten stuck in such a situation with a dumber weapon. He does, however, manage to slice off a guard's fingers with it, but drops it due to the kickback when it hits the guard's rifle.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • Many examples, and most of them don't play out the way you expect them to. For example, the footsteps and missing bullet in David's gun.
    • "Would you describe your own appearance to me?"
    • David seeing Todd in the broken TV at the fake Jamaican's place.
  • Chekhov's Gunman:
    • The dead person in the shed. Not only is there a mighty anticlimax (wherein Dave promptly drops investigating and just locks the shed), but the next chapter is a single paragraph lampshading that if he looked then, he would have killed himself on the spot (and hinting at its return).
    • Also, Robert North, who, after fleeing following a brief encounter, returns late Act 3.
  • Chick Magnet: John doesn't really try, but Dave mentions his numerous girlfriends and ability to attract women over the book and in the blog. It makes sense, John is a pretty fun guy.
  • Clap Your Hands If You Believe: Invoked and discussed in an odd manner. Dave mentions at one point that he's not sure if crosses and holy water repel the monsters because their wielders believe in them, or because the monsters do.
  • Cloning Blues: Dave discovers near the end of the book that he is the clone, rather than the dead Dave in his tool shed. He becomes depressed enough to contemplate suicide, but eventually gets over it with support from Amy and John (who jokingly refers to him as Monster Dave).
  • Cloudcuckoolander: John. Dave explains a number of his eccentricities and affectations, and we see dozens more throughout the story. David (badly) hides this fact for most of the first chapter, where John is acting oddly professional to a "client" who needs their services... if only so he can get in her pants. The main appeal of the story is the main characters' warped personalities interacting with ridiculous situations. And, of course, he answers his phone with random gibberish, claiming to throw off anyone who calls him, but is really just being a whacko.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: "Fuck that. Fuck that idea like the fucking Captain of the Thai Fuck Team fucking at the fucking Tour de Fuck".
  • City with No Name: Dave always refers to his town as "Undisclosed". Interestingly, the city was originally called Rockville until the author learned that there was a real city with that name, and his book was leading people to vandalize it.
  • The Collector of the Strange: David Wong eventually gets a garden shed full of things that simply should not exist. For instance, an issue of TIME magazine about the assassination of Bill Clinton.
  • Continuity Nod: To earlier versions of the story. The wide release finally reinstates the fan-favorite Badgerconda.
  • Copied the Morals, Too: This is what ultimately winds up dooming Korrok's plan to take over our dimension. Monster Dave kills and replaces the original Dave, but is such a perfect copy that he just winds up doing things more or less the way the original Dave would, which includes defeating Korrok.
  • Cosmic Horror Story: A bunch of geeks are desperately trying to fight off the invasion of an organic supercomputer Eldritch Abomination with the power to predict the future. What really pushes the plot into Cosmic Horror territory, though, is the fact that although individual incarnations of Korrok can be destroyed, he has already either been built in or taken over most of the infinite parallel universes, making it all but impossible to truly stop him. Then again, the one we know died to literal dogshit, implying he's lost an infinite number of times too. It also turns out that his allies, the Shadow Men, are dumbasses who are too good at cloning people, as shown by Monster Dave.
  • Crapsaccharine World: Shit Narnia, Korrok's home dimension (or at least one of them). The inhabitants live in peace and harmony, harness biotechnology, are very welcoming and kind... and serve a psychopathic eldritch abomination who seeks to conquer the multiverse, are horribly disfigured, and like to feed people to said abomination.
  • Crapsack World: The setting of the world is such that anything or anyone could suddenly appear for no explained reason, and 90% of the time it wants to kill you. 10% of the time it's actually friendly but you're so used to the other 90% you shoot it anyway.
  • Crazy Enough to Work: Many of John's plans. Lampshaded when the heroes decide to fight a ballroom full of wigmonsters by playing musical instruments.
    John: Guys, this is just retarded enough to work.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Anyone who is slain by the Shadow Men get erased from existence. The people who knew them can't even grieve because they've forgotten they knew them. Poor Todd.
  • Danger Takes a Backseat: This is how Robert North introduces himself.
  • Dead All Along:
    • We don't get to see all of the stuff that happens to them, but it apparently occurs enough that the main duo's attitude to this is "I hate it when they do that". Especially when it happens to Dave and Arnie.
    • While this isn't true from the reader's perspective, it applies to Amy's perception of Dave, as noted by John.
  • Deadly Bath: Invoked in the prologue to (lamely) try and get any monsters in the house John and Dave are investigating to attack them.
    John: Oh, no! It’s dark in here and here I am in the shower! Alone! I’m so naked and vulnerable!
  • Deadpan Snarker: John and Dave and Dave's subconscious, who constantly berates himself and interjects into the action. At times, Dave's subconscious seems like its own character.
  • Demonic Possession:
    • Which turns out to actually be Puppeteer Parasite using Korrok's Organic Technology.
    • What appears to be a Shadow Man briefly takes control of Dave, causing him to attack John and Krissy. The scary part is that Dave doesn't realize he's possessed, and thinks he's doing it on his own.
  • Devil, but No God:
    • It is alluded to in the first half, though as the main monsters featured in the story were created in an alternate timeline it may not be an actual example. The only reference to a God or something related is a letter from Krissy after the first half of Book Two, saying an Angel told her to send a cross necklace to David.
    • Early in the book, Dave seems to subscribe to this worldview himself, though it's notable that at the time his experience with "demonic" entities was all but non-existent.
      Morgan: You believe in Hell, Mr. Wong?
      Dave: Uh, yeah. I guess.
      Morgan: Why? Why do you believe in Hell?
      Dave: Because it's the opposite of what I want to believe.
    • And used more explicitly here:
      Amy: Are you scared?
      David: Pretty much all the time, yeah.
      Amy: Why? [...]
      David: Because I sort of looked into Hell, but I still don't know if there's a Heaven or not.
  • Discovering Your Own Dead Body: Dave eventually realizes he's a duplicate when he finds the body of the real Dave and fails to find the mark on the body's foot, instead finding it on himself.
  • Doing In the Wizard: Most of the fleshy creatures turn out to be genetically-engineered bio-weapons, but averted with the Shadow Men, who are dead spirits helping Korrok in turning the world into his personal shithole. Holy objects still affect them and whatever form they take, like most ghosts and demons. The only explanation is that they are "agents of discord" who find ordered things like music and formalized prayer or iconography extremely irritating.
  • Dogs Are Dumb: Molly, at first. It eventually goes to blatantly self-serving, to the point David thinks it's out to get him killed. Turns out, it was helping him.
  • Eat the Bomb: Molly eats the bomb that John and Dave make towards the end of the book, and they feed her some burritos in order to speed up its evacuation. The bomb reappears just in time for their escape from Shit Narnia.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: The book is notably different from its sequels in numerous ways:
    • It is notably more episodic than its follow-ups, containing three distinct story arcs, mostly as a result of its origins as a web serial.
    • The narration is very stream-of-consciousness, and makes extensive use of Narrative Filigree
    • This is the only book in the series to make use of a Frame Story.
    • The other books end with a conversation that acts as a massive Lampshade Hanging on Dave’s Unreliable Narrator, this one is more subtle about it.
  • Eldritch Abomination: Korrok, a skyscraper-sized congealment of organic material that looks like something you fish out of your garbage disposal, who seeks to conquer countless universes via nihilistic ghosts — it certainly doesn't help his case that he is a towering monstrosity able to predict the future and talk telepathically.
  • Every Car Is a Pinto: The good guys shoot at a car's gas tank to kill some nasty little Soy Sauce bugs biting their faces. This simply puts a hole in the gas tank, and they have to light the gas manually.
  • Everytown, America: The unnamed, ugly little town where John and Dave live.
    "Welcome to Undisclosed. Dreams Interpreted for Beer".
  • Eye Scream: When he was a kid, Dave relates to Amy why he was in the special ed school: He stabbed out the local Jerk Jock's eyeballs in revenge for what's heavily implied to be rape.
  • Feed It a Bomb: Dave and John begin to put a plan together to do this to Korrok, then Molly eats the bomb because they shaped it like a dog bone as a disguise. They take her along anyway.
  • First-Person Smartass: David Wong is a snarker to the Nth degree.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • You will die alone, with shit in your pants. He's talking to the Real Dave, who is killed by a doppelganger who replaces him halfway through the novel. When Monster Dave finds his original corpse, it stinks to high heaven, meaning he really DID shit his pants.
    • Dave mentions several times in the chase with the Shadow Men that Amy is grabbing his arm, however Amy is missing her left hand (the one that would be closest to him when she's in the passenger seat). This is because Amy has a ghost hand, which Dave can feel thanks to the Soy Sauce. The sequel offers another explanation: Amy's hand was Ret Goned when she was attacked by Shadow Men, retroactively causing her to lose her hand years earlier due to a car accident, and Dave can vaguely recall bits and pieces of the original timeline where Amy isn't crippled.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Subverted: John doesn't die at the end, just toward the beginning, but he gets better. Dave dies about halfway through the book, although we don't realize it until after the climactic showdown. Amy's clone dies at the end, though, and it saves John and Dave's home dimension from invasion, as her body was infected.
  • A Form You Are Comfortable With: Subverted. The inhabitants of Korrok's world are concerned their manner of dress will upset John and Dave, and so go naked except for hoods. Many of them are noted as being elderly. The whole effect just makes the experience stranger and more alien, especially when John sees what's under them.
  • Framing Device: The first book is framed as Dave telling his story to a reporter.
  • Genre Savvy: Dave and John, after the initial shock of seeing ghosts has worn off. One exception: they are apparently compelled to deliver inappropriate one-liners at every opportunity.
    "A key. Good. Now, if I know what's going on here, and I think I do, we'll have to wander around looking for that door. Behind it we'll meet a series of monsters or, more likely, a whole bunch of the same one. We'll kill them, get another key, and then it'll open a really big door. Now right before that we'll probably get nicer guns. It may require us to backtrack some and it might get really tedious and annoying".
  • Glamour Failure: If Molly is drinking out of the toilet, what just licked Dave's hand? Also one of the abilities conferred by the Sauce, as John and Dave gain the ability to see through supernatural disguises.
  • A Good Name for a Rock Band: Three Arm Sally. Another: "Fat Jackson's Flap Wagon," which is still spraypainted on the band van even though they've changed their name.
  • Gorn: An inordinate number of living things explode throughout the book.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: it is heavily implied that the Shadow Men, and even Korrok himself, even with all the power they have over multiple universes, are themselves pawns of something.
  • Groin Attack:
    • Shitload unleashes a torrent of these; apparently, during the fight, it doesn't occur to him to do anything else other than exploit this one weakness.
    • John claims he "dick whipped" some guys during a fight, though Dave wonders briefly if he meant that he whipped them in the dick, or with his dick. Later, in the final chapter, he clarifies this and threatens to whip a Hero of Another Story with his schlong like a stagecoach driver.
  • Hellgate: Shit Narnia Gate, actually. The elevator in the mall technically counts, as it leads to a multiversal bazaar of sorts, which itself leads to places like Shit Narnia... which might as well be Hell.
  • The Hero: John. Dave has a few moments, too.
  • Hero of Another Story: Played for Laughs in the end, where John and Dave get dragged off to another universe again, but leap out before they can get wrangled into saving the day. Four random college kids (whom Dave depicts, in his brief glimpse of them, as a thuddingly cliché Four-Temperament Ensemble) come along and save that universe instead.
  • Heroes Want Redheads: Molly is a red-furred Irish... dog of some sort, but the love interest is her red-headed owner, Amy Sullivan.
  • Heroic BSoD:
    • Dave, when he realizes that he's killed someone, stuffed their body in his tool shed, and now can't remember any of it. Ironically, being too freaked out to get a good look at the body actually saves Dave's life.
    • John, when he gets a look under Largeman's mask in Shit Narnia.
    • Arnold, when he realizes he may have been Dead All Along.
  • Heroic Self-Deprecation: Dave constantly berates himself for all manner of negative character traits, some true, some exaggerated.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: John and Dave, definitely.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Korrok's followers use perfect clones of humans, filled with flesh-eating parasites, to take over worlds. Robert North promptly shoots an Amy clone dead, which John and Dave toss into Korrok's followers, just as it bursts into parasites.
  • Homemade Flamethrower: Dave has a flamethrower consisting of a supersoaker full of lighter fluid and a barbeque starter. Amy wonders how it's supposed to kill demons if they're fireproof.
  • Humans Are Bastards: A recurring theme in the novel. It's the apparent motivation of the Shadow Men, as Shitload gives an impassioned speech on why Earth is the most terrifying place in existence.
    "Dude, I can't believe you ain't all paralyzed by the pure, naked horror of this place".
    After a long, long pause John said, "Uh, thank you".
  • Hurricane of Puns: While the main heroes exist in a World of Pun, John's chair-smashing rampage is punctuated by a hurricane of chair-related puns. After slamming the door on the wig monsters, he thinks up one more and opens the door back up to use it.
  • Hyper-Awareness: One of the side effects of Soy Sauce. It actually goes beyond even that, bordering on selective omniscience.
  • I Am Legion: The human hive in Book 1 refers to itself as Shitload because 'there's a shitload of us in here.'
  • I Know Mortal Kombat: At the mall, John starts acting like they're literally in a video game, down to advising the others to pick up any mushrooms with green dots they find.
  • Improbable Infant Survival: The dog version, with Team Pet Molly, who survives a miraculous amount of things. The ending strongly hints that Molly is actually a disguised angel, who takes on the form of Fred Durst to explain this (and a bunch of other stuff) to the narrator. Note when he says he's been "dogging" Dave around. Quotes included in the original text. May or may not be the case in the sequel, where Molly's Heroic Sacrifice is explicitly compared to Jesus and how martyrs unite people.
  • Improvised Weapon: "TestaMints," little mints that have Bible verses on them to be given to unsuspecting demons, a baseball bat with a Bible and tape recorder strapped to the end, a flamethrower made from a water spray gun, and after taking the Soy Sauce John and Dave make a bomb from ordinary household objects by analyzing their molecular structures.
  • Indy Ploy: The entire book. Lampshaded with “Do we really strike you as the type to plan things out ahead of time?”
    • Averted in the middle of the novel where John and Dave witness a little boy painfully melt, in graphic detail, and be turned into a pig for slaughter. It is so shocking that John lets out a "Mother. Fucker".
  • Invoked Trope: John and Dave decide (very loudly) to split up while trying to lure out a ghost that has eluded them. John takes a shower while loudly proclaiming that he hopes he does not get attacked while he is naked and vulnerable. Dave decides to take a nap because ghosts love to sneak up on sleeping people.
  • Kill It with Fire:
    • While being held prisoner by Shitload, John and Dave and crew think up a plan to douse him with Molotov cocktails. They're caught off guard his eyes popping out of his sockets, like snail eyes, and sort of stare... or, in Jennifer's case, meekly hurl it with so much force, it... rolls away harmlessly.
    • Later, when the hateful worm things are trying to burrow into Dave's arm, John douses it with booze and lights it, killing them.
    • John makes a flamethrower out of a super-soaker and uses it while spouting fire-based puns.
    • Every Car Is a Pinto is also subverted when they shoot the gas tank, and...gas spills out harmlessly while they wait for the trope to kick in. Then they light it.
  • Kill Us Both: Subverted. Monster Dave becomes suicidal when he realizes he is a Tomato in the Mirror, but John and Amy conspire to prevent that, and imply that the real Dave would have been too cowardly and self-serving to consider it.
  • Killed Off for Real: Interspersed with Cloning Blues so that nearly every named character can die onscreen, often violently.
  • Lampshade Hanging: Lots, for various reasons. A popular one ("You heard me" and "Hey, why not?") is to call out the sheer ridiculousness of the story.
  • Large Ham: The possessed pile of meat. A Large Ham in more ways than one.
  • Living Shadow/The Heartless: The Shadow Men are the ghosts of dead hateful beings from billions of alternate dimensions, who seek to add to their ranks by erasing people from time.
  • Lovecraft Lite: Much of the book features the same themes as Lovecraft: ungodly horrors screwing with hapless humans in a cruel, uncaring, malicious universe, filled with other malicious, cruel, uncaring humans. However, it's implied that this viewpoint is something the Shadow Men force upon people to get them to attempt to kill people working against them, and then themselves, and that they add to their ranks by instilling hatred in humans. And despite Korrok being an evil, Lovecraftian deity... in the end, he's more or less a whiny teenager obsessed with being "edgy". Who then gets blown up with dogshit. Literally.
  • Magic Versus Science: Played with. See trope entry.
  • Manic Pixie Dream Girl: John, for Dave, though his life, love or otherwise, is noticeably not improved.
  • Mix-and-Match Critters: The Wigmonster.
  • Moe:
    • Amy, who John notes is one of those innocent-looking girls who everyone wants to give a hug. invoked
    • Shelly Morris from the prologue is described much the same way... It probably goes away when she turns into snakes. It turns out she was specifically made to seem attractive to whoever was looking at her.
  • Money Spider and Crate Expectations: Parodied at the mall. John embraces the situation to the extent to mention the possibility of finding mushrooms resembling the 1up mushroom from Super Mario Bros.. Played down quite a bit from the original version, which was essentially a chapter-long parody of First Person Shooters and The Legend of Zelda. Justified because the demon who is creating the monsters is riding around in their friend, who they presume is mimicking a game in order to help them along.
  • Monster Clown: The Ronald McDonald decal that Dave sees.
  • Mood Whiplash: A bizarre and creepy sequence with Dave getting attacked by a non-existent (maybe) policeman is immediately followed by him buying a bratwurst and attempting to talk to John through it like a cell phone. Even the attack itself goes through this once the policeman's mustache detaches and starts flying and trying to bite Dave.
  • More Dakka: John and Dave first face down evil with whatever weapons they have on hand, but by the climax they're stocked to the nines with proximity explosive pistol rounds and a flamethrower made out of a Super Soaker. Though the improved firepower is somewhat selectively effective...
  • The Multiverse: Played straight, and with a lot of confusing jargon from the people/creatures who know the score.
  • Mysterious Watcher: North, who is actually an alien jellyfish who tried to make love to a chandelier and stops the infected, dead Amy from crossing over into David's world.
  • Named Like My Name: Jennifer Lopez, as revealed shortly after the character's introduction.
  • The Nicknamer: Dave comes up with humorous nicknames to describe various people and creatures he meets along the way. It's played for drama with Amy, whom he gave the cruel nickname "Cucumber" to in high school and comes to regret it.
  • Nightmare Fuel Coloring Book:
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Robert North; in Act 3 he undoes Korrok's plan by killing and throwing the infested Amy back to the other dimension on a whim because she's a clone, effectively saving Undisclosed from bug infestation and the universe from invasion. However, before he can explain, a furious John jams the Amy clone's spinal disc into him, painfully transforming him back into the chandelier-humping jellyfish.
  • No Name Given: There are a number of recurring characters who receive no name, though Dave usually gives them some sort of nickname. We do eventually learn the black detective's name, but Dave still refers to him as "Morgan Freeman". The large man in Shit Narnia is called "the large man" for a while, then "Largeman" and finally "Largey Largeman".
  • Oblivious to Hints: At the end, the guy who looks suspiciously like Fred Durst tells Dave that he's been "dogging" him the whole time. Dave is completely oblivious to the implication that he is talking to Molly in human form.
  • Odd Couple: Dave is a self-deprecating introvert, while John is a bombastic Miles Gloriosus. Their shared irreverance for mainstream culture makes them True Companions.
  • One-Paragraph Chapter: Chapter 10 is: "Looking back, if I had gone in and seen what was in the toolshed, I would have put a bullet in my own skull one minute later".
  • Organic Technology: Turns out, Korrok is the result of one man who utilized and perfected organic tech. Worlds taken over by him, or worship him, use them, such as adorable little kittens that heal injuries and giant spiders that serve as vehicles.
  • Our Demons Are Different They're either malevolent inter-dimensional ghosts of living shadow or humans turned into genetic experiments from the next door universe.
  • Outrun the Fireball: Cited by a villain as the kind of unrealistic hope that humans invest into their heroes. John actually manages to do it, but he's only a few feet from the dimensional portal and the explosion's distance ensured he had a few seconds of a headstart..
  • Overly-Long Gag: On his first hit of Soy Sauce, Dave treats the reader to the *very* specific quantity of subatomic particles in the universe. This lasts a full minute in the audiobook.
  • Part-Time Hero: Dave works at a video rental store and needs to use his sick days carefully if he wants to save the world without ending up homeless. John also works, but never seems to hold the same job for long.
  • Pet the Dog: John is usually a pretty silly Miles Gloriosus, but on a few occasions he reveals himself to be a caring guy. Dave reveals that John always referred to Amy by name rather than Dave's cruel nickname "Cucumber" or "that girl without a hand". John also accepts Monster Dave as his friend without any hesitation.
  • Plucky Comic Relief: John. He's also The Lancer, and, according to the real-life David Wong and John Cheese, the real hero of the story.
  • Psycho Serum: The "soy sauce"— if it doesn't kill you or drive you mad, it leaves you Cursed with Awesome (or Blessed with Suck, depending on whether or not you liked what sanity you had before you took it) and able to see through the Masquerade.
  • Psychopathic Manchild: The extradimensional conqueror Korrok is surprisingly juvenile. His representative Shitload has the personality of a 13-year-old who just discovered hip hop and cursing. Dave notes that the supernatural changes that follow him around seem to have an adolescent sense of humor. Korrok has the telepathic voice of a small child. Korrok's first words in person to Dave are, "Welcome. Your wiener is even smaller in person".
  • Powered by a Forsaken Child: Shit Narnia seems like a utopia at first (albeit a very disturbing one by human standards nonetheless), but all their technological advancements are the result of Korrok's power, and Korrok being the monstrosity he is, you can guess what that really entails for the civilization.
  • Portal Cut: One of the monsters at the mall's elevator when the door closes.
  • Post-Modern Magik: All the weird stuff that people send John and Dave, ranging from some sort of oil that can form the shape of a person's thoughts (and then attempt to kill them) to Scooby-Doo glasses from a Kid's Meal that let you see through the Masquerade.
  • Powder Trail: John lights a giant self-wrapped cigarette that acts as a Powder Trail to the bomb that destroys part of the building in Shit Narnia.
  • The Power of Rock: Demons hate music. Especially arena rock power ballads. Used at many points in the book, even when whatever music is being played barely counts as music.
  • Puppeteer Parasite: The hooded assholes in charge in Shit Narnia, though they are just puppets of Korrok.
  • Rape as Backstory: Dave was held down by a number of bullies who did something unspeakable to him, which he refuses to elaborate on. It drove him to brutal retribution.
  • Reaction Shot: During the first climax in Las Vegas, Dave and friends play "Camel Holocaust" after they're informed that demons hate music. When they perform, there's a line about all the invading wig-monsters standing still and giving them incredibly annoyed looks.
  • Really Gets Around:
    • John. He apparently attracts girls without having to do anything, and doesn't seem to mind at all.
    • Also Jennifer Lopez; when she, John, Dave, Big Jim and Fred are giving last requests to the others in case they die, her request is to find the loose floor board in her bedroom where she's hidden some marijuana, and also "a little notebook...with some guys' names in it", which she wants them to make sure her mother doesn't see. She also has no issue making out with a guy she just met, and later after having a relationship with Dave seems to come back to him whenever she gets "lonely".
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: John is red, Dave is blue.
  • Replicant Snatching: Done successfully with Dave's, but Amy's is foiled by North, though Dave doesn't know it at the time.
  • Ret-Gone: The main form of attack of the Shadow Men.
  • Ripple-Effect-Proof Memory When the timeline is changed by the shadow men, some people will randomly remember how things used to be, although they'll typically remember it both ways, not just the original way.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Dave took on a group of bullies and literally gouged the eyes out of one of them for what they did to him in the gym storeroom. The bully later committed suicide, which was part of the reason why Dave had a bizarre upbringing and ran into John.
  • Room Full of Crazy: Several different locations: Marconi's show room in Las Vegas, Robert Marley's trailer and his hovel at the abandoned mall, Dave's tool shed, and Big Jim's workshop. Each one is not only a Room Full of Crazy, but an insight into the personality and life and often death of the owner.
  • Rule of Cool: Dave's reason for bringing an improvised flamethrower while Storming the Castle. They also bring a chainsaw and a battleaxe.
  • Screams Like a Little Girl - Every time David screams, he tries to convince the reader that he did it in a manly, gaspy way, and not like a little girl.
  • Shout-Out: Dave's narration is saturated with pop culture references:
    • Music: Numerous 80's metal songs are referenced as being damaging to evil spirits, mostly by Guns 'n Roses. Dave makes his hatred of Limp Bizkit and Snow's song "Informer" very clear. The soy sauce dealer goes by Robert Marley and does a bad Bob Marley impression. Dave also sees a The Darkness shirt on a man, as part of a threatening message.
    • Television: David and Amy watch a show about people making custom motorcycles and screaming at each other, a reference to American Chopper.
    • Literature: John calls the alternate dimension Shit Narnia.
    • Celebrities: A cop reminds Dave of Morgan Freeman, so he calls him by that name in his narration. The large man in Shit Narnia looks like Michael Jackson in that his face is somehow wrong. "Fred Durst" makes an appearance. Dave dates a girl named Jennifer Lopez who doesn't look like Lopez except in the ass department.
    • There are many subtle references to Wong's Pointless Waste of Time website: Wally's Videe-Oh!, getting an absurdly high score on a sports video game, etc.
    • Film: When John attempts to interrogate Robert North after the latter suddenly appears in his car, he tries to scare him with "Have you ever heard of the phrase, 'I wanna shoot you so bad, my dick's hard'?"
  • Sliding Scale of Comedy and Horror: Expect to have Toilet Humor and all the soul-sucking nihilism of a Cosmic Horror Story in the span of a few pages.
  • Spirit Advisor:
    • While John's body is comatose, he manages to offer guidance to Dave. He speaks through a cell phone, a sausage, and eventually, a dog that ate the sausage.
    • Molly herself is one in hiding. She appears at the end in the form of Fred Durst to explain, but Dave doesn't really care.
  • Spot the Imposter: Look for the π!
  • Spy Speak: Parodied. When John and Dave talk on their cell phones during the prologue, the code they speak in case their phones are bugged with stuff like "tomorrow we kill the President" to mean "pick up a pack of cigarettes".
  • Storming the Castle: John and David have no idea what they're getting into as they assault the mall's cover... which turns out to be some sort of multidimensional bazaar.
  • Stylistic Suck: Three Arm Sally's lyrics are total gibberish and have no regard for things like "rhythm" or "progression", giving credence to Dave'a assertion that they might be the shittiest band of all time.
  • Sudden Video-Game Moment: The mall chapter becomes a lot like a FPS, with added references to classic games.
  • Take Our Word for It: Only John gets to see what's under the hood of the inhabitants of Shit-Narnia, his reaction hints that it's not a pretty sight.
  • Take That!:
    • Limp Bizkit is repeatedly referred to as a terrible band.
    • Dave interrupts his narration to reiterate how terrible the song "Informer" by Snow is.
  • The Tape Knew You Would Say That: Using the Sauce, a local news sports anchor tapes one side of an entire conversation. John and Dave come across it before the intended viewer does, and the way it's so one-sided creeps Dave out. When it is played back to his intended audience, her initially-reluctant responses sync up perfectly, and the anchor in the video even waits for John and Dave to exit the room before continuing.
  • Textual Celebrity Resemblance: Subverted: Jennifer Lopez looks nothing like Jennifer Lopez, name aside. "Morgan Freeman" is a detective in Book One, but David admits that he looks nothing at all like Morgan Freeman, besides being black - Dave admits that the guy looks more like another black actor, but Dave can't think of that actor's name (or even remember what the man's real name was). So he sticks with Morgan Freeman.
  • Theseus' Ship Paradox: Like the film, the book begins with exploring this question. David beheads a body, but the handle breaks on the last swing. He replaces it. He later chips the head on another supernatural creature, and replaces it. When the guy he beheaded comes Back from the Dead, the reanimated corpse points to the axe and says "that's the same axe that beheaded me," to which David asks the reader "is he right?" This is foreshadowing that Dave at the end of the story isn't the same Dave that was there at the start.
  • Timmy in a Well: Subverted. Molly barks at the reality breaks that John and Dave encounter, but rarely does anything but that. Also invoked early on when she's trying to get back home.
  • Tomato in the Mirror: Monster Dave, as well as Arnie Blondestone, who turns out to have been powered by David's (and to an extent, the reader's) expectation of what he'd look like. The real Arnie was murdered by the Shadow Men and stuffed into the trunk of his car.
  • Trophy Room: David's tool shed is half this and half Chekhov's Armory.
  • Tsundere: As a way of gently parodying typical teen adventures to other lands, the four kids who save yet another world in the final chapter (after John and David pretend to need something back home to avoid saving it) are led by a bickering boy and a girl, but the nagging seems to be good-natured. When they come back from saving the world (almost instantaneously), they're kissing.
  • Unperson: What the Shadow Men can (and will) do to you if you get in the way.
  • Unreliable Narrator:
    • Dave admits that he might not be 100% accurate in his retelling. He also says he plans to publish the most fantastical, ridiculous, and made-up version possible, just to mess with people.
      I did it according to this equation:
      l = E x ∞ 

      Which can be translated as "One small lie saves an infinite amount of explanation". I use it all the time. I've used it on you already.
    • There are also small parts where Dave wasn't present and John tells the story instead. These parts have a suspiciously high occurrence of backflips. John also resolves a chase scene by "stealing a nearby horse" in spite of driving a car before and after the scene. As David points out early on, "If you know John, you'll take the details for what they're worth. Please also remember that, where John claims to have "gotten up at three-thirty" to perform this investigation, it was far more likely he was still up and somewhat drunk from the night before".
    • Also, when Dave is talking to Arnie, he gets called out on the fact that he changes the number of people in their group as they head to Vegas, which is actually due to one of them becoming an Unperson.
  • Unspoken Plan Guarantee: When the heroes plan even slightly ahead, things go wrong in as fast and messy a fashion as possible. Rolling with the punches and grasping on what little luck they get winds up saving the universe. Also the source of the most terrifying phrase John can say: "Dave, I have a plan".
  • Viral Transformation: The effect of various worm creatures and/or a sufficiently large dose of Soy Sauce, if not outright possession.
  • The Virus: Horrifying sapient worm-things from another dimension that will burst you apart and spread more worm things. They're used by Korrok and the Shadow Men to subjugate universes.
  • What Did I Do Last Night?: Used twice, once after Vegas, where Dave couldn't remember entire months (he eventually began to remember, and John uses it to dick with Dave by claiming they were gay porn stars), and again around the time Amy went missing, where Dave couldn't remember what he was doing during a particular half-hour. He thinks he murdered someone, due to some suspiciously bloody snow, a warm gun, and footprints everywhere. No, it's not Amy.
    • Amy herself. She'd disappear for hours on end with no memory. It's because Korrok's forces take her away to make clones out of her, to infiltrate John and Dave's earth.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: The Wig Monster that hangs around John after Las Vegas, and is shown to Arnie to make him stay and listen to the rest of the story, isn't mentioned afterwards.
  • What Have We Ear?: Done by Robert the Fake Jamaican to Dave with a live centipede. But that's not the end of it...
  • World Half Empty: Shitload gives a speech about how he's amused by the fact humans constantly lie to themselves that they will not die any moment, for no reason, and not without someone there for them. After Vegas, David occasionally monologues like this, especially when he investigates the mall. He knows it's an attempt by the Shadow Men to make him kill John and Chrissy in a fit of nihilist-driven rage, though. The ending also ends with an in-universe Author Tract by Dr. Marconi about how humans are nasty little shits.
  • World of Pun:
    • John unleashes a Hurricane of Puns while smashing wig monsters with a chair.
    • The meat monster says, "Prepare to meat your doom!" David assumes it took the pain of possessing every piece of meat in the house to make that awful pun.
    • When David shoots a decapitated head, he shouts, "You should have quit while you were a-" but gets cut off before he can finish the pun.
  • The Worm That Walks:
    • Shitload is a sapient collective of invertebrates which possess human bodies.
    • At one point there is a man made of cockroaches.
    • The prelude has an evil spirit eventually creating a physical form out of a freezer full of meat, resulting in a meat monster with a frozen turkey for a head.
  • Younger Than They Look: Robert North looks like an adult human, but is only a few weeks old.
    • Monster Dave is even younger.