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Literature / What The Hell Did I Just Read: A Novel of Cosmic Horror

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The third book in the John Dies at the End series, following the sequel, This Book Is Full of Spiders: Seriously, Dude, Don't Touch It, written by David Wong (the pen name and Author Avatar of Cracked editor Jason Pargin).

The city of Undisclosed is beginning to flood after a month-long downpour refuses to let up, and Dave and John have been recruited to find a marine's missing daughter, believed kidnapped by a cosmic entity calling himself "Mister Nymph". But the deeper they dig into the case, the weirder it gets, as more children go missing and a simple abduction case begins to look like another extra-dimensional invasion. The fate of all humanity may once again rest on John and Dave getting their shit together. Black Humour and one Mind Screw after another ensue.

Released on October 3rd, 2017. A sequel, entitled If This Book Exists, You're in the Wrong Universe, was released October 18th, 2022.

Provides examples of:

  • Action Dad: Ted Knoll, Maggie's father and a badass member of the military.
  • All Men Are Perverts: When Marconi enlists online messageboard members to describe the appearance of John, Dave and Amy, a large portion of the comments on Amy's appearance are perverse.
  • Appearance Is in the Eye of the Beholder: Several examples.
    • Mister Nymph appears different to whoever sees him, shaping himself according to their fears. To Ted, he looks like a textbook child molester. To John, he looks like a Wall Street stock broker. To Dave, he looks like a more successful version of himself, who hadn't let his life pass him by.
    • Maggie's cellphone, which looks to Dave like a real smartphone, while to everyone else it is a plastic toy. John thought he was joking when he asked if they could hack it.
    • The NON agents; everyone simultaneously hears them introduce themselves by different names.
    • NON's Portal Door, which looks different to different viewers.
    • The "abducted" children, who look like normal kids, but Soy Sauce reveals them to be parasitic larvae taking large bites out of their "parents". Also any documented evidence of their existence; the birth certificates of the ten missing kids that Amy shows John and Dave are actually blank pages, and the photo of Maggie that John showed Dave in chapter 2 is later revealed to have actually been an old Blockbuster Video card.
  • Apocalypse How: Once the Larva hatch, they turn a previously idyllic world into a nightmarish hellscape, with giant lizardmen in charge, a constant state of war and violence and humans as an oppressed underclass, so poorly regarded that one is reduced to being kept as a pet minus his arms and legs. They also don't change it via violence, they change it so it was always that way, going back hundreds of years.
  • Back from the Dead: The NON agents repeatedly suffer fatal injuries (including decapitation) only to be back in action a few hours to a few days later.
  • Batman Gambit: The Fuckroaches' reproductive cycle. It doesn't just involve planting fake memories of people having children in need of rescue and disguising the larvae as those children. It relies on the fake children being discovered as fakes and destroyed; they can only hatch when fatally injured by sulfur.
  • Call-Back:
    • The caved-in coal mine briefly discussed in the “epiprologue” of This Book Is Full of Spiders: Seriously, Dude, Don't Touch It comes back, with several scenes taking place around its former entrance and, of course, there's a monster there. Agent Tasker even recalls how the miners caved it in on purpose. her team adds to the miners’ work by paving over the entrance (which is actually the Millibutt’s birth canal) and burying it under raw sewage before fencing it off.
    • The book's title is a Call-Back to the end of , when Dave says that he says he wants the book he makes of his experience in that story to make people say "What the fuck did I just read?"
  • Changeling Tale: A particularly eldritch take. In addition to the missing children are all really Fuckroach Larvae in disguise, there were no missing children to begin with. The Larvae fully brainwashed the "parents" into believing that they're their children.
  • Chekhov's Classroom: Early in the book, Dave give the reader some general rules regarding various supernatural entities and how to deal with them. Almost everything he mentions is applied at some point or another in the book.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Subverted with the BATMANTIS???, who reappears several times at crucial moments, but is mostly unrelated to the abductions. Revealed at the end to be a possible Double Subversion, as it may or may not have been a transformed David the whole time.
  • Creepy Child: Mikey behaves very creepy after he is rescued.
  • Darker and Edgier: The book continues the trend of the previous book of showing the toll that John and Dave's lives have taken on them. At this point, Dave has clinical depression and John is addicted to hard drugs.
  • Death of Personality: What NON attempts to do to John, Dave and Amy. Amy is particularly horrified at this, since it will also erase the love that she and Dave feel for each other. Dave is more at peace with it, not because he doesn't also love Amy, but because he genuinely thinks her life would be better without him.
  • A Dog Named "Dog": John's dog is named Diogee. Knowing John, its name is likely pronounced "D O G," even though the audio book apparently missed the joke and pronounces it "Dye-Oh-Gee".
  • Early-Bird Cameo: Nicky was first mentioned in John Dies at the End in a list of John's girlfriends; while Dave gave brief descriptions of the other girls, he only refered to Nicky as "the Bitch". She finally appears in person here, though Dave's animosity is still unexplained.
  • The Ending Changes Everything: At the end, one of the police detectives talks to David and asks him to tell him the whole story, which David does, exactly as it had been told to the reader. The detective then points out that there is compelling evidence that Dave was making much or possibly all of it up, which includes a video of Dave supposedly transforming into the BATMANTIS???. Dave quickly says that anyone can fake a video with photoshop these days, whereupon the cop points out that Dave didn't deny that there was a video, but jumped straight to saying the video must be fake.
  • Faceless Goons: The troops of NON wear rubber masks.
  • Fake Memories: Part of the Fuckroach Larvae's power. It turns out that the parents of these missing children never had any kids to begin with. The Fuckroaches can even do this in real-time, altering the memories of a host's senses immediately after they are perceived, so that things like a blank piece of paper are instead perceived as a birth certificate.
  • Foreshadowing: Before he's revealed as a parasite, Mikey tells a creepy story about a place where the “Nephilim” have bred humans into pets with stunted little legs, like dogs. Later on, Dave & John see “Mikey” hatch into a giant night shart that deliberately alters a parallel universe, creating a reality with a remarkably similar scenario (assuming the huge, scaly humanoid monsters are the so-called Nephilim). Thankfully we never find out if the other part of Mikey's story is true (about the Nephilim engineering humans to be toothless and addicted to semen).
  • The Ghost: Nicky, John's on-again, off-again girlfriend. Dave describes her as pure evil and says that the reason she hasn't shown up in any of his previous narratives is because he tries to avoid even talking about her. She actually shows up at the very end and doesn't seem that bad.
  • Glamour: The Fuckroaches and Larva. Not only do they change their appearance, but they can change people's memories to make their appearance more convincing. After John traps one of them under a glass case, it changes itself into his cellphone, and when he needs to make a phone call, he starts to open the case, having remembered putting his phone in the case for some reason.
  • Gosh Dang It to Heck!: Amy is very uncomfortable with swear words. She refers to the character "Shitbeard" as "Poop-beard". Also "We've got a, uh, fudge roach detector".
  • Homage: The masks worn by the Faceless Goons look like creepy, fat-cheeked baby faces. The way they're described make it clear that they look exactly like the masks from Brazil.
  • Hourglass Plot: In first novel of the trilogy, Dave has a stable, albeit shitty, job, a house, and seems slightly more put together than chronically unemployed John. This book starts off with Dave now unemployed, in a small, leaking apartment, while John now owns a house and seems to be doing better for himself.
  • Informed Attractiveness: Someone online describes John as being handsome, but in a way that makes him want to punch him.
  • Informed Flaw: Dave keeps referring to John's friend Nicky as a horrible person, the kind who laughs too loud at her own jokes and no one else's. Dave pointedly excludes her from the narrative, so we have only his word to go on, until the end, when she shows up and seems perfectly normal.
  • Mother of a Thousand Young: The Millibutt, responsible for the Fuckroaches and various larvae.
  • Mundane Utility:
    • Dave is in possession of a mysterious artifact in the form of a marble-sized ball that is permanently hot. He uses it to heat his coffee.
    • NON uses its Portal Door to other dimensions to throw away its trash. Figuratively and literally.
  • Noodle Incident: The Mayor's bestiality scandal, which apparently Dave and John had nothing to do with.
  • Not-So-Omniscient Council of Bickering: NON seems competent...until Dave, Amy, and John get to sit on a conference call. It's a typical ill-run corporate meeting, complete with a Running Gag about how this timeslot was originally a budget allocation meeting and half the people on the call didn't read the memo about it being rescheduled. (To Thursday. At two).
  • Painting the Medium: After viewing a Youtube video called "BATMANTIS???" purporting to show the creature, David thereafter constantly formats the creature's name with this capitalization and triple question marks.
  • Papa Wolf: Ted is an ex-soldier who will go to anything to protect his child.
  • Pet the Dog: The fake Dave actually fixes the leak in Dave and Amy's bathroom, for no apparent reason.
  • Portal Door: NON has a coffin-shaped device that opens doorways to alternate dimensions. The first time we see it, they use it to bring John, Dave and Amy into a world that has been doomed with a planet-wide plague. The next time, a NON office-worker uses it to throw his coffee cup away. The third time, one of the Fuckroach larvae is thrown in there right before it hatches. The dimension wasn't empty, and all the humans there are retroactively turned into naked, mutilated slaves of a Draconic humanoid race.
  • Remember the New Guy?: Several new characters are introduced, and treated as if they had been around for years, such as John's dog Diogee and John's friend (and Dave's mortal enemy) Nicky. The Fuckroaches plant false memories into their host's brain to think that these characters (and even inanimate objects) have been around a long time. Nicky, however, is a real person who hasn't been in the narrative because Dave dislikes her so much that he just didn't want to talk about her.
  • Right for the Wrong Reasons: Amy argues against killing the larvae on the grounds that the only proof they aren't real children is what Dave and John can see on the soy sauce, and she doesn't think that counts as empirical evidence good enough to set a third-grader on fire. She's right about what they should (or rather, should not) do, but has the wrong idea about why: killing the larvae makes them hatch. If they're left alone, they'll just wither and die eventually.
  • Running Gag:
    • John's silicone butts.
    • Dave's hatred of Nicky, John's on-again, off-again girlfriend.
  • Series Continuity Error: David says he doesn't know how to ride a motorcycle. In the previous book, he can.
  • The Scapegoat: The BATMANTIS???; a flying monster that abducts dogs but is completely unrelated to the missing children and Fuckroaches. It reappears at several points throughout the story, and makes a convenient diversion for John and David when everyone is starting to get suspicious of them, and they know nobody will believe the truth about the Fuckroaches. It turns out that David might have been turning into the BATMANTIS??? all along.
  • Technically Naked Shapeshifter: Discussed in the end with Joy Park. John complains that she is a shapeshifter who can make herself appear to be wearing any clothing she wants, but is still using his credit card to buy clothes for herself.
  • Troubling Unchildlike Behavior: Chastity's son acts strange after he's rescued. When Amy comes to interview him, he starts talking about human reproduction and an orgy video he apparently watched in disturbing detail. Of course, he's not actually a child. Or a human child, anyway.
  • Unfortunate Search Results: John, Dave, and Ted get a call from Maggie, the missing girl, who is supposedly at an amusement park called Joy Park. When John searches for it, all he gets it a Korean porn star.
  • Unreliable Narrator:
    • Due to the large impact of Fake Memories and Appearance Is in the Eye of the Beholder creatures, this plays a big part of the narrative. Unlike previous entries in the John Dies series, a large chunk of the narrative is given over to the perspective of John and Amy to show how some things were different depending on who observes them.
    • As usual, John's version of the story needs to be taken with a grain of salt. Many details comes across rather suspiciously like a cheesy action movie.
    • Occasionally played for comedy when Dave describes certain subjective details as fact, such as Nicky being pure evil and her fatal immolation at the very end, which is immediately contradicted by Amy.
    • It's suggested in the end that the bulk of the story Dave has presented is actually a cover story concocted by John, Dave and Amy to hide the fact that David was himself transforming into the BATMANTIS???.
  • Wham Line: Mikey's mom, Chastity, when she realizes the truth. "I don't have a son. I never did". The next chapter is named "Wait, What the Fuck?"
  • What Did I Do Last Night?: John and Dave, after taking the soy sauce. This time, they blackout for an entire weekend. John even left clues for their future sober selves to follow. Dave accuses John of deliberately trying to recreate Dude, Where's My Car?.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: Amy argues that the larvae can't immediately be written off, because to all points of view that are not the soy sauce hangover, they act like real people, and apparently have real emotions and feel real pain. Joy also gets really annoyed when people refer to her as "it" or to the person her appearance is based on as the "actual" or "real" version of her.
  • Word Salad: Invoked by Dave after hearing Maggie calling from Joy Park for the second time.
  • The World Is Always Doomed: Upon entering the Alternate Universe to interview Amy, Agent Tasker/Wyatt/Pussnado blithely states "It's always an Apocalypse somewhere"
  • The Worm That Walks: Mister Nymph. And Joy Park.

Alternative Title(s): What The Hell Did I Just Read