What the Hell Did I Just Read By David Wong (pen name of Jason Pargin)
Published in 2017
Genre: Horror, humor
“It rained like we were a splatter of bird shit God was trying to hose off his deck.”
If you think that the above sentence uses profanity unnecessarily, then this isn’t the book for you. What the Hell Did I Just Read is the newest book by author Justin Pargin, written under the pen name David Wong, who is the protagonist of the novel. Covering everything from seemingly immortal government agents, a drug called Soy Sauce, and the mystery of why John ordered so many silicone butts while under the influence of Soy Sauce are just a few of the plot points that will have the reader chuckling and blowing air out their nose with nearly every page. You want to hear a story? Well buckle the eff up!
What the Hell Did I Just Read follows Dave Wong and his best friend John through the strange world of paranormal investigation. This isn’t some wholesome business busting ghosts; Dave and John accidentally took a drug known only as “Soy Sauce” that opened their minds to the terrifying world that normal humans cannot see. Due to this, weird and freaky things seem attracted to their lives, so they go about dealing with the supernatural the only way they know how: begrudging acceptance with a dash of cynicism. The duo are joined by Dave’s girlfriend, Amy, who is the only one of the three with a steady job, which causes David to feel like a burden because she supports him financially. The book begins with a kidnapping that John and David are brought in to consult on after the police learn there seems to be something supernatural about the events. What follows is a twisting, confusing, inappropriate, and entertaining story that follows the trio around their hometown as they try to stop a paranormal infestation from happening.
This is the third book in the John Dies at the End series, preceded by the aforementioned book and its sequel, This Book is Full of Spiders. Pargin has written What the Hell Did I Just Read in such a way as to make it accessible for first time readers. Sure, it doesn’t hurt to have read the previous two novels, but they are referenced obliquely and the relevant events are explained to the reader to catch them up. The majority of the book is told from Dave’s perspective in the first person, with short 3rd person asides from John and Amy’s point of views. John’s passages come with a disclaimer not to take his version too seriously, which is warranted since his recollection sounds more like a cheesy 80’s action movie than actual fact. Amy’s sections give insight into her relationship with Dave, showing the reader what has happened not only to her during the story, but also showcasing her feelings with Dave that come to a climax at the end of the book. There are also excerpts from books by reality TV paranormal investigator, Dr. Marconi, at the beginning of each section that give a more academic reading of the paranormal than the layman explanations of John and Dave.
Pargin’s writing and sense of humor are the true appeal of the books in this series, and What the Hell Did I Just Read is no exception. The juxtaposition of horrific events with how Dave and John react to them is what makes them even more funny. For example, the duo were sent a mysterious orb in the mail that radiates heat and emits a tortured shriek; Dave uses said orb to warm up his coffee, before replacing it in its container. John also has a habit of making puns while fighting off monsters and ghouls, especially when there is an opportunity for them to be inappropriate. The pace of the novel is continuous in its thrill and action, leading from one plot twist to the next at breakneck speed; this keeps the reader interested and reeling as they try to figure out what is happening while the characters do the same. This does come to a swift halt at the climax of the book, however, and it is a little jarring in its ending. The end of the book isn’t bad, it is just a little too neat and while it leaves room for the possibility of another book, it could work as a fitting end of the series.
There is so much covered in this novel that it is really difficult to touch base on all of it. The pop culture references are on point, the laughs big, the language foul, and the scares genuine…until something stupid happens that makes you laugh. Pargin is a master of blending the genres of horror and humor and, though it isn’t my favorite book in the series, What the Hell Did I Just Read works as a nice step away from the mundane and repetitive.
Verdict: 3 cursing and reluctant paranormal investigators out of 5
Recommended for: People who enjoy inappropriate words, those looking for entertainment, people who read the first two books in the John Dies at the End series, fans of David Wong, fans of Cracked.com, and those who enjoy cosmic horror.
Not recommended for: Those who dislike inappropriate words, the easily offended, people afraid of silicone butts, people who enjoy good endings, or children.