In the sixth chapter of John Dies at the End, I definitely think this is the most bewildering thing I’ve ever read. And I really like that word. If you’re intrigued, then it’s time for Mark to read John Dies at the End.
Chapter Six: Meet Dr. Marconi
My god, how? How do I talk about this? I’m serious! Like, I have a few thoughts about this. Some are positive, some are negative. But this visceral, frightening journey to the Luxor in Vegas is so fucking weird that I don’t even know how to discuss it. I just want to react to it. And while I think Dr. Marconi does provide some insight into what’s happening here, I largely feel pretty much the same as I did when I started this. I don’t know what’s going on.
There’s a humorous aspect to all the violence here because it’s so ridiculous and over-the-top, and it helps that John spends an entire sequence in that ballroom spouting the best chair-related puns I’ve ever experienced. Y’all don’t know how much I love puns. You really don’t. Yet I don’t want to ignore how disturbing this is. I will completely understand if this is too much for some of you because at times, it was even too much for me. I’ve been watching horror films since I was a kid, so I admit to being desensitized towards gore and blood. Well, not all of it. Lately, violence in films is getting too realistic for my tastes, and it’s hard to detach myself from violence that isn’t stylized, cartoonish, or campy. I especially can’t do torture porn because no. It’s the otherworldly element to the violence in John Dies at the End that entertains me, though, like this is all a love letter to H.P. Lovecraft and Cronenberg, who I’ve brought up before.
I also mentioned in a past review that the tone and diction of this book reads decidedly modern. I’m okay with that! I am not, however, comfortable with how much this particular chapter seems edgy just for the sake of it. There’s no reason all the slurs that are here need to be here. They don’t add to the story. They don’t build character. You know, my policy on slurs here on Mark Reads isn’t even reflective of how I feel about them in a non-Internet setting. I try to have an inclusive community that takes into account the variety of human experience when it comes to marginalization, and my rules are a simplistic way of taking care of that. But slur reclamation is a real thing! I mean, that’s why I’ve described myself as queer for the past decade of my life. That word was used to dehumanize and demonize me, and I’ve turned it into something powerful. I don’t spend all day calling my friends out on language because… well, first of all, it would be pedantic and near impossible. Plus, the dynamic that I have with one group of friends changes when it’s with a separate one. Sometimes, I’m comfortable enough to address some things. Other times? Not so much.
BASICALLY THAT WAS A LONG WAY TO EXPLAIN WHAT I MEANT. Let’s talk about some other moments in this super long chapter:
- Given that Dr. Marconi later says that there is more than one “Devil” or “demon” from this alternate world where they come from, I’m thinking that the white “bugs” we see in Frank and in past chapters are just one manifestation of a type of demon from… well, wherever they’re from. Are those names Shitload listed real? I think so.
- I’m really fond of the way that David Wong explains certain things by saying, “Imagine this thing. It is nothing like that.”
- I didn’t really expect that everyone would survive the things coming through because of the soy sauce, but killing off Fred and Big Jim in the same chapter? SWEET BABIES, this is so intense.
- I adore how Wong addresses the guilt and shame that comes with shooting Fred’s head off. It is not this heroic, victorious moment for everyone. Big Jim freaks out, and David feels truly awful about it. I loved the line where he thinks, “This seemed like such a fucking good idea ten seconds ago, didn’t it?” It acknowledges how horrific it must be to have to kill someone this way.
- What is the “Hitchcock thing” that Big Jim references?
- HOW GREAT IS IT THAT BIG JIM SHOOTING THE TRUCK DOESN’T MAKE IT EXPLODE? That is such a common trope in film, and it’s openly deconstructed here. I love it.
- There are a lot of dick jokes in this book.
- WHAT IS WITH MOLLY? She’s way smarter than any dog should be, and I don’t know why. Soy sauce?
- Have you ever been inside the Luxor in Vegas? It was seriously built by aliens, no doubt.
- Can I also side with Jen about that shot of the alien ship in Independence Day being one of the most unsettling images in cinema history? It still creeps me out to this day.
- The choice to introduce Dr. Marconi in the way he is in this chapter is brilliant. I mean, I’m writing this at a convention, and the parallel is undeniable. We learn that he’s trying to help people. He makes a reference to “openness,” which had to do with the “opening” of the doors to our world, but I wasn’t sure when I initially read that section.
- And just as we’re getting a peak at Dr. Marconi, Shitload shows up, makes reference to a slavemaster “from the eighth plane,” and then it’s just pure chaos until the end of the chapter. That word – “chaos” – has never been more applicable. The wig monsters that erupt from the giant ice sculpture fountain are horrifying, especially once they begin “infecting” the people in the crowd, turning their separated limbs into sentient things. IT’S SUCH A DISTURBING IMAGE!
- Which is perfectly countered with John’s puns. Bless.
- So, who is Becky? Why did that guy refer to her as such? Did David just misunderstand the original situation?
- Let’s get to what Dr. Marconi tells us. So, are these demon creatures using religious people to get into our world? Granted, I realize “religious” is a limiting term because it’s not that the people who came to Dr. Marconi are following a religion. But they’re true believers. How does that make a different?
- Why would holy water have an effect on these creatures? Are they literally incarnations of the Devil in Christian theology?
- I’m glad we have an explanation of why music can be used to fight against these things! They’re “natural discordians.” As Dr. Marconi says, “…melody is like a blade to the ears.”
- And just when I’m about to understand what the hell is going on, David is snapped out of time, and the narrative jumps to six months later. I mean, I knew that soy sauce affected how these people perceived time, but what a jarring thing to read! I was so confused. But what does that mean for David? What else has happened that I don’t know about yet?
- Fred Chu haunts his hometown. Fuck yes.
- I love how John doesn’t seem the slightest bit upset about aberrations in time. I feel like nothing would ever phase him.
- What the hell happens next??? I have no clue at all.
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