**Editor’s Note: This is a special review serving as a throwback to our high school selves and their favorite books.
Have you ever had an intensely realistic dream that you forget the moment you wake up, only to forever feel as though you’d had an epiphany about the meaning of life, never able to remember quite what it was? Reading this book is like having that dream but actually getting to remember it when you wake up.
“You know how sometimes when you’re drifting off to sleep you feel that jolt, like you were falling and caught yourself at the last second? It’s nothing to be concerned about, it’s usually just the parasite adjusting its grip.”1
This is how the book begins, with a blasé depiction of horror, just to get the reader started off on the right foot. Throughout the story, author David Wong—also executive editor of Cracked.com— uses excessive absurdity and positively foul imagery as a backdrop for remarkably interesting and compelling, perceptive story telling. Anyone who’s read one of the surrealist articles on Cracked probably already has a sense of what reading this book is like—a little bit crazy, but impossible to stop reading once you start.
Trying to explain the plot to someone, as I have mistakenly attempted a number of times, tends to get responses like, “I don’t like that kind of book.” I didn’t even pick the book out for myself the first time I read it—my mom happened to grab it for me at the library when I was in high school, and I launched into the novel without reading the inside jacket panel. I have taken the approach of simply telling people the title of the book or just handing it to them as a recommendation rather than giving any details.
If you demand a plot summary, fine: It’s basically about spiders that take residence inside you and take over your brain.
The twelve-year-old inside you is probably saying, “Oh, siiick, dude. Cool!” (That is, if your inner child is anything like my inner child who is actually an immature surfer). But as a somewhat more mature adult, I can give you my word, this book is a lot more than just grossly awesome, more than just a gnarled car wreck that you can’t help but rubberneck at. It’s a gnarled car wreck whose passengers are a comedian, a mad scientist, a philosopher, and probably a dog.
Wong uses the foundation of the story—sci-fi zombifying spiders—to let his complex and lively cast be fully expressed, and to strip away some of the reservations we maintain in our lives that detract from our typical reading. By the time you are a few pages into the book, you get somewhat desensitized to the violence and magic, and it starts to seem like the real world. Wong uses the absurdity as a kind of mind-clearing lens to observe humanity on a more objective platform. Without ever seeming pedantic, Wong uses the characters’ voices and the narrator’s perspective to express critically accurate—and sometimes hard to accept—observations on human nature and morality.
The backdrop of caricatured horror and comedy is consistently entertaining; this is the only book that has ever made me laugh aloud. (This is the ultimate endorsement coming from me, and if you think your sense of humor is more mature than mine, I’ll tell you that my mother read this book and she laughed and cried while reading it).
While Wong is constantly pointing out—both directly and via subtext—deep cracks in our global culture, he also makes keen observations on daily life that are less epiphany-inducing and more amusing. This is evident in his description of a hospital: “It had the tangled floor plan common to all hospitals, seemingly designed by someone who believed in the healing power of watching confused visitors aimlessly wander around hallways.”2
Self-aware and unabashed in his approach on writing, philosophy, or humor, Wong has created an unforgettable book without ever betraying his signature style of writing. If I could only bring one book with me to a desert island, this would be it.
- Wong, David. This Book Is Full of Spiders: Seriously, Dude, Don’t Touch It. New York: Thomas Dunne, 2012. Print. (Page 1).
- Wong, David. This Book Is Full of Spiders: Seriously, Dude, Don’t Touch It. New York: Thomas Dunne, 2012. Print.
Rebecca Nelson is a sophomore studying Biological Sciences at the University of Connecticut. She is on the fiction panel of Long River Review.