As I have mentioned in the past, I am a big fan of podcasts. I have reviewed many of them and many properties tied to them. I love serialized fiction, and I especially enjoy trying to guess where an author is going to take a character month to month, as is evident from my passion of comic books. Podcasts just add a little more, though, like inflection and speed and pronunciation and all that fun theatre-nerd stuff that I love.
Another love of mine is reading. I have always loved reading, ever since I learned to read in kindergarten. Because of this love of reading I tend to fall in love with reading-oriented places like libraries and bookstores. And I am lucky enough to call one of the latter my place of employment. This job comes with perks, besides fulfilling a lifelong dream; I get free books and advance review copies (ARCs for those of you not “in the biz”) of books. One of those ARCs just happened to be Welcome to Night Vale.
Welcome to Night Vale is one of my favorite podcasts. It’s a fictional community radio show hosted by Cecil, one of the greatest voices I have ever heard, about the town of Night Vale. This town is not like other towns though. Strange things are always happening, and everything is out of the ordinary.
Unlike the podcasts, the book explores the town and has a wide cast of characters, some new and some old. The newest characters are the main characters. Jackie Fierro owns and operates the local pawnshop, is 19, and has been 19 for years. Diane Crayton, the head of the local PTA, has a young shapeshifting son and probably the worst ex in the world. We also see podcast favorites like Old Woman Josie (voiced by the amazing Retta on the show), The Angels and the man in the Tan Leather Jacket carrying a buckskin briefcase. We also get to see more of the podcast’s fictional world when we visit King City, a removed neighbor to Night Vale.
The book read like the podcast, the perfect blend of science fiction and surreal absurdist horror. The characters are all great. I loved Jackie and Diane and how they interact while exploring the town. The book shed so much light on day to day (and night-to-night) life in Night Vale, but also left so many questions unanswered. There are excerpts of episodes in the book that seem to spark memories of old episodes, but I honestly don’t remember.
I loved the book. It honestly was one of the best books I have read this year, and I am really glad that it didn’t suck. I was worried about it not living up to the podcast, but it does. I loved the new characters and how they were right at home with characters I have grown to love. My favorite part is a scene that shows the absurdity of some of the horror of the show. Diane is having a conversation with her boss while a tarantula crawls all over her. It’s never really clear whether the boss sees the tarantula or just feels it. The conversation is normal, and no one talks about this bloody big spider.
However, this novel is not without its faults. There are two things that bugged me about the book. The first is the fact that I couldn’t place it in time in relation to the show. This may be because I am reading it months before it comes out, but it seems like it’s years ahead of the show in some senses and yet seems set in the past as well. This is also a recurring theme in Night Vale, though: time doesn’t really exist/matter. The second thing that bugged me is that sometimes the book would become a bit too surreal; surreal to the point where I would lose track of what was going on. These faults are small, though, and didn’t subtract from my enjoyment to any significant degree.
This book gets a 5/5, and I really hope they release more.
Welcome to Night Vale is written by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor, published by Harper Collins and will be released in bookstores in October.