Mar 14, 2016

[Books] Welcome to Night Vale

Welcome to Night Vale is one of the most popular podcasts in recent years and it's a program that I enjoy a lot. It's positioned as a fictional local radio show for a fictional small town and other fictional matters. But this is not your ordinary sort of small town and the weird and unusual are quite commonplace.

I was surprised when the news broke that Welcome to Night Vale was releasing a book. What would they write about? Would we simply reveal more about events already covered in the podcast? I had so many questions!

Instead we got a completely new adventure set in this little town of Night Vale. We got a really close look at the lives of two citizens of Night Vale as they try to cope with particular bits of Night Vale weirdness that has come their way. And the story is all about hoping that they survive to see the end.

I guess they should be thankful that they're not interns at the Night Vale Community Radio Station. That would make things a little more difficult.

Synopsis: Welcome to Night Vale is a novel written by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor, the creators of the Night Vale podcast. The book takes place before the podcast episode 76: An Epilogue.

The book is told from the perspective of two citizens of Night Vales initially through alternating chapters. One is Jackie, the girl who runs the pawn shop and seems to have been 19 years old since forever. The other is Diane Crayton, best known for her work with the PTA as she is the mother of a shape-shifting teenage boy, Josh. Things begin to change when Jackie encounters the Man in the Tan Jacket who pawns a piece of paper that only says KING CITY on it. Around the same time, Diane is bothered that Evan has stopped showing up at work until no one can remember he ever worked there. And for some reason, she only remembers someone wearing a Tan Jacket.

The Man in the Tan Jacket is probably one of the more infamous characters introduced in the podcast and has had numerous appearances on the show. And to have him as a sort of central figure in this book was a nice way to go since he's already an interesting character on his own plus it's a nice nod to longtime listeners, like myself, who immediately wanted to squee when a mention of a tan jacket was first made.

I think the first question I should have addressed in this review is DO YOU NEED TO LISTEN TO THE PODCAST TO ENJOY THE BOOK. It's hard for me to look at this novel not as a fan since I'm obviously a fan. But to be fair, I think that since it took me a while to remember who these two lead characters were and when they were mentioned on the show, it helped me go through the discover process without being somehow prejudiced by knowledge from the podcast. So I think you can get by without having ever listened to the podcast before, but at the same time the book is obviously a richer experience if you do know the show since there are a lot of references, as there should be. The references are there since it's the same small town - things will show up over and over again.

I appreciated the fact that they included sort of interlude chapters to break up the main narrative and to bring us back to the familiar - Cecil and Night Vale Community Radio. We're always brought to a segment of the radio show still in-progress and a lot of times it feels directly connected to the action. And from this perspective, it gives us a better appreciation for the radio show in itself since many times it feels quite random, but perhaps it's really not. The book shows us that maybe Cecil is tapping into something and is able to relate to what is going on at that moment to some citizen of Night Vale.

The book is unique for me since it feels like it is best read aloud. There's a certain rhythmn and cadence to the book that feels almost poetic - it's obviously the same brand of prose that we encounter in the podcast itself. I repeatedly found myself reading passages aloud to my partner in order to just share in my happiness of reading the book since the words were just so beautiful.

Welcome to Night Vale is a unique book experience that I am glad exists and maybe we'll get lucky with more books of this nature. Then again, maybe the book isn't actually there and those of us who have read it are remembering a shared hallucination of a book. In any case, this story gets 5 men named Troy out of a possible 5.


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