listeners fellow readers (even though we know the City Council has declared books to be Dangerous whether they are working or not) and Welcome to Night Vale. I can’t keep up writing this in the Night Vale style, so from here on out unless I’m quoting it’s just me.
Welcome to Night Vale is an odd little podcast, one I have seen described as what might have happened “…if Neil Gaiman and Stephen King started a game of the Sims and just left it running…for years” and that’s as close a way as any I can come to describing it so let’s run with that. It is, by turns, utter ridiculous, totally bewildering, shockingly brutal, and surprisingly meaningful.
Not unlike life, really.
That’s Welcome to Night Vale the Podcast. One does not need to know anything about the podcast to read and enjoy the novel, but there will be many little inside…not exactly jokes…that one might miss. Unimportant little things, in the grand scheme of the novel. The important thing to remember, however, is that Night Vale is a very strange little desert town, where time doesn’t work and remarkable things happen but persistently go unremarked upon.
The angels’ eyes flared, which was an action as odd to witness as it is difficult to picture. (Kindle loc. 1037)
In this story, in this town, we are introduced to the young woman who runs the pawn shop — Jackie, who is nineteen, has always been nineteen, and believes she always will be nineteen. And also, to Diane, who works in an office doing a job no one knows the purpose of, and her son Josh, who is a teenager and therefore regularly takes on odd, inhuman, shapes as he tries to feel out who he is and what he is becoming. As in all stories, these three people have nothing and everything and only some things to do with each other. They will travel together and apart. Some of them will face down librarians in the library. One of them will end up with a small piece of paper that insists on saying KING CITY stuck to her hand.
There is a man in a tan jacket, carrying a deerskin briefcase. The briefcase…buzzes. No one can remember what he looks like. There are many questions, almost all of them fair.
…the problem with fair questions is that they are asked about an unfair world. (Kindle loc. 3176)
The world of Night Vale, podcast or book, hesitates right on the edge of an unbecoming self-awareness, and yet it never slips all the way over.
The concept of transitioning from one perceived reality to another is a tolerated madness. (Kindle loc. 3774)
For myself, I struggled a little bit getting caught up in Jackie and Diane’s intertwined stories, but I think that might actually be a legacy of being a podcast listener first — Night Vale and all its oddities work best for me when delivered in Cecil’s alternately soothing, fangirling, and threatening voice because that is how I first crossed into his perceived reality. (Side note: I also bought the audio book, which is narrated by Cecil Baldwin, but I have a bad tendency to fall asleep when listening to audiobooks and thus this review is about the Kindle/paper copy; the little bit I did remain awake for suggested his reading would be as satisfying as a long-time listener would expect.) I mention this a lot, particularly in my positive reviews, but I went in to this one expecting consistent, solid, human characterization from Fink and Cranor based on my knowledge of their other work, and I was not disappointed. Some of the descriptive style leaves a bit to be desired, in my opinion, at least until one becomes accustomed to it on the printed page.
One of my favorite things about fiction, particularly weird fiction, is that — done well — the reality it builds will show us things we don’t remember, or never knew, about our own odd little existences.
Truth can be contradictory. You are not forgiven your lapses by your nonlapses. (Kindle loc. 5404)
Welcome to Night Vale embraces this contradiction, to this reader’s satisfaction.