Welcome to Night Vale the book is the same but different from its original medium (the podcast). There are 3 main perspectives that tell the story: Jackie the eternally 19-year old pawnshop owner, Diane, mother of shape-shifting Josh, and the local public radio host, Cecil. In addition to learning some of the ways in which Night Vale works (mostly from Cecil’s reports), there are way 3 mysteries/problems that Jackie and Diane eventually realize concerns them both. First, Josh wants to know who his father is; second, there is man going around town handing out pieces of paper that you can’ t put down even if you try with the words ‘King City’ on them; third, who is Evan McIntyre and why does he matter?
The eventually intersecting voices and problems all have the same tone of malaise or ennui even when conveying emotions, which works well in small doses because it allows for the normal and the surprising or unusual to blend well. For example,
“It was time to go to the library. The library would have records on Troy Walsh.
Diane had survived librarians before. She and Josh had gone on many quests to the Night Vale Public Library, as well as the less treacherous, but still life-threatening, libraries at Josh’s schools.”
The idea of a library-dwelling monster or a demon-occupied library is not totally new, but the hints at the check-out procedures are original. What you need to visit the library in Night Vale and to check out material is “strong rope, a grappling hook, a compass, a flare gun, matches, a can of hair spray, a sharpened wooden spear, and of course, her library card.” The matter of fact presentation of this information as non-exciting or interesting is the hall-mark of this book. Then there are the little details, like the importance of time/space distorting pink flamingo lawn ornaments to the ending or why a key character always appears with a buzzing noise around him, that make for entertaining reading.
The biggest problem with taking Night Vale from podcast to book is that the authors are a little too good at the tone of blasé uninterestedness which started to rub off on me if I read for too long. When I got bored or stopped caring or had to force myself to care enough to keep reading, I would put the book down for a while, then come back. When the book in question is 400 pages long, this means it takes a long time to get through the whole thing. There are places that move more quickly when a discovery is made or an action sequence, like the library raid or the last 30 pages when everything is finally untangled and explained. That’s my only real complaint: the pacing is inconsistent. The beginning when the world and characters are new goes fine, as does the conclusion which is one reveal after another. The middle gets slow. Really slow.
Still, the ending and general premise is good enough that I would recommend this with the advice that when you are tempted to give up, and you will be, don’t give up. In then end Night Vale really is worth the visit.