I heard about Alice Isn’t Dead in a review, I think maybe NPR. It sounded interesting so I picked it up. What I noticed quickly but hadn’t realized at first is that the author, Joseph Fink, is one of the Welcome to Night Vale guys; this tells you a lot about the tone and general type of story to expect if you’re familiar with either the podcast (I am not) or the first novel (which I’ve read).
The novel was more openly horror than I was expecting, but then I don’t follow the podcast. The basic premise is an interesting mystery, but a few things still don’t quite make sense by the end like Lucy’s reaction to the final battle. The gist of the story is that Keisha fell in love with and married Alice. Keisha was the more socially awkward and reserved of the two, so when Alice suddenly disappears and is eventually declared dead, Keisha’s world falls apart. Keisha refuses to believe that Alice is really gone and takes a job as a trucker to search for Alice. In so doing, she discovers the existence of Thistle Men, basically zombies who prey upon the unsuspecting at truck stops and out of the way places. She then discovers, that Alice may not be dead, but also might be involved in the secret war between the Thistle Men and the trucking company Bay and Creek.
I like Keisha as a character but there isn’t much development for Alice once she becomes a more active part of the action about halfway through the novel. For the side characters who team up with Keisha or are otherwise involved in the conflict, Sylvia was interesting (although I kinda saw what happens to her in the end coming) and I wish I could have gotten to see Cynthia in action instead of just hearing about her in the past tense. The fast forward in the epilogue was a little pointless since it suggests that nothing really changes except that a few things kind of did.
I think I liked the first Welcome to Night Vale novel better, largely because it was less about the bloody side of horror (really not my thing in any medium), and more about the suspense of struggling with a really strange and vaguely supernatural mystery. While Alice Isn’t Dead has a good premise and some intriguing characters, I just didn’t get as into it.