This book has been an experience for me in the last week: I read the text while listening to the audiobook, and listened to the Podcast when colouring, walking, or doing other activities.
The book is written by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor and is published by Harper Perennial.
Night Vale is a town in the middle of the ‘American’ desert that is overall peculiar. All its inhabitants are very strange. The main story follows a single mom (of a shape-shifting boy) Diane, and a pawnshop owner named Jackie. A mysterious man in a tan jacket arrives leaving behind a note with only two words on it “King City.” The memories of this man fade and all Jackie is left with is “King City.” It’s a mystery/thriller that feels very much like Twin Peaks, but with the storytelling style of The Twilight Zone. The strangeness of each character is fantastical similar to Stranger Things where it’s sci-fi but told in a realistic way, highlighting human mundane problems using the supernatural. Between the narratives there are passages that look like transcripts from the town radio show. The radio passages unite the narratives because the news applies to all citizens of Night Vale and as a reader one can get a better sense of what goes on in town and what all the characters talk about communally.
I understand that the Podcast is wildly popular and has achieved great success between 2015 and 2016. I did not get a chance to finish the Podcast so I will write my impressions of the book/audiobook.
First: if you can get the audiobook I recommend it strongly. In fact, if you must choose between the printed text and the audio, choose the audio. There are several reasons why it works better in audio format. The first reason is that in Night Vale there is a radio broadcast and the narrator who reads the radio host voice Cecil is also the one who does it in the podcast. The second reason is that this is not a ‘literary’ book, but a highly atmospheric one. The musical accompaniment and sound effects from the audiobook help enhance the setting and atmosphere. It reminded me of so many things (like the shows mentioned above) and reading it I just got an overall feeling of eeriness and mystery. The plot itself is not that exciting and the characters are not that deep, but somehow it works and it works well.
If I had to choose between its three existing formats as a narrative I would say the Podcast is the best. Although I haven’t heard it through to the end, I can tell from the few episodes that it is this narrative’s best format. The novelization incorporates some characters from the Podcast but not necessarily the best ones. There are several parts with lulls where the novel lost my interest but it does pick up again.
That said, overall I loved this book and the experience of it. I look forward to finishing all the Podcast episodes.
The book is filled with lines that left me in awe and some that just made me laugh out loud. Here are some examples of lines I found funny and some I found beautiful.
Humour extracted from Cecil’s Broadcast:
“coming up after this break, some exclusive clips from my recent three-hour interview with myself, in which I interrogated myself on my motivations, where I am in life, why I’m not in a different place in life, whose fault that is, and why I said that one embarrassing thing once.”
“If you see one of these False Police, act right away by shrugging and thinking What am I gonna do? And then seeing if anything funny is on Twitter”
“if the School Board could not promise to prevent children from learning about dangerous activities like drug use and library science at recess…”
“if you see hooded figures in the Dog Park, no you didn’t.”
“Later she understood databases, having become the person she’d lied about being…”
“How does a person discover whether they are shy if they never have the time to meet new people?”
“There is nothing more lonely than an action taken quietly on your own, and nothing more comforting than doing that same quiet action in parallel with fellow humans doing the same action, everyone alone next to each other.”
“She left the shower as most people leave showers, clean and a little lonely”
“A person’s life is only what they do.”
Hopefully I captured some of Night Vale’s charm. I definitely recommend the Podcast, and the book/audiobook. This work will have a sequel coming out on October 17 this year with the title: It Devours! from the same authors.
The Audiobook is available through the public library with Overdrive. The ebook is also on Overdrive, and the public library should have the printed copy in its system.
There are also two volumes of the Welcome to Night Vale podcast SCRIPTS:
- Mostly Void, Partially Stars
- The Great Glowing Coils of the Universe