Review: Welcome to Night Vale by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor

24590694Night Vale is a small desert town where all the conspiracy theories you’ve ever heard are actually true. It is here that the lives of two women, with two mysteries, will converge.

Nineteen-year-old Night Vale pawn shop owner Jackie Fierro is given a paper marked ‘KING CITY’ by a mysterious man in a tan jacket. She can’t seem to get the paper to leave her hand, and no one who meets this man can remember anything about him. Jackie is determined to uncover the mystery of King City before she herself unravels.

Diane Crayton’s son, Josh, is moody and also a shape shifter. And lately Diane’s started to see her son’s father everywhere she goes, looking the same as the day he left years earlier. Josh, looking different every time Diane sees him, shows a stronger and stronger interest in his estranged father, leading to a disaster Diane can see coming, even as she is helpless to prevent it.

Diane’s search to reconnect with her son and Jackie’s search for her former routine life collide as they find themselves coming back to two words: ‘KING CITY’. It is King City that holds the key to both of their mysteries, and their futures …if they can ever find it.

We are still on the Welcome to Night Vale train here on eloucarroll.com. We regret nothing.

(We being I, me, Elou, all on my lonesome. I like to think I’m royal and thus able to pull off the royal ‘we’, do I succeed? You decide. My deciding would be nepotism, and my nepotism would say yes. Yes, I do.)

Anyway, let’s avoid any more tangents, shall we? (There I go again…)

Welcome to Night Vale: A Novel is, you guessed it, a novel based on the wildly popular Welcome to Night Vale podcast. I would recommend listening to at least some of the podcasts or picking up Mostly Void, Partially Stars and The Great Glowing Coils of the Universe (the script books for the first two years of the podcast) before you read the novel. Not only will you be more invested by that point but you will also have some idea of what to expect and some familiarity with the setting and some of the characters. The novel does mention things that have occurred previously on the podcast.

Or you could go into it blind and be in for a wild, wild ride. (No, really, you should probably familiarise yourself with Night Vale – I’m not sure it’s hugely accessible for new readers unless you already know what you’re in for.)

As you might have gathered from the blurb Welcome to Night Vale is weird. Unlike American Elsewhere, which I read and reviewed recently, the weird in Night Vale is the random sort of weird that always manages to take you by surprise. I am amazed at the imaginations of Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor but I am even more amazed at their ability to make all of the random things which make Night Vale what it is work together. I always thought that there was such a thing as too out there. Fink and Cranor continue to prove me wrong.

Interspersed with the familiar radio stylings of Cecil, the novel itself follows Diane and Jackie, two unlikely heroines who are thrown together (much to their disgruntlement) by circumstances beyond their control. Both linked by the mysterious stranger in the tan jacket and his cryptic two-word message of ‘KING CITY’. Jackie and Diane are wildly different, and it’s great that we get to experience the story through both of their perspectives, with some chapters happening parallel to one another.

However, it’s not until the last couple of chapters that the plot actually gets anywhere and I think that’s why it took me so long to read (it took me over a week, which is a long time for me at my current reading speed). The wild ride I mentioned earlier was not the wild ride of the plot – that was the wild ride of Night Vale as a thing. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed the novel but it could probably have been a fair bit shorter. What works in a short podcast doesn’t necessarily work for a long-form novel. There’s lots of exposition but not enough plot to really justify it, for the podcast this would be perfect but the novel could have done without it. That said, I do love the narrative style (even if it does go every direction except forwards for a lot of the novel). It has a habit of pointing out things that we all know but never really think about, which I really enjoy. At the end of the book, there’s a sentence which spans across three pages. I didn’t notice that it was all the same sentence at first. Until I did. I’m not sure what I think about that but I think that I like how my mind just accepted it and succumbed to the power of the sentence. (I am suddenly worried that the sentence is going to leap out of the book and make a bid at world domination. If any book could convince its sentences to jump ship and take over the world, it would probably be this one.)

Welcome to Night Vale is a mixed bag and it could go either way, I enjoyed it but there are so many reviews from existing fans and Night Vale newbies alike who thought it just fell flat. I can see where they’re coming from. Personally, I like rambling, pointless stories (as long as they have a point of interest, narrative style or characters that I can engage with) but I know a lot of people don’t and if a book’s plot doesn’t really show up until the last few chapters, that’s going to be a problem.

So while I do recommend this book, I recommend it with a pinch of salt. It’s definitely not everyone’s cup of tea and even though I enjoyed it, I would recommend you explore Night Vale a bit before you pick up the novel to avoid being thrown head-first into a pit of confusion.

Advertisements

One thought on “Review: Welcome to Night Vale by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor

  1. I’ve had this on my radar for about a year now. It’s good to get some info from you around listening to the podcast first! I’ll be sure to do that if I ever feel the urge to make this my next read. Great and informative review!!

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s