Review: American Elsewhere by Robert Jackson Bennett

14781178Some places are too good to be true.

Under a pink moon, there is a perfect little town not found on any map.

In that town, there are quiet streets lined with pretty houses, houses that conceal the strangest things.

After a couple years of hard traveling, ex-cop Mona Bright inherits her long-dead mother’s home in Wink, New Mexico. And the closer Mona gets to her mother’s past, the more she understands that the people of Wink are very, very different …

This book is weird. Not quirky-weird, weird-weird.

My best friend read this book and then decided I should too, and mentioned it constantly until I ended up buying it. She knew I was currently very into Welcome to Night Vale, and this book is similar in that it takes place in a fictional town somewhere in the desert (well, near the desert) where everything is a bit strange and at its heart lies a conspiracy. As soon as I read the second line of the blurb above, I knew I wanted this book. I knew I needed this book. It was exactly the kind of weird I was looking for.

It follows Mona, an ex-cop with a complex relationship with her past, as she travels to Wink to find out more about her mother who died when she was young. Her mother left behind a house, and Mona thinks there might be answers there. What she stumbles into is not the quaint little town it seems.

There is a lot to uncover in American Elsewhere, around every corner is something new and it takes a while for it to all click into place. The novel jumps around from person to person in a fashion that I absolutely love. I love the little glimpses of the lives and thoughts of other characters, especially when those characters are not quite normal. I fell in love with these not quite normals, Parson and Mr First especially.

My favourite character, however, was Gracie, sweet, sweet Gracie. She’s a tiny cinnamon bun who needs to be protected, and smothered with love. I can’t really reveal much about her without giant spoilers, so I won’t. Just know that she is precious, and she speaks to my awkward little heart.

American Elsewhere is immediate. Written in the present tense, we are always in the action. I love the present tense, and I know how difficult it is to do well, so it always makes me incredibly happy when I find a book that does just that.

It’s a hefty book but, because of the present tense narration, it’s quite a quick read. It’s definitely a page turner and it’s hard to put down once you start!

If you like Welcome to Night Vale, you’re going to love this. If you like weird, you’re going to love this. What are you waiting for?

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Review: The Great Glowing Coils of the Universe by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor

296349312In The Great Glowing Coils of the Universe we witness a totalitarian takeover of Night Vale that threatens to forever change the town and everyone living in it.

The Great Glowing Coils of the Universe features a foreword by co-writer Jeffrey Cranor, behind-the-scenes commentary and guest introductions by performers from the podcast and notable fans, including Cecil Baldwin (Cecil), Mara Wilson (The Faceless Old Woman), Hal Lublin (Steve Carlsberg) among others. Also included is the full script from the Welcome to Night Vale live show, The Debate.  Beautiful illustrations by series artist Jessica Hayworth accompany each episode.

If you’re not read Mostly Void, Partially Stars, you should go and read that before you continue with this review.

It’s fine. I’ll wait.

Finished? Excellent. We’ll get on with it shall we?

I love this book more than I loved the first, and that’s saying something. Everything about The Great Glowing Coils of the Universe is wonderful, from the sweeping storylines that you think might have ended only to come back in some grand, dramatic fashion. Everything in the second book is a lot more interconnected and cohesive. Well, as cohesive as anything in Night Vale can be anyway.

With the second book of scripts (and the second year of the podcast) we are granted confirmation of Night Vale’s favourite ship, Carlos and Cecil. It’s great that not only is it a LGBTQ*-inclusive relationship but a multi-cultural one, Carlos being a person of colour and Cecil being, well Cecil.

Cecil is such an endearing character. There’s just something about him that is easy to love. I want to protect him at all costs.

The characters in Night Vale are so easy to like and connect with. They are normal without being normal and abnormal without being entirely incomprehensible. That may not make any sense but I am sure that if you’ve listened to or read anything of Night Vale, you get what I mean. There are so many diverse characters to love, and love them I do. (Except you, Steve Carlsberg, you’re the worst.)

(Did you see what I did there?)

My favourite, other than Cecil, has to be Tamika Flynn who led the resistance against StrexCorp after triumphing over the Librarians in the Summer Reading Programme of 2013. Tamika is fab. She is strong, a hero and she likes to read, what more could you want? The only thing I can think of is: more of her. But then again, too much Tamika might spoil her magic.

It’s hard to talk about these books because of just how wonderfully random they are but rest assured. They’re fantastic and well worth the read.

All in all, it’s wonderful. I can’t wait for the next installment (a review of the novel is also on the way, so you have that to look forward to).

Review: Mostly Void, Partially Stars by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor

29634931From the authors of the New York Times bestselling novel Welcome to Night Vale and the creators of the #1 international podcast of the same name, comes a collection of episodes from Season One of their hit podcast, featuring an introduction by the authors, behind-the-scenes commentary, and original illustrations.

Mostly Void, Partially Stars introduces us to Night Vale, a town in the American Southwest where every conspiracy theory is true, and to the strange but friendly people who live there.

Mostly Void, Partially Stars features an introduction by creator and co-writer Joseph Fink, behind-the-scenes commentary and guest introductions by performers from the podcast and notable fans, including Cecil Baldwin (Cecil), Dylan Marron (Carlos), and Kevin R. Free (Kevin) among others. Also included is the full script from the first Welcome to Night Vale live show, Condos. Beautiful illustrations by series artist Jessica Hayworth accompany each episode.

Welcome to Night Vale is a cult phenomenon. If you’ve not heard of it, I urge you to check it out. It’s wonderfully weird and weirdly wonderful and more than a little bit odd.

I’ve listened to some of the Welcome to Night Vale podcast and thoroughly enjoyed it. My only problem with it has been that if I am doing anything else at the same time, I don’t properly pay attention. With Night Vale if you don’t pay attention for a moment you can end up lost in the middle of a completely different plot point than you remember having heard before. I wanted to consume it a lot quicker than I was able to listen to it, so I was so happy when my boyfriend bought me the books for Christmas. I do intend to listen to the rest of the podcasts but having the book meant I could devour it in a few sittings.

At first Mostly Void, Partially Stars is very, well, random. Most of the scripts are almost entirely separate, with only Cecil, the Night Vale Community Radio Host, and the mention of other characters connecting them. This is not a bad thing by any means. You never quite know what to expect with a Night Vale. Fink and Cranor are especially good at being ridiculous without it being so ridiculous that it just makes no sense. It makes very little sense. But it makes a weird Night Vale sort of sense.

By the time the book draws to a close, story lines are being woven through the episodes and everything seems that much more connected. I found the later episodes more enjoyable than the earlier ones. The earlier episodes were like dipping a toe in the water of Night Vale every week and coming out with a different kind of water, whereas the later ones seem to have found their particular flavour and clung to it, determined to make it taste like the best flavour ever.

If you’ve already listened to the podcasts then you know what you’re getting with the book – you can probably hear the podcasts as you read. However, also included are the commentaries alongside each episode. I loved these. It was so great to get an insight into the creative minds behind the series, and it was so wonderful to find that they live up to the surrealness of the series.

The episodes are decorated with illustrations by the fabulous Jessica Hayworth. They are perfect. The style of them is so appropriate and they really bring the world to life. I have so many favourites that I can’t possibly choose any. They’re such a brilliant companion to the scripts, I really can’t praise them highly enough.

If you’re a fan of Welcome to Night Vale, I would recommend reading Mostly Void, Partially Stars for a different experience. If you think you’re not a very podcasty person but love weird, out there sorts of things, read Mostly Void, Partially Stars. It is very much out there.