Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Welcome to Night Vale

That was what the Tourism Board’s new brochures said right on the front (“A town full of hidden evils and the secretly malevolent”).

19-year-old Jackie has been running Night Vale’s pawn store for decades. She is given a piece of paper by a man in a tan jacket holding a deerskin suitcase. On that paper reads the words “King City”. She can’t seem to put the paper down. She can’t seem to write anything other than “King City”. Diane is a single mother raising a shape-shifting teenager, who has started to try and find his biological father. As Diane tries to protect her family unit of two, she keeps running into Jackie and a man no one can remember...

The creators of the popular and surreal podcast, Welcome to Night Vale, now have written a novel of the same name. Full of contradictions and tangents, don’t go into the dog park, the prose has the same quality as the podcast and I found myself reading in Cecil’s voice.

Cecil Palmer spoke of the horrors of everyday life. Nearly every broadcast told a story of impending doom or death, or worse: a long life lived in fruitless fear of doom and death.

Speaking of Cecil, you’ll be happy to know Night Vale Community Radio has its place in the book, with Jackie and Diane’s story interspersed with broadcasts from our favourite presenter. Did he mention Carlos is his boyfriend? You won't get much additional information about him, or the history of Night Vale, but there's plenty of familiar references.

No one knows why science fiction is kept separately from the rest of the nonfiction. Tradition is a powerful thing. These shelves were much less censored than the main nonfiction, since science fiction tended to be about day-to-day stuff that everyone already knew.

With the podcast, they don’t really need to worry about plot and they are short enough to hold your attention with the weirdness. If you were picking up the book without being a fan of the podcast, you might feel you are waiting a bit too long for the main story arc to pick up. I found myself getting Diane and Jackie mixed up in the early parts as their characters aren’t that distinct.

The plot is really just there to hang off the wonderful weirdness of Night Vale and some quite poignant passages. I enjoyed the non-sequiturs myself, but I’d probably suggest trying the podcast first, then the book if it’s your kind of thing. Find out more about Night Vale on their website.

Welcome to Night Vale is published by Orbit and is available now in hardback and ebook editions. There is also an audiobook available narrated by Cecil which I imagine adds to the experience. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review via NetGalley.

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Disclosure: I received a copy of this book free of charge for review purposes only. Receipt of a book does not guarantee a review or endorsement. My reviews are my honest opinion and are not biased for the purpose of personal gain.

4 comments:

  1. I've been interested in this story but wondered if I have to go back to the beginning and start from there. Maybe the book would be good for me?

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    1. I only discovered Night Vale last year so I am in no way caught up. I think listening to the first podcast is probably the best place to start. The book doesn't really explain anything, although it would work as a standalone wierd mystery.

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  2. I've bought this based on your recommendation :) Will be listening to the podcast soon.

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    1. I hope you enjoy it, Night Vale might be a bit of an acquired taste!

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