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24 October 2015 @ 02:50 pm
Book Review: Welcome to Night Vale  
I ended up reading the book first and had the audio version play for its 12 hour run while I did a bunch of chores around my apartment.

Below is my non-spoilery brief review.

My biggest concern about this book was having to read the sometimes hipstery meta-language of Fink and Cranor without the benefits of Cecil Baldwin's narration. Having finished the book in a couple of days, I'll say that yes, there are moments when the metaphoric language of Night Vale is a bit too on point. But it never stays in the Obvious Pit for long and when Night Vale's weirdness mirrors back the general weirdness of being alive and human, it does it really, really effectively. I at first rolled my eyes a little at the conceit that Josh, Diane's teenage son, shapeshifts as a clear metaphor for teenage identity crisis. But as the novel took that idea and used it to highlight the challenging relationship a single mom can have to her teenage son, I found myself rather moved.

The plot of the novel dovetails well with one of the mysteries introduced in the podcast and even gives us a conclusion. If there's one thing that's been a danger for me and the podcast, it's the seemingly never ending list of mysteries introduced and then dropped by the creators. With this book, I think Fink and Cranor give us some closure to a side story that's been hovering on the edges of the larger plot arcs of the podcast for some time now.

If you're not a listener of the podcast, you can still follow the plot of the novel without much difficulty. However, I don't know how much a non-listener could fully enjoy the reading experience. Most of my enjoyment of the book came from all the random easter eggs thrown in and the references to events you hear about on the podcast. Plus, it was always fun to hear from a familiar character (and there were loads). Like, I don't know if a non-listener could fully appreciate Steve Carlsberg in the novel as a listener would in terms of how the man just tries so hard and is so cheerful but is still such an outsider in his own town.

In terms of actual character development, there pretty much is none. The two main characters of the novel, Jackie and Diane, are casually mentioned characters of the podcast given the spotlight here. They're the most developed in the sense we finally find out a lot about them. But in terms of the podcast's main characters like Cecil, Carlos, Old Woman Josie etc., you learn nothing new and they go about their usual Night Vale ways. So no one should be going into this book hoping for more about them. In fact, Cecil Palmer only appears in radio broadcast form (the book has sections that are his radio shows) which felt weirdly appropriate.

In terms of the audiobook, it's always nice to hear Cecil Baldwin's voice. He does a good job narrating and does a very noticable and needed tonal shift from when he's reading the 3rd person narrative of the novel to when he's reading Cecil's radio broadcasts. You can really tell when he's Cecil Baldwin, narrator to when he's Cecil Baldwin playing Cecil Palmer which is great. There's also a couple of guest voices (which you'll know when you look at the cover of the audiobook) which is incredibly brief but pretty hilariously memorable.

Overall, I'd say the book was enjoyable. Not the best thing I've ever read but like the podcast has real moments of truly great humor and heart.
shadowfireflameshadowfireflame on October 25th, 2015 07:24 pm (UTC)
Thanks for this review! I was thinking of picking up this book, so this helps.