Rated it: 3 stars
Read in: April
Note to people who’ve never listened to to podcast: I will not tell you that you can only enjoy this book if you listen to the episodes, though it would help. From what I understand it’s marketed as a stand alone. Personally, I don’t mind if you disliked it. Only too easy to be confused and feel like an outsider. It’s a poor reflection of the podcast so please don’t let this discourage you from listening.
When I say that I felt my mind bend several times throughout the book, I am not kidding. For some reason I still can’t put a finger on, I was skeptical about the entire thing. I could suppose that I was so trained to the podcast format that the setup for novel approach was … puzzling. Who am I kidding? Honestly it fell flat for me. There. I said it.
However, I am now satisfied in several respects with regards to the plots of certain episodes. For instance I can now file the away the speculation that The Man In The Tan Jacket is not actually Cecil’s long forgotten brother.
Thanks to The Man and his stupid note, Jackie’s become irritatingly aware of the oddness of her existence. Particularly pissed because because her boring routine life has been unashamedly demolished. The order and the peace of mind it brought, gone. It should be a damn crime.
Diane is more complicated. A single mother having to try communicate with an ever distant teenage shape-shifting son is nothing at all to sneeze at. Between that growing divide is the pothole of all potholes, his father Troy.
What interesting was the way that the thought process of the characters were like collages of normal moments that you would experience in a day and then proceed to forget, only that here and there they are dissected to lay bare the bones of little facets of reality. On the other hand, it tends to go off tangent. My train of thought struggles to keep on track while I try to accept the weirdness of the text.
I consider the biggest success of Welcome To Night Vale is the treatment of the concept of normalcy. It is being consistently pounded into the ground. What’s the normal in Burma? What does it look like in Kansas? What the hell is “normal” even? When I meet new people, I want to understand the way that their Normal has shaped them and affected their views of the world.
My knowledge of the podcast made me appreciate the book but I am woefully disappointed with it. At times it got pedantic. What a 20 minute episode could pull off magnificently … this book could not come close to replicating, though it retained enough to be sort of nostalgic in a sense.
The shining star has always been Cecil Palmer, the richness lies in the diverse set of citizens whose boring and exciting escapades colour the landscape of Night Vale. I was glad to see Jackie and Diane interact with these familiar faces and their unique environment, in a way we’ve never seen before.
But this book took me months to digest, it was needlessly long and somewhat inconclusive, not to mention contained inside jokes that could easily alienate new people. That aside, I’m happy Fink and Cranor took the chance with the novel, hopefully they can learn from it.