26 October 2015

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

Welcome to Night Vale by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey CranorIn case you don't know, Welcome to Night Vale is a wildly popular podcast that's part horror, part conspiracy theory, part humor, and definitely strange--in a good way. In twenty-five-minute segments, authors Joesph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor invite us into the odd world of Night Vale, a unique town somewhere in southwest desert of the United States.

The novel Welcome to Night Vale tells a stand-alone story that fits seamlessly into the Night Vale universe. Although fans will immediately feel at home, I wonder if those new to Night Vale will be just as enchanted. The very premise of the town--with it's not-so-secret surveillance, nonhuman residents, and inconsistent flow of time--may be difficult to grasp within the pages of a book.

The audiobook (Harper Audio; 12 hr, 3 min) is probably the better way to read the newest offering from Fink and Cranor. The novel presents a complete story about Diane, a single mom, and Jackie, a store owner who is perennially nineteen years old, and their relationship to a strange man who is remarkably forgettable. The book contains some of the podcast's usual segments (the traffic report, for example) as well as the signature unexplained events, weird characters, and complex connections.

Podcast listeners will be immediately drawn into the audiobook, thanks to narrator Cecil Baldwin's soothing and familiar voice (he is also the primary voice of the twice-monthly show). The plot is fun and mysterious, and I love some of the characters, especially Diane's son, Josh. I've always appreciated Night Vale's easy acceptance of sexual identity, individual differences, and lifestyle choices; all of that--plus an abundance of otherworldliness--is included in the novel.

I was excited to listen to the Welcome to Night Vale book because I love the podcasts, which always leave me wanting more. Unfortunately, the longer format didn't hold my attention very well. Perhaps because I'm used to the show's short format or perhaps because my brain can take only so much weirdness in one stretch.

Here's the good news: The audiobook production is outstanding. We're lucky that Baldwin was available to do the narration. Seriously, he is the voice of Night Vale, and I can't imagine anyone else carrying the script. The story is also classic Night Vale, which means everything I expect out of the podcast is found in the novel.

So my suggestion is to listen to the Welcome to Night Vale audiobook a chapter a day or only during your commute. Had I done that, I think I would have avoided burnout and a wandering attention.

Fans have to listen to the Welcome to Night Vale. You really have no other choice. You will not be disappointed, but do yourself the favor of listening to the story in shorter segments rather than in large chunks.

Watch out for the Glow Cloud, stay away from the library, and don't admit you've seen angels.

Published by HarperCollins / Harper Perennial, 2015
ISBN-13: 9780062351425
Source: Review (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)


Chris bookarama 10/26/15, 7:27 AM  

When I first found Welcome to Night Vale, I binged on the old episode. I might be okay with listening to a longer version, but thanks for the heads up. I'm definitely going with audio for this one!

Daryl 10/26/15, 7:49 AM  

i saw an ad for this book in the NYT Book Review yesterday and wondered what it was about so thanks for the review (how timely!) ... i think i may check out the podcasts first to get a lay of the land

Amanda 10/26/15, 8:24 AM  

My experience with Night Vale was purely the twitter account, which I honestly got a bit tired of after awhile, probably because I wasn't listening to the podcast. I have a tendency to sign up for podcasts and then forget about them entirely. I prefer audiobooks to podcasts if I'm out for a walk or doing the dishes. That was my long way of saying that I hadn't really even looked at this book, thinking I wouldn't really understand it because I didn't follow the podcast. However, if you say that it's good for newbies, I'm totally grabbing the audio version!!

rhapsodyinbooks 10/26/15, 9:02 AM  

I should try the audiobook. For some reason I avoid podcasts, but really, aren't they just sort of audiobooks? I'm obviously behind the times....

bermudaonion 10/26/15, 9:28 AM  

I've heard of that podcast but have never listened to it. This book sounds interesting.

Vicki 10/26/15, 1:25 PM  

I've never heard of the podcast, but after reading your review, I'd love to listen to the audio version.

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