Welcome to Night Vale by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor
Allow me to introduce you to a strange little place. In the words of the podcast’s first lines in the pilot episode, it is “a friendly desert community where the sun is hot, the moon is beautiful, and mysterious lights pass overhead while we all pretend to sleep.”
Welcome to Night Vale.
So, let me confess right now that I love the podcast. It is so creepy and weird in all the best possible ways. When I first listened to it, I was reminded of The Twilight Zone. It’s like walking into a dream that is right on the verge of becoming a nightmare. I just wish the book was as good as the podcast.
Look, life is stressful. This is true everywhere. But life in Night Vale is more stressful. There are things lurking in the shadows. Not projections of a worried mind, but literal Things, lurking, literally, in shadows.
When I first picked up the book, it just wasn’t sitting right with me. A few chapters in, I realized the problem was that I was missing the radio host Cecil’s voice. I went to the library to get the audiobook and it was definitely the better option. You lose so much without Cecil’s voice, pacing, and telling of the strange tale.
Although the audiobook certainly helped my experience, the story just wasn’t very compelling. The beginning was exciting and the ending was interesting, but the middle definitely dragged. Our two main ladies, Jackie and Diane, seemed like the most bland characters to choose to focus the story on. The strangeness of it also loses its novelty when it’s more than a podcast’s worth of listening.
Still, for all that, the writing is clever and can keep you on your toes. At times it can be a very smart, witty critique and social commentary. The podcast is definitely better than the book, but it may be worth a read if you want to dive deep into the strange town of Night Vale.