Welcome to Night Vale is one of my favorite podcasts. The Voice of Night Vale, Cecil Palmer, hosts a radio program informing the local residents of events like the annual marathon Through the Narrow Place, PSAs like the dog park is not a place for people or dogs, and news like an attempted takeover of the town by a five headed dragon. Just small town stuff.
I like the podcast because it's quirky and weird. It creates a world where the laws of nature don't apply, yet there is a strange logic that makes sense within that world. I've become attached to the recurring characters who appear on the show: the Faceless Old Woman Who Secretly Lives in Your Home, Old Woman Josie and her angels, and the revolving door of interns who meet untimely deaths. These are fixtures of the show now.
I was really looking forward to more of this in the first Welcome to Night Vale novel, written by the creators of the show, Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor. I knew I would have to listen to the audio version of it, especially since it is narrated by Cecil. Unfortunately, I think I had built it up too high in my mind.
The book focuses on ordinary people living in Night Vale. Diane Crayton is a single mom with a teenaged son who constantly changes physical form. Jackie Fierro is the owner of the pawn shop who has been nineteen years old for decades, maybe centuries. Diane keeps seeing her son's estranged father, Troy, everywhere, apparently the same age as the day he left. Jackie receives a paper with the words "King City" written on it that she can't throw away. Both women are forced to work together to solve their individual problems. All roads lead to King City, even though it is impossible to get there.
I guess the book is a look at what is happening to regular people while Cecil is reporting the weird news. I'm not sure I really like it. I enjoy thinking of the residents as a collective. It would be a bummer to focus on all the people lost during "Street Cleaning Day." Some of the best parts of the book were the Voice of Night Vale sections, snippets of Cecil's radio broadcast, and are in the spirit of the podcast.
I didn't feel emotionally invested in the lives of these characters at all. I didn't care about them and thought a lot of what they were going through was angsty navel gazing. The best parts were when they were in peril and a lot of action was happening, like at the library (I'm serious). At least we end up finding out who the man with the deerskin suitcase is. (Though it was disappointing.)
This was a disappointment for me. I wanted to love it, but... I will be sticking with the podcast because I think that is really the format for this kind of storytelling.
About the Audio: Cecil Baldwin narrates the novel, with appearances by Retta and Dylan Marron. Cecil is Cecil. There could be no one else to narrate Welcome to Night Vale. Maybe this isn't fair because the podcast is so well produced and I don't know anything about audiobook production but I didn't find the quality of sound to be as good.