- Audible Audiobook
- Listening Length: 12 hours and 1 minute
- Program Type: Audiobook
- Version: Unabridged
- Publisher: HarperAudio
- Audible.com Release Date: October 20, 2015
- Language: English
- ASIN: B00YI0B2KK
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank:
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Welcome to Night Vale: A Novel Audible Audiobook – Unabridged
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Someone keeps leaving pages from it under my pillow while I sleep. Every morning a new one.
They are not in order.
I'm a long-time follower of the podcast this book is based on, so I of course appreciated its regular interjections from Cecil and the cameos from (and new insights into!) such town regulars as Old Woman Josie, Carlos the Scientist, Mayor Dana Cardinal, and that guy Steve Carlsberg. (Get it together, Steve.) And of course I like callbacks to the Faceless Old Woman Who Secretly Lives in Your Home, the Glow Cloud, and the town rivalry with Desert Bluffs, as well as Cecil's continual smugness about how hot and talented his scientist boyfriend is. All the in-jokes are there for us, while just being random weirdness if you're new to the world: You pay your bill at Big Rico's with a certain strange ritual, crises generally resolve before Cecil is done reporting on them, and mountains aren't real (or maybe they are, but that's controversial). And some food is invisible.
Plot-wise, it's lovely to follow characters for much longer than a podcast episode--and see things through their perspective without necessarily feeling that Cecil is narrating their experiences--and I enjoyed how everything was weird and not necessarily satisfying but still leaves you with that feeling that Something Happened. But it's not just weird; it's got some honestly gorgeous images in it that smack you sideways unexpectedly. It's haunting. I'll share some of these quotes at the end, where the concepts are both bizarre and beautiful. The scene of Diane and Jackie joining forces to escape the library was incredibly exciting, and their relationship was deliciously complicated--as was Jackie's relationship with her mother--and it was funny that the cover art on a biography of Helen Hunt tried to attack them. Oh, and remember, scientists are pack animals, and you have to whisper a secret into the car's cup holder to start the ignition.
It's just really interesting that the book hits the nail on the head about Cecil's voice letting us let things go. We let go of questions even as his voice brings us more of them. Also, the tradition continues for intern work at the radio station to be a dangerous job with a high mortality rate. Not to mention one of your duties is editing Cecil's slash fiction.
Before I share my favorite quotes, I want to talk about some of the important social points in this book. Most notably, it deals heavily with a father who abandoned his partners and children, how those mothers who raised those children coped, how the father cannot expect to just reappear after the hard work is done and be equally important to the children, and how said father can still be a helpful, useful, "good" person while still having done something that damaged his families. This was represented with the character Troy literally being multiple versions of himself, dozens of Troys everywhere, without a single one staying to raise his children. I loved Diane's speech regarding her son's wanting to find his father:
I raised you for fifteen years. I fed you and clothed you. I loved you and still do. I love you because you have been with me for fifteen years. I am your mother because we have been together your whole childhood. I have earned you as my son. Troy does not get to be your father simply because he participated in your creation. Troy does not get to earn your love as a son because you are biologically his. I have done the work. I have put in the time. I have loved you. Troy does not get to be my equal in your life because he has not earned it. I need to protect myself. And I need to protect you.
This is incredibly relevant to anyone who's raised a child after the other partner left, and that's become common in many people's households. There is also a really interesting, related point in this story about how family is what becomes from the relationships you cultivate; a father is not a father just because he contributed genetic material, but someone who did not contribute genetic material can be more of a father sometimes. Characters who are not technically related can become like sisters because of what they develop. Many of us in the real world can relate to this too. It's also refreshing that when it's revealed Troy left Diane, Jackie makes a remark about Troy being bad because of it, which makes Diane feel validated. She'd always before felt that she was to blame for "making a mistake" by being with him, but the text explicitly puts the onus on Troy. Wonderful.
Relatedly, I also really enjoy how consistently the character Jackie experienced condescension and dismissal because of others' perception of her age. As a perpetual nineteen-year-old, Jackie knows nothing but being discounted because of her supposed immaturity, and it was interesting how Diane's knee-jerk reaction was to boss Jackie around and immediately tune her input out. There was quite a lot of this, and after Diane learned how it felt to receive this treatment, she wasn't so hasty to dish it out to Jackie or her son. It's very important for adults to realize how their advice comes across and how easy it is to ignore someone's input if it's clear they don't respect you.
And of course, in the midst of so many extremely weird things happening and extremely normal things being taken for weird, same-sex relationships are never invoked as odd at all. Pretty much every relationship or potential relationship just is what it is, with Diane being as willing to imagine that her son might have a crush on a boy as she was to imagine he might have a crush on a girl. And when her son thinks she might be dating, the potential relationship she calls out as a shield is a woman named Dawn, but her son believes she's saying "Don," and neither possibility is weird or remarkable. The words "gay," "straight," and "bisexual" are never used, and while some people think it's frustrating to have queer relationships without labeling them, I think it fits well with the tone. (Also, there is a sort of nod to asexuality in there; a character is describing what happens when kids grow up, and remarks, "and they get interested in boys and girls, or they don't, and anyway they change." No acknowledgment is made of nonbinary genders, but this was an unusual acknowledgment that growing up does not automatically mean we all form those kinds of relationships.)
Okay, and these are my favorite quotes.
You will smell must and soap, and feel a stab of panic about how alone you are. It will be like most showers you've taken.
All of the angels in Night Vale live with Josie out by the car lot. There are no angels in Night Vale.
On pet care:
Now it was time to feed those items that were alive. Some of the items were alive. Some of them were dogs, and some weren't.
On great deals:
Get out to Lenny's for their big grand opening sale. Find eight government secrets and get a free kidnapping and personality reassignment so that you'll forget you found them!
Diane was like most people. Most people are.
The avocado was, of course, fake, as all avocados are.
On invisible consumables:
The Moonlite All-Nite Diner along Route 800 served okay coffee. Okay pies. Some of the pies and coffee were invisible, and, for the people who like invisible pie and invisible coffee, this was a real plus. Here's what: if you like a thing, and only one place in town serves that thing, you're going to be pretty excited by that thing, regardless of quality.
On the Faceless Old Woman:
The faceless old woman who secretly lives in their home crawled by on the ceiling, but neither of them noticed.
On sponsored content:
And now a word from our sponsors. Or not now, but later. Much later. You won't know it when it happens. It'll be just one of the many words you'll encounter that day. But it will come leaden with unseen meaning and consequence, and it will slowly spread throughout your life, invisibly infecting every light moment with its heaviness. Our sponsors cannot be escaped. You will see their word. And you will never know.
On science fiction:
No one knows why science fiction is kept separately from the rest of the nonfiction. Tradition is a powerful thing. These shelves were much less censored than the main nonfiction section, since science fiction tended to be about day-to-day stuff that everyone already knew.
On the nature of the world:
The world is terrifying. It always is. But Cecil reminded her that it was okay to relax in a terrifying world.
More sponsored content:
And now a word from our sponsors. Having trouble sleeping? Are you awake at all hours? Do birds live in you? Are you crawling with insects? Is your skin jagged and hard? Are you covered in leaves and gently shaking in the gentle breeze? You sound like a tree. You are perfectly healthy. Also, you don't need to sleep. You're a tree, a very very smart tree. Are you listening to the radio? Is a human assisting you? What plan do you have for our weak species? Please, tree, I beg of you to spare me. Please, tree. Spare me. This message has been brought to you by Old Navy. Old Navy: What's Going to Happen to My Family?
We don't have our children. We have the faint, distorted echoes of our children that this town sent back to us.
A+++ Very much enjoyed!!!
First things first, I adore this book. It's honestly everything I wanted it to be, and even more. Fink and Cranor do a great job of taking the absurdity and humor of the podcast and making it work as a novel. The novel isn't told from Cecil's point of view - like the podcast is - and that's the best decision they could have made. By changing the point of view, they've opened up the world of Night Vale more than ever. Now we have the chance to experience life as a "regular" citizen of Night Vale. And the fact that the book actually jumps between two points of view is even better, giving us a nice variety of characters and experiences.
One point of view is that of Jackie Fierro, a pawn shop owner who has been nineteen for as long as she can remember. The other point of view is Diane Crayton, a mother of a son who can change his appearance at will and desperately wants to know information about his dad. The book alternates between their points of view in nearly every chapter, and it's utilized with panache, especially when Jackie and Diane start interacting with each other. I have a soft spot for stories that will show the same event from multiple points of view.
The prose itself is reminiscent of the podcast, which itself is reminiscent of writers like Douglas Adams. Again, I think this was a smart move for Fink and Cranor to make. It can be hard making a transition from one medium of entertainment to another, especially when you're changing the entire format of the story. There was always the possibility that without Cecil as the narrator, this wouldn't have worked. But it does, partially because the prose is so reminiscent of the language used in the podcast that it feels like an extension of what fans already hear and love.
As for the story itself, Welcome to Night Vale really is one of those books that defies genres. One part brilliant whodunnit, another part emotional family drama, another part absurdist humor, the book manages to combine a whole bunch of genres that often aren't combined into this melting pot of entertaining literature. The mystery itself is interesting enough, and it's only heightened by the excellent, dynamic characters written by Fink and Cranor. The story benefits from not tying itself too heavily into things that have happened in the podcast, aside from answering one of the biggest questions in the podcast: just who is the man in the tan jacket? People who have never heard the podcast before are given enough information about the man in the tan jacket for this part of the storyline to be meaningful, but fans of the podcast will really get a lot out of this as they uncover the mystery behind this well-known and beloved character.
It's a quick and easy read, full of twists and turns and emotional moments that always end up feeling earned. No part of this book feels like a cash grab, adapting a popular property into another medium. Instead, it feels like a genuine expansion of the universe with an original, moving, and entertaining story to tell that couldn't have been told with the confines of the podcast.
Welcome to Night Vale: A Novel is an enjoyable read for anyone who is already a fan of the podcast. Part Twilight Zone, part X-Files, part This American Life, Night Vale manages to bridge all these disparate elements together into a cohesive and entertaining story that appeals to a wide audience. I recommend it to anyone who likes science fiction, absurdist humor, Douglas Adams-style books, is already a fan of the podcast, or who just likes a good whodunnit with excellently written dynamic characters.