Book review: Welcome to Night Vale (a novel)


Let me start with saying that I am a fan of the podcast (even though I keep getting behind with episodes all the time). I have been to 2 live shows (The Librarian and The Investigators). I had a WTNV iPhone case designed for me by my talented friend. I even made a fan art once.

So, naturally, I got really excited about the book. I pre-ordered it and set on reading it before going to the book signing in November. Sadly, I got sick and couldn't go to the book signing, so I set the book away for some time.

When I started reading it, I was a bit confused by the narrative, which read exactly like a script of a podcast episode. The chapters were too short. I couldn't get into the reading mood, and after a couple of pages I put it back on the shelf, horrified at the fact that I am on my way to disliking the novel.

And then I read on Twitter (or, maybe, it was the podcast website) that there was an audiobook coming out.

This news confused me both by the fact that there is an audiobook of a novel based on a podcast (a weird recursion) AND that I didn't think there would be one (which in retrospect seems pretty obvious). So, of course I immediately purchased it on Audible.

I started reading the audiobook in bits - on the way to and from work, which is not really much of a commute. It was not until I went on a trip to QC when I really got into the book. Listening to WTNV novel read masterfully by Cecil on a train was the best thing possible. It allowed me to really get into the novel. I also listened to it while walking around QC and in my hotel.

I finished listening to it on my way back (I listened straight through the remaining 5 hours).  And I loved it.

I gave the plot 4 solid stars and 5 stars to Cecil for performance.

According to Audible website, the book is unabridged and narrated by Cecil Baldwin, Dylan Marron, Retta, Therese Plummer and Dan Bittner. But it is not exactly true. If you look at the audiobook cover, it states that Cecil is the narrator and others are guest stars. It is actually a big difference, as it is not a full cast audiobook. It is narrated only by Cecil.

And here is the fun part. The novel is written in third point of view, except for the chapters that are titled "The Voice of Night Vale" and are basically transcripts of the radio show (as part of the novel). Those chapters are read by Cecil Baldwin as Cecil and not the narrator (and he does a great job at this distinction) and only ONE of those chapters includes other characters and thus guest stars.

I just wanted to point it out because I expected the audiobook to be the full cast but it was not.

The plot itself involves both old and new characters with the focus on the characters that we knew nothing or very little about. It has all the wonderfully obscene and ridiculous aspects of the show. (I think Joseph Fink said on Twitter that someone "complained" about the book having only or mostly queer characters, and it is both wonderful and absolutely true! I couldn't find the exact comment, so I am citing by memory.)

Describing the plot is not an easy endeavour. It involves a 19 year old antique shop owner (who has been 19 for many years now), her estranged mother; another woman who is trying to reconnect with her teenaged son (who takes any shape he wants or likes); and a mysterious King City.

I don't think this book can be appreciated by someone who knows nothing about WTNV. You really don't need to know anything per se, but if you are not used to the style of the podcast, the book might shock or disappoint you. (My problem getting into the style of a written book was exactly that - I am too used to listening to it being narrated.) Otherwise, give it a go. Once I got the hang of the plot, which develops rather slowly and in too many directions at once, it seems, it all started working out for me.

Highly recommended for fans. I feel like listening to it again soon.