Okay, here's the thing: I really love the WtNV podcast. It's one of my favorite ways to unwind in the evening, or pass time on a road trip. I've been to the live show, and I have tickets to go again this fall. I'm a fan. So when I managed to get my hands on an advance copy of the new book I was absolutely beside myself with glee. Which is why it was so vexing when I dug into the book and was fairly underwhelmed.
The book is written in exactly the same style as the podcast. That sounds like a good thing, but actually it's a huge detriment. The cadence that works so well delivered "over the radio" falls flat in print. It's repetitious to a degree that's grating, and I found myself frequently setting the book aside. There's an exhaustion that sets in from continually thinking, "Yes, yes. It's weird. I know. I get it. Move forward!" This doesn't happen with the podcast (that's it's charm), but books work differently - you interact with literature in a different way than you do a radio show. This would have been a really fast read if it weren't for the fact I'd get tired of digging my way forward after only 20 pages.
[Flipping to a random spot, here is an example of the repetitious style I'm referring to (actual book copy may differ as I am reading an ARC):
"He was looking toward Diane. He was not looking at Diane, but in her vicinity. ... He was looking toward Diane, but his glance seemed to stop just short of where Diane was."]
In addition to the writing style this book is heavy on the references and light on the plot. I for one enjoyed recognizing the places/people/events that were continually peppered in throughout the book, but I am a fan. I can't imagine how confusing and off-putting this book might be for someone entering Night Vale for the first time. But this book isn't really made for non-fans, is it? So perhaps that's not so much an issue as it is knowing the demographic of your audience. If you're a fan you'll enjoy reading about John Peters (you know, the farmer?), invisible pie at the Moonlite All-Night Diner, librarians, and the millions of other little things. If not, prepare to be on the outside of one long in-joke.
Here's the thing though, since I do love Night Vale I couldn't help but love this book at least a little bit too. There's something fun about being in on the joke, even if it's not that good, right? Once the plot got rolling (it took it's time, but it did eventually get there), and the book tried to tell more of a story instead of just cramming in a bunch of weirdness and references, I did enjoy myself.
So here is my advice: If you're a fan you're going to want this book. Resist the urge to get the print edition and get the audiobook instead. I haven't listened to it, but I feel confident audio is the way to go with this one. Night Vale should be heard, not read. Let Cecil tell you the story, and a lot of the issues should melt away. And if you're not a fan? Start with the podcast. Ideally, go for a drive through the desert while listening to the podcast. Stop at a diner. Reflect on the weirdness of life. It would be a better glimpse into Night Vale, and use of your time, than jumping into this book without a lifejacket, and most likely sinking.
Welcome to Night Vale hits bookshelves October 20th.