Monday, October 26, 2015
Welcome to Night Vale by Joseph Fink & Jeffrey Cranor
Welcome to Night Vale is a recently published novel written by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor. It is a story set in the same setting as the #1 international hit podcast of the same name. Rather than being a novelisation of one of the story-lines that has already happened on the podcast, this novel presents an entirely new story-line that explores the origin and explanation for one of the background characters who was introduced in the early episodes of the podcast; namely: The Man in the Tan Jacket.
If you are unacquainted with the recurring twice-monthly podcast through CommonPlace Books, the first episode aired in June 2012. Source material and inspiration for the stories that happened in the early episodes were drawn from A Commonplace Book of the Weird: The Untold Stories of H.P. Lovecraft and What It Means to be a Grown-up, both originally published by CommonPlace Books. It began slowly gathering a somewhat underground following on the internet, until almost the one year anniversary of the show, when it hit mainstream social media in a big way. With its rise in popularity, they were able to add more cast members, open a merchandise store, and begin touring the world with live shows. After the 2014 San Diego Comic Con, when the WtNV podcast did a live crossover show with the hugely popular podcast The Thrilling Adventure Hour, the Night Vale podcast exploded into popular media, and in the fall of 2014 the promise of a Night Vale novel was announced.
Done in the style of a community radio broadcast, the podcast features the public radio host of the small desert town of Night Vale, Cecil Palmer (voiced by theatre actor Cecil Baldwin). Through the announcements of Cecil, the listener is given "community updates for the small desert town of Night Vale, featuring local weather, news, announcements from the Sheriff's Secret Police, mysterious lights in the night sky, dark hooded figures with unknowable powers, and cultural events."[x] If this sounds odd, yet intriguing, it is also worth noting that the local weather isn't weather, but instead feature music from an ever changing selection of indie musicians. There is also a floating cat in the radio station men's bathroom.
The novel focuses on the story and explanation of one of the characters introduced and frequently referenced but never so-far explained in the podcast--The Man in the Tan Jacket who carries a deerskin suitcase and has had many interactions with Night Vale citizens, but whom no one ever remembers once the interactions is over. Two new characters, as yet not introduced in the podcast, Jackie Fierro the pawnshop owner and Diana Crayton the head of the Night Vale PTA, set out to solve the mystery of The Man in the Tan Jacket and the mysterious papers he has been leaving all over town, which read KING CITY. With the assistance of Carlos the Scientist, John Peters the Farmer, Old Woman Josie and her angels (who are all named Erica), and many other Night Vale characters, Jackie and Diana investigate the mystery of KING CITY, all the while Cecil's radio broadcast takes place in the background of the story.
I was lucky enough to have been given an Advanced Readers Copy of this novel back over the summer, and have been just itching to review it ever since. The book is a wonderful tie-in to the on-going podcast, but it still works as a stand-alone story, if you haven't been, or don't plan on, listening to the show. Fink's and Cranor's writing style(s) remind me a bit of the writing of Lemony Snicket, in The Series of Unfortunate Events. Having read the print book already, I am now looking forward to listening to it as an audio-book, since the audio version is narrated by Cecil Baldwin, and also features some of the voice actors who have appeared on the podcast thusfar. As of right now, the Ocean City Free Public Library only has the regular book--but keep an eye out, as the collection is always changing and expanding.
If you're unfamiliar with the podcast, and want to stop being unfamiliar, you can check it out here to find the previous episodes, or here to see the recent Welcome to Night Vale segment on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert. If you already know Night Vale, or you would rather first experience the novel unspoiled by backstory, you can put yourself on hold for Welcome to Night Vale: a novel, available soon at the Ocean City Free Public Library. Don't worry--the Ocean City librarians are much nicer than the librarians at the Night Vale Public Library. Our librarians have far fewer talons.