Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Because the night belongs to us

It took me some time to get in the spirit of Welcome to Night Vale, by Joseph Fink and Jeffery Cranor, a novel set in the world of their eponymous podcast. Having never listened to said podcast (full confession, my mind wanders when listening to things; it's one reason I don't do audiobooks), I started off having no idea about the setting. only that more than a few friends of mine really like the podcast.

Night Vale is a desert town that seemingly isn't particularly connected to the rest of the world. It comes off a bit like Stephen King and Garrison Keillor collaborating, creating the Derry Home Companion. 

The story for the novel centers on two disparate women, Jackie and Diane, only one of whom is an American kid doing the best that she can. That would be Jackie, who's been 19 going on centuries. She runs the local pawn shop, giving people $11 for anything they pawn. Mercedes, tears, and to get the ball rolling, a piece of paper that says "KING CITY". Said paper is pawned by a gentleman in a tan suit whom she can't seem to remember after he leaves with his ticket and $11. Nor can she seem to drop said piece of paper. no matter what she does, it keeps returning to her hand. Also, she can't seem to write anything other than KING CITY after accepting the pawn.

Diane, on the other hand, is doing the best she can to raise her son Josh, who besides being a moody teenager, spends most of his time changing shape. Her world gets disturbed when Josh's father Troy starts appearing again in town in several different jobs and locations. She also can't seem to figure out what happened to a coworker of hers, a man in a tan suit named Evan, whom no one seems to remember.

It takes roughly 6/10ths of the books before these stories overlap and join finally. Even the bizarre Voice of Night vale sections narrated by the radio host Cecil can't overcome the lack of decent pacing to get there. Not even Cecil's boyfriend, the scientist, can overcome that. It dragged until they meet up.

However, when the two storylines to meet up, the book becomes very very good, and suddenly becomes the book that goes with me for the second half of lunch, rather than going back in the bag. From the cthonic librarians (whom we only ever see the occasional tentacle), to the city council of Night Vale (who remains a background player), it gets intriguing. Even if the resolution is tied up in plastic flamingoes that send people to different dimensions.

Maybe I would have liked this more if I was familiar with the podcast, but as a novel, it was very uneven.