A book seems like an obvious next-step after "live show" for a successful fiction podcast. But there are a lot of ways this could have gone wrong, wheA book seems like an obvious next-step after "live show" for a successful fiction podcast. But there are a lot of ways this could have gone wrong, when you think about it.
The podcast is, many ways, the exact opposite of what a book needs to be. It's aggressively weird in a way that would get tiring if it were longer than half an hour. Every episode builds up to a hyperbolic climax that is resolved completely off-screen. But it's also lacking in narrative. There are threads that string together, but the show is a loose collection of radio bulletins that give you a peak at the strange town of Night Vale. It's so oblique, in fact, that there are fan theories that--within the world of Night Vale--the town is actually normal but the radio presenter is insane. The book (which I dearly wish had its own name appended with "A Welcome To Night Vale Novel") has to live in that world, be true to the weirdness that makes the show what it is, but also not alienate listeners and tell a cohesive story with characters we care about.
For me, it mostly worked. It took a little while to get off the ground for me, but it did a wonderful job of telling a story that was clearly linked to the world of the podcast. It treated weirdness as a sort of magical realism. There's the 19-year-old who is trapped in an extended adolescence. There's the 15-year-old who is constantly changing shapes. And despite the weirdness, there are real problems being faced realistically by characters who have goals and baggage.
It did fall flat a few times, but then there were moments of spectacular prose. My favorite line: "He had teeth like a military cemetery." Second favorite: "Your father would swing you around. Parents sometimes express their love by velocity."
I recommend the audiobook. It's narrated by Cecil, so it's very much in the same mode as the podcast....more
Man, I've partaken of some great non-fiction lately. While this wasn't as eye-opening as Hand to Mouth or The Opposite of Spoiled, there's some wonderMan, I've partaken of some great non-fiction lately. While this wasn't as eye-opening as Hand to Mouth or The Opposite of Spoiled, there's some wonderful stuff in here. I especially recommend Chapter 14, with it's child's life-skill checklist....more
Let's just get this out of the way: this book is not at all good. It has moments of goodness, but overwhelmingly the book is clunky, rambling, and unfLet's just get this out of the way: this book is not at all good. It has moments of goodness, but overwhelmingly the book is clunky, rambling, and unfocused. The first third is almost entirely bereft of plot. The last third is an interminable series of impassioned soliloquies that attempt to raise the tension by throwing in curse words. It's terrible in all the ways first novels are terrible, and it should never have been published as "a novel" for that reason.
That said, it is perversely fascinating as an academic exercise. This book would be re-worked into To Kill A Mockingbird, and it's intriguing to see many of those same basic elements get made into a timeless classic. Anyone who is interested in writing should check this out for that reason alone. But don't pretend that it's a sequel, a stand-alone novel, or a wholly conceived story in any way. It's a rough draft--an extremely rough draft from a talented writer who had not yet hit her stride.
Also, kudos to Reese Witherspoon, who read the audio version and manages to make the oh-god-this-needs-an-editor prose into something that feels relatively natural....more