Weird Wednesday: Welcome to Night Vale the novel

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Weird Wednesday is a monthly feature about “weird” fiction, which is a combination of science fiction/fantasy and horror, or sometimes pure surrealism. 

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Welcome to Night Vale: A Novel (Night Vale #1)

by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor

Hardcover

HarperCollins

2015

Source: Personal copy

As a fan of the podcast Welcome to Night Vale, I thought this book would be difficult to review at first, as I wondered if I could be objective. To me the podcast is like connected short stories, so this was like a novel based in the world of the short stories.

Night Vale is a small town somewhere in the desert of the American southwest. It has a community radio station run by friendly Cecil Palmer, a pawnshop, an all-night diner, a Secret Police force, and various “vague yet menacing government agencies” who watch the citizens’ every move. Only the very brave enter the library because the monstrous librarians have been known to eat people. Religious arguments erupt over whether mountains exist. Jackie Fierro owns the pawnshop. For as long as she can remember, she’s always owned the pawnshop, and has always been nineteen. One day, a mysterious man in a tan jacket carrying a deerskin suitcase gives her a paper that says “KING CITY” on it. She tries to destroy the paper, but it always reappears in her hand. The only other person to notice this is Diane Crayton, as she was also given a paper by the same man. Diane worries about her teenage son Josh–he’s started asking questions about his absent father. He can also shape shift into different animals, or his favorite combinations of animals. In alternating chapters, Jackie and Diane eventually decide to go to King City and find some answers.  Where exactly is King City? What does it mean to be “a good parent”? Do you decide to grow up, or do your experiences decide for you?

Events from podcast episodes were explained, so you don’t really have to listen to the podcast for this to make sense. Then again, after I finished the book, it seemed like the opposite. It seemed like Star Trek books or Star Wars and so on, where you have to know the characters and the setting to know what’s happening. In the case of Night Vale, you’d also have to like a podcast that’s been described by its’ creators as “Twin Peaks meets NPR” or have to like surrealism.

Themes of family and coming-of-age intertwined with the surrealism. Fink and Cranor turned Cecil’s point of view from the podcast into third-person omniscient for the novel, which worked very well. I liked learning more about minor characters from the podcast stories, especially the Man in the Tan Jacket. Even with my mixed reaction, I liked this book overall. I  want to listen to the audiobook version, too, read by the narrator of the podcast. I’m looking forward to the next Night Vale book!

 

 

Weird Wednesday: New Cthulhu: The Recent Weird edited by Paula Guran

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Weird Wednesday is a monthly feature about “weird” fiction, which is a combination of science fiction/fantasy and horror, or sometimes pure surrealism. 

New Cthulhu: The Recent Weird

Edited by Paula Guran

Prime Books

2011

Source: Ebook from the library (OverDrive)

For this first installment of Weird Wednesday, I chose a book of stories based on the works of H.P. Lovecraft, one of the “fathers” of weird fiction. I’ve read some H.P. Lovecraft, but I don’t like his Cthulhu stories much. I don’t see the universe as inherently frightening and overwhelming.

It took me a long time to get through this book as it was too much of the same thing. A lot of the stories in this were about people stumbling on or discovering the Lovecraftian monsters. My favorites were the ones where the monsters were known to some people but not to others, or the monsters were known to everyone.

My favorite stories were:

“Fair Exchange” by Michael Marshall Smith: A thief in London steals a mysterious artifact from the house of a strange American family.

“A Study in Emerald” by Neil Gaiman: One of my favorite Gaiman stories! In a world taken over by the Elder Gods, a man much like Dr. Watson meets a man much like Sherlock Holmes.

“Bad Sushi” by Cherie Priest: An old Japanese man encounters the monster he fought decades before.

“The Essayist in the Wilderness” by  William Browning Spencer: A man decides his life’s work is to write essays about nature. He observes the life cycle of “crawdads,” which are baby Cthulhus.

“The Dude Who Collected  Lovecraft” by Nick Mamatas and Tim Pratt: A story where the characters discuss Lovecraft himself.

“Cold Water Survival” by Holly Phillips: An update of sorts to “At the Mountains of Madness.” Explorers in the now melting Arctic find Lovecraftian monsters have adapted to climate change.

“Mongoose” by Elizabeth Bear and Sarah Monette: A science fiction novella about a man who uses a small tame Lovecraftian monster to hunt giant ones in a space station.

So a mixed bag of stories. I might look into the second book, New Cthulhu 2.