BOOK REVIEW: "Welcome To Night Vale" Is a "Welcome" Introduction To a Strange New World [PREVIEW]

Having never listened to the original Welcome to Night Vale podcast, my closest frame of reference and comparison for the unnerving surrealism of Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Kranor’s novel of the same name is Louis Sachar's Sideways Stories From Wayside School series. You likely read these books in elementary school if you’re around my age: the ones where the school is accidentally built on its side so it’s actually 30 stories tall; where there is no nineteenth floor (most of the time); where the very first story features the teacher turning her students into apples. The books were absurd, often quite humorous, and more often than not fairly disturbing. In particular, the story in which a shockingly mouthy new student buried in layers of coats is revealed to be a dead rat sticks out in my mind as classic Wayside School. This mixture of genres and moods also applies to the world of Welcome to Night Vale, where characters argue over the merits of invisible pie; avoid the library at all costs (because librarians are dangerous monsters); and, in the case of one protagonist, remain nineteen seemingly forever, unable to age as she watches her friends grow old and die.
Yet if Welcome to Night Vale were merely an exercise in pushing the limits of building a convincing Salvador-Dalí-esque world, it would not be as charming a novel as it is. Instead, while it does take a while to get there, Welcome to Night Vale eventually unfurls its complex, multifaceted narrative enough to reveal the heart and emotion at its core. Reaching this point actually gave me a sense of relief as well as narrative satisfaction, because otherwise, Welcome to Night Vale might have just been an exercise in style, overly-delighted with its own wit...

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