Improbably, this is my “cover art” selection, because despite a cult podcast with a large following, I had no idea this wasn’t just a standalone book, and gosh is it pretty. Plus, the art suggests something lighthearted or irreverent, and an NPR endorsement on the cover? Good enough for me. Plus, somehow I got my facts twisted and thought it was written by Blake Crouch and I REALLY liked Dark Matter.
I wish I liked it more.
I think some of my issue with the book was that a Twin Peaks-ish tone works better spoken or filmed than in print. There’s humor here but it’s dry as the desert setting. The writing is at a remove, because again, it owes a debt to David Lynch, but coupled with a familiarity assumed of the reader with the podcast, it just reads as detached. That distance makes it hard to care about any of the characters,and the absurd surrealism makes it difficult to follow at times.
I had a hard time distinguishing Jackie, eternal teenager, from Diane, mother of a shapeshifting teenager, which is impressive, but the characters were buried underneath so many oddball trappings that their distinguishing characteristics and personalities got lost in the noise. I did, eventually get invested, but the first 3/4 of the book was actively difficult to read.
I really appreciated the interludes from Night Vale’s DJ, which were more what I was expecting from the book, and more irreverent than the surprisingly melancholy main story. I’m kind of tempted to listen to the podcast, or give another one of these books a try despite not loving this one, strangely compelled to give it a better grade relative to my actual enjoyment, like Night Vale is drawing me in as it has its citizens. Meta-creepy!