There seems to be a lot of crossover between the world of audio and the world of print. Both of the podcasts I’ve become a fan of in recent times — Limetown and Welcome to Night Vale — have put out tie-in novels, and I figured it was time I gave them a read.
When it comes to the podcasts, I think I still enjoy Limetown a little more than Night Vale (though it’s a very close race). But when it comes to the books, Night Vale is the decisive champion.
To be honest, I didn’t much enjoy Limetown’s novel at all. It doesn’t provide much insight into the conspiracies and intrigue that are the setting’s focus; instead, it mostly provides backstory for Lia Haddock and her uncle, Emile.
That’s not the worst idea in theory. A character study could still be interesting, even if it’s not necessarily what I’m looking for in a Limetown story. But it’s not even a very good character study.
In the podcast, Lia comes across as fierce and determined, but also warm and human. In the book, her determination comes across more as obsessiveness. She wants to solve mysteries not because she cares about the people involved — the book makes it very clear that Lia doesn’t care about anyone, at all — but simply because she has a deranged need to poke at any unanswered questions she finds.
Not only does it not make for an enjoyable book, it dampens my interest in the podcast, too. Part of what hooked me into Limetown was how much I loved Lia as a character, but the book kind of made me hate her.
By contrast, the Night Vale novel — while not without a few hiccups of its own — is a much better experience.
Shifting focus away from Cecil, Night Vale’s print incarnation focuses on two ordinary citizens of Night Vale: Diane Crayton, PTA member and single mother of a teenage shapeshifter, and Jackie Fierro, a pawn shop operator who has been nineteen years old for an indeterminate number of decades.
The more detailed perspective of a book makes the surrealism of Night Vale a bit harder to swallow at times, but once you readjust to an even greater sense of weirdness than the podcast provides, it’s a good read. It’s got the same humour as the podcast, and I found myself audibly cracking up on nearly every page.
The thing that’s really impressive about this book — that’s also true of the podcast to some extent — is how real the characters and their struggles can feel. Once you get past the carnivorous insectoid librarians and wheatless deconstructed croissants, this is a very down to earth story of family struggles that is deeply relevant to our own world. Having dealt with some of the issues this book brings up in my own life, I can confirm that the characters and their struggles feel very authentic and relatable.
I do think the ending could have been more conclusive, and you definitely have to be careful about when you read this book relative to where you are in the show (I unintentionally spoiled myself, as I read the book before I’d caught up to when it was released), but even so the Night Vale novel definitely gets my recommendation.
I wouldn’t bother with the Limetown one. It’s not worth your time.