Warning: Do not listen to this podcast while eating.
Alice Isn’t Dead is a new serial fiction podcast by Night Vale Presents. It follows the story of an as-of-yet unnamed narrator who is driving a big truck around in search of her wife Alice, who, as the title suggests, isn’t actually dead. According to the description on iTunes, “she will encounter not-quite-human serial murderers, towns literally lost in time, and a conspiracy that goes way beyond just one woman.” The first episode came out on March 8, and new episodes will be released every other Tuesday until July 12.
I’m excited to see how Alice Isn’t Dead might take advantage of the podcast medium and incorporate some innovative and interesting sound strategies to enhance the storytelling. One of the goals I think it should have is to distinguish itself from audiobooks—sponsorship from Audible or not. And on this front, I think Alice Isn’t Dead is off to a good start. Upon first listen, I immediately noticed the opening music: think James Bond meets the wild west. The narrative is punctuated by intermittent bursts of radio static, which often cuts off mid-sen—. It is jarring, but it contributes to an overall sense of confusion and mystery, which lends itself well to the horror/thriller genre. Vivid, detailed descriptions of gruesome scenes and a great use of palpitating, escalating sound made it hard for me to finish my dinner as I listened.
The world of Alice that is slowly coming to life reminds me of R.L Stine’s disturbing alternate reality where strange creatures live among us and even the most mundane things become terrifying. There is a feeling of dread and anxiety that permeates the entire episode.
At just around 15 minutes in length, it’s hard to give it more than just a first impression account. I started listening without expectations, but after finishing the first episode, I’m still not sure what to think of it in terms of genre or knowing at all where this story is headed. At times it feels like a diary entry, in other instances like a horror novel. It even includes philosophical musings on the significance (or lack thereof) of the night sky.
On a final note, this podcast turns stereotypes on their heads, but it doesn’t dwell on them or draw attention to this fact, which is refreshing. The narrator, voiced by Jasika Nicole, is driving the kind of truck you’d imagine with a gruff, bearded man at the helm. But her voice is high, clear, and expressive. And she’s searching for her wife. I’m not going to make a big deal of it here because the show doesn’t seem to think it’s a big deal, and it shouldn’t be. Besides, the actual events of the narrative are weird enough to overshadow any would-be subtle progressive statements included in the subtext.
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