I should probably mention that I am a huge fan of Welcome To Night Vale. The bi-monthly podcast written by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor has a wonderful blend of humor, horror, and just plain weird shit that appeals, not just to me, but to thousands of other people as well. So, of course, when they released a novel based on the podcast, I immediately went to the Kindle store and downloaded myself a copy.
So, does the book live up to the podcast? The short answer is, yes. Yes it does. For the long answer, please read the below.
So, to better discuss the book it is probably best to begin by discussing Night Vale as a whole. The podcast takes the form of a community radio show for the fictional desert community of Night Vale, a place where strange things happen on a fairly regular basis. Things like a dog park filled with hooded figures that no one should enter, look at, or think about; or attacks from vicious packs of librarians (which, in Night Vale, are hideous, tentacled monsters). A large part of the show’s humor comes from the deadpan and fairly matter-of-fact delivery of the show’s
One of the more memorable characters (to the audience, at least) in Night Vale is the man in the tan jacket. The man in the tan jacket is a character who appears in several episodes, but pretty much all anyone can remember about him after looking away is the color of his coat and the fact that he carries a buzzing suitcase (indicating that he is a fly salesman). This is the mystery that the novel mostly deals with
Mostly, however, the story follows two women: Jackie Fierro (the perpetually-19 owner of the pawn shop), and Diane Crayton, a single mother whose teenage son simply cannot stay one shape. Jackie pulled into the story when the man in the tan jacket comes into Jackie’s pawn shop and sells her a piece of paper with KING CITY written on it, which she soon finds herself physically unable to throw away. Diane’s involvement comes due to her increasingly strained relationship with her son, Josh, who has started wondering about his father, who had left Diane before their son was born. The two start of as fairly antagonizing towards each other, but eventually end up having to work together in order to get to the bottom of everything. There are also angels (which do not legally exist according to the City Council), plastic flamingos that warp the laws of time and space, and librarians, all interspersed with excerpts from Cecil’s radio show. My favorite passage:
Coming up after this break, some exclusive clips from my recent three-hour interview with myself, in which I interrogated myself on my motivations, where I am in life, why I’m not in a different place in life, whose fault that is, and why I said that one embarrassing thing once. (Location 610 in the Kindle version. For some reason it doesn’t have page numbers in the ebook.)
Sweeping aside all the weirdness, however, the book mainly seems to be about what it means to grow up, as well as the importance of family. These are issues that are pretty much relatable to anyone, and I think that in order for a piece of speculative fiction to truly work, there needs to be something relatable at its core.
I would also like to point out that Night Vale (both the book and the podcasts) are extremely diverse in terms of race, gender, and sexuality. Cecil is quite openly in a relationship with another man, the handsome scientist Carlos (who is played by Dylan Marron). Old Woman Josie (voiced in the podcast by Retta) is a black woman, and while Jackie herself may be Italian based on her surname, I do believe that she (like Carlos), is meant to be Latina. Hell, the book itself has two female leads who don’t require rescuing, though they do end up saving each other throughout the books.
It’s really difficult to put how awesome this book and show are into words. Really, the best thing to do would be to experience them for yourself. The book can be found at pretty much any bookstore, and the podcast can be downloaded from iTunes or the show’s website, or listened to through services like Stitcher, Podbay.fm, or Soundcloud.