Welcome to Night Vale by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor. ★★★★
Welcome to Night Vale is a predictably absurd stand alone novel from the creators of the Welcome to Night Vale podcast. It’s rambling and weird, but also sweet and with its heart in the right place. In short, it’s everything I’ve come to expect from Night Vale.
“No one cared about a woman staring through binoculars from a parked car. It was a common sight. There were three other cars with binoculared, watching women just on that block, and that was light by Night Vale standards.”
Night Vale is a strange town somewhere in the American Southwest where government conspiracies, rips in space time, strange hooded figures, and angels (who don’t legally exist) are all every day occurrences. It’s a town where the mayoral election was between a faceless old woman who secretly lives in your home and a literal five headed dragon. It makes me think of Twin Peaks crossed with The Twilight Zone with a bit of Douglas Adams and early Terry Pratchett thrown in.
“Look, life is stressful. This is true everywhere. But life in Night Vale is more stressful. There are things lurking in the shadows. Not the projections of a worried mind, but literal Things, lurking, literally, in shadows. Conspiracies are hidden in every storefront, under every street, and floating in helicopters above. And with all that there is still the bland tragedy of life. Births, deaths, comings, goings, the gulf of subjectivity and bravado between us and everyone we care about. All is sorrow, as a man once said without really doing much about it.”
Jackie Fierro is the perpetually nineteen-year-old owner of a pawnshop who is handed a paper marked “King City” by a mysterious man wearing a tan jacket. She can’t get the paper to leave her hand and cannot remember the man’s face. Diane Crayton is PTA treasurer and the single mother of her fifteen-year-old son Josh. Recently she’s started to see Josh’s father everywhere she goes, from teller at a bank to cleaner at a movie theater. She’s also convinced that a man named Evan used to work at her office, but no one else remembers him. Jackie and Diane both start searching to restore their lives former balance and find themselves colliding when it comes to the mysterious words “King City.”
Don’t read Welcome to Night Vale if you’re looking for something plot heavy. While there is a plot, it takes a backseat to the characters and the absurdity of the setting, which is amusing if not laugh out loud funny. However, there’s more going on with Night Vale than just random strangeness. The book touches on growing up and the relationship between children and parents in a heartwarming way.
I don’t know if you have to have listened to the podcast to read the novel, but I would recommend it. The story line is separate, but there’s many references to characters and things from Cecil’s radio show. Additionally, this is a book with a very offbeat style. I would suggest listening to at least one episode of the podcast (they’re all free online) so you know what you’re getting into. I also know that there’s an audio book version available read by same voice actor from the podcast. Fans of the podcast will especially appreciate the Welcome to Night Vale novel, but hopefully there’s something for newcomers to enjoy too.