By Heather A.
4 out of 5 stars ★★★★☆
Located in a nameless desert somewhere in the great American Southwest, Night Vale is a small town where ghosts, angels, aliens, and government conspiracies are all commonplace parts of everyday life. It is here that the lives of two women, with two mysteries, will converge.
Nineteen-year-old Night Vale pawn shop owner Jackie Fierro is given a paper marked “King City” by a mysterious man in a tan jacket holding a deer skin suitcase. Everything about him and his paper unsettles her, especially the fact that she can’t seem to get the paper to leave her hand, and that no one who meets this man can remember anything about him. Jackie is determined to uncover the mystery of King City and the man in the tan jacket before she herself unravels.
Night Vale PTA treasurer Diane Crayton’s son, Josh, is moody and also a shape shifter. And lately Diane’s started to see her son’s father everywhere she goes, looking the same as the day he left years earlier, when they were both teenagers. Josh, looking different every time Diane sees him, shows a stronger and stronger interest in his estranged father, leading to a disaster Diane can see coming, even as she is helpless to prevent it.
Diane’s search to reconnect with her son and Jackie’s search for her former routine life collide as they find themselves coming back to two words: “King City”. It is King City that holds the key to both of their mysteries, and their futures…if they can ever find it.
I love the podcast Welcome to Night Vale. It’s the only podcast I listen to, in fact (I don’t get Serial, I’m sorry people). What I love most is how anything that is out of the ordinary to the listener is perfectly normal in Night Vale. Of course, the Sheriff’s Secret Police are watching you. Of course, there are numerous angels named Erika that live with old woman Josie. Of course, you can never leave Night Vale. It becomes normal to the listener. Welcome to Night Vale is a weird book. I’m worried that people reading this book for the first time without knowledge of the podcast are going to be confused and miss some of the inside jokes that surround the majority of the text.
What the novel does well is explore some of the mysteries that have been introduced in the podcast. We finally figure out who the man in the tan jacket with the deerskin briefcase is when he’s not roaming around Night Vale. We go inside the library and almost get attacked by librarians (easily one of my favorite scenes–legit scared while reading! Good levels of suspense.). We get to meet citizens of Night Vale at a more in-depth level than we would have with the podcast. Basically, we’re diving deeper into the world that the authors created.
I bet this would be a better experience if you listened to the audio book because Cecil Baldwin, the voice of Night Vale Radio, really brings the podcast together. His voice is so magical. Unfortunately, the only Cecil we see in the novel is through interludes every three chapters or so, where he is finishing up his broadcast. And the two protagonists will listen to the radio show from time to time, but the novel doesn’t revolve around him.
What I found difficult about the novel was that a normally 30 minute show was made into a 400 page novel and because of this, there was a lot of scenes that just dragged and felt repetitive. The middle was especially difficult to get through (even with the library scene). I felt that nothing about the “mystery” was moved forward until the last 50 pages. The ending was also a bit of a let down. I’m not going to spoil anything, but I didn’t feel emotionally invested enough with Diane or Jackie to see significance in their decisions.
If you like the podcast, I highly recommend reading the book. It’s a great extension of the universe.