We’re betting that if you’re reading this review, you’re one of many devoted listeners to Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor’s Welcome To Night Vale podcast, and are well acquainted with the small town’s charming and often terrifying eccentricities, as told by radio host Cecil Baldwin.
Now, they’ve dropped the usual structure and narrative voice for a (mostly) linear (kind of) mystery novel.
Our two leads are Jackie Fierro and Diane Crayton, who both receive a note saying ‘KING CITY’ from a man in a tan jacket. For Jackie, a 19-year old who has been 19 for what might be centuries, it throws her life into chaos. Meanwhile, the man’s resemblance to Diane’s ex-husband prompts a difficult situation between her and her shape-shifting teenage son.
Their search for the truth will force them to face some dark truths, take serious risks, and face the terrifying monsters in the city library.
Much like the podcast, describing the plot of this novel is tricky and kind of pointless. The great strengths of Night Vale have always been its beguiling atmosphere, its sense of humour, and its brilliantly detailed oddities. Readers will find those here, and there are even regular Night Vale Radio intervals with Cecil.
It’s also fun to see characters from the podcast play important roles, like handsome scientist Carlos, the faceless old woman who secretly lives in your home, Old Woman Josie and her angels, and John Peters (you know, the farmer).
If you’re a Night Vale newcomer we wouldn’t recommend starting here; it drifts along at its own leisurely pace and there’s a lot of in-jokes, but for fans this is an absolute must. It’s an impressive feat to keep the Night Vale atmosphere (strange, funny, but oddly mournful) going for a whole novel, and it’s a wonderful place to visit.