Book Review: “Welcome to Night Vale” by Joseph Fink & Jeffrey Cranor

October 20, 2015

In the just over three years that Welcome to Night Vale has been broadcasting, the podcast has obtained a massive and loyal fanbase. If you haven’t heard of Night Vale, firstly, I’m shocked, because the overlap between that fandom and the Potter fandom is large, and secondly, here’s basically what you need to know: Welcome to Night Vale centers around Cecil Baldwin, a radio announcer in an unusual town called Night Vale. Each podcast takes the form of one of Cecil’s broadcasts, reporting on the happenings about town. The show is ridiculous, delightful, and, by this point, full of more recurring inside jokes than you can shake a stick at. If you’ve never listened to an episode, that’s pretty much everything you need to know before reading Welcome to Night Vale the book.

First, and perhaps most importantly, fans are not going to be disappointed! I’m sure that doesn’t come as much of a surprise, as the book is penned by creators Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor, but whenever something you love is going to be transformed into a new medium, it’s always a little nerve wracking. In this case, the transition from podcast to novel is smooth (although I wouldn’t be surprised if many fans opted for the audiobook version, which is voiced by the same cast as the podcast).

As far as plot is concerned, the novel distances itself from the podcast by focusing primarily on two minor characters in the podcast’s canon – Jackie Fierro, the perpetually nineteen-years-old owner of the pawn shop, and Diane Crayton, PTA treasurer and single mom. But don’t worry! Most of your favorite Night Vale characters (*cough* Carlos *cough*) make appearances, and Cecil himself not only plays a minor role in events, but has interspersed segments throughout the book that mimic the style and content of a typical podcast episode.

Jackie and Diane share a similar problem – a man who no one seems to remember has left them both with an ominous message: a note that simply reads KING CITY that they can’t get rid of no matter how hard they try. They both find that this message is interrupting their lives in ways that are unable to be ignored, as Jackie begins to wonder about her past (and why she doesn’t age), and Diane tries to prevent her son from getting too curious about his absent father. Eventually they realize that they might have to work together to get to the bottom of KING CITY and get everything back to normal (or at least normal for Night Vale).

My only criticism of the book is that it’s a little hard at first to lull yourself into the rhythms of Fink and Cranor’s prose, which closely mimics the voice of the podcast. But after your brain has adjusted, Welcome to Night Vale is an easy and fun read. Fans who have listened to every episode of the show will delight in the novel’s many allusions to the podcast, but the book is written in such a way that someone who is just picking it up out of the blue won’t feel left out, either. I myself have only listened to one or two Night Vale episodes in their entirety, but still found myself laughing out loud every other page or so. Jackie and Diane’s story is ridiculous, yes, but there’s a lot of heart there too, and once you get near the end, the book is hard to put down. I anticipate this will be a welcome addition to the Night Vale canon, and perhaps just the first of Fink & Cranor’s novelizations.

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for review.