Books

[Book Review] Welcome to Night Vale (Joseph Fink & Jeffrey Cranor, 2015) ★★★★★

book cover Welcome to Night Vale by Joseph Fink & Jeffrey Cranor

Welcome to Night Vale is a gift to all weird fiction comedy horror fans. 


Welcome to Night Vale is a strange book indeed. It’s a supernatural, weird fiction horror comedy, that will immediately immerse you in the small desert town of Night Vale. Without explaining much, or maybe nothing at all, you arrive at Night Vale and you have to deal with all the weirdness and strangeness that is thrown at you. And it’s an absolute delightful, brilliant and amazing experience. For those who don’t need explanations or background information but just enjoy a fantastical ride into the unknown, will really appreciate what both writers have done here. It’s an adventure you just have to experience yourself.

The book is based on the podcast Welcome to Night Vale that started back in 2012 where you can hear all about Night Vale and its stories. You don’t have to have listened to the podcasts to read the book, but for those who are interested it might be a great way to know more. There are also more books to read and Night Vale has become a phenomenon of its own. 


Plot

Jackie Fierro is nineteen years old and she lives in Night Vale a small town in the middle of the desert. She’s a pawnshop owner and she has been for years. She has been nineteen for years as well, maybe even for decades. She doesn’t remember and she doesn’t know how to grow older. Diane Crayton is the mother of fifteen-year-old Josh. Josh is an unusual kid. He can change shape, he can change into everything he likes. They live in a house that has thoughts, where a faceless old woman also secretly lives.

When a man comes into the pawnshop he hands Jackie a note. It says: KING CITY. She can’t shake the note. Really, it sticks to her hand and when she removes it and even burns it, a second later it’s again in her hand. She doesn’t remember what the man looked liked, but he wore a tan jacket and had a briefcase.

When a coworker disappears nobody can remember him, but Diane does and she goes looking for him. He wore once a tan jacket. 

When Diane also sees her ex and Josh’s father Troy who has been away for a long time, she tries to find him. Jackie also sees this man everywhere in town. 

When Jackie’s and Diane’s search collide, they know they have to combine forces to make sense of it all, especially when Josh disappears. 


Why you should read it

Anyone who wants to read something different should pick up this book. It’s awesome, it’s great, it’s weird, but in all its weirdness it doesn’t lose track of the storyline and the development of the characters. How weird it would get, the characters and the storyline stay firmly anchored to the plot. That’s why you put up with all the strangeness that is never explained. You just have to immerse yourself into Night Vale, accept that weirdness, is its middle name, as do the people of Night Vale and you’re in for a bizarre crazy wild ride in the desert. 

The story is told by two storylines, through the perspectives of two women, Jackie and Diane whose lives are about to intertwine. Jackie is a fierce girl who always stays nineteen, while Diane has to deal with everyday motherhood and as a working mom, it isn’t always easy. Especially when her son Josh wants to meet his father.

It’s their mysterious journey that we follow, while we also meet some other people of Night Vale, like Cecil the radio host and his boyfriend scientist Carlos. Brought to us as short intermezzos that tell us more about Night Vale and what’s going on in Night Vale, making it even more elusive. Old Woman Josie with her angel friends who are all called Erika and officially don’t exist and are in fact illegal. Laura who works at the Moonlite All-Nite and who has branches growing out of her with fruit which customers can pluck and eat. And of course the deadly dangerous library with the very scary librarians. 

The story itself is unique and authentic and absurdly funny, filled with witty whimsical humor. But there’s also a lot of surreal weirdness, inexplicable things, dark things and thrilling horror scenes. 

The tone and vibe of the story are unique as well. Although if you want to compare, it reminds of the writing style of Douglas Adams (The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy), or a bizarre story of Robert Rankin. But the style is even more whimsical and literally plays with words. It can feel somewhat monotonous to some, but if you like just this kind of absurd storytelling, then it’s a real treat. It plays with words, with thoughts and metaphors, with absurd events and illogical things but it strongly keeps the eye on the adventure that Jackie and Diana both partake in, with reluctance and sometimes even with dread. 

Though it seems like an exercise reading this book, it’s anything but. It reads very fast, with a pleasant pace, where you can take all the strangeness in, just before you get sucked into something that is even stranger. 


My favorite part

I really like absurdist humor with a  dark spell and very dry humor, so this was an absolute hit for me. I liked it even more for the two strong female characters. They were very believable and likable and how it ended, the way they solved it all, is not at all what you are normally used to. Not compliant, not headstrong, but powerful and smart. It’s nice to read about women who are their own person, with flaws and insecurities without these traits defining them, as often is done. 


A favorite quote

‘“KING CITY” said the paper. Jackie had never felt fear in her life. She had felt caution, and unease, and sadness, and joy, which are all similar to fear. But she had never felt fear itself. She did not feel it then.’

‘Most people in Night Vale know there is information that is forbidden or unavailable, which is almost all information. Most people in Night Vale get by with a cobbled-together framework of lies and assumptions and conspiracy theories. Diane was like most people. Most people are.’


Ratings

Rating: ★★★★★

Fun factor: ★★★★★

Scare factor: ★★★☆☆

Surreal factor: ★★★★★

Originality factor: ★★★★★

Entertainment Factor: ★★★★★


Info

Welcome to Night Vale is written by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor and first published by Harper Perennial in 2015. It consists of 401 pages. 


book cover Welcome to Night Vale by Joseph Fink & Jeffrey Cranor 2015

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