Welcome to Night Vale: A Novel
by Joseph Fink & Jeffrey Cranor
The small city of Night Vale and its unique Twilight Zone flavor finally finds its way into print, with its deadly City Council chambers and the Glow Could that heads the school board, its Dog Park that dogs do not visit (though strange hooded figures do,) the Sheriff’s Secret Police, and the Moonlite All-Nite Diner along Route 800.
The story explores the lives of two residents of Night Vale that we’ve met, if briefly, before; Diane Crayton, who is on the PTA (alongside that jerk Steve Carlsburg,) and Jackie Fierro, who runs the local pawn shop. One can only imagine the objects being hocked in a town like Night Vale. Things like space-and-time warping pink flamingos and such.
Big Rico’s had struggled ever since wheat and wheat by-products had been declared illegal. This was the result of a long and not terribly interesting story, but the gist is that wheat and wheat by-products transformed first into snakes and then into evil spirits resulting in a number of dead citizens.
Diane, a single mom, has been suffering from migraines lately, and her son Josh, a shape-changer, is beginning to question who his father is. Can Diane reach the mystery man before her son does? He’s kind of a… well, to put it nicer than Jackie does, he’s a jerk who ran out on her.
Jackie is handed a scrap of paper by a man in a tan jacket that reads “King City,” a place no roads seem to lead to. Every time she drops it, throws it away, burns it, chews it… the paper returns to her hand. She is not the only Night Vale denizen to receive a paper reading “King City.” Jackie is pulled from her forever 19-year-old world where she never grows older, and thrown into a mystery.
There is a another man I can’t remember much about, but Diane remembers him. She loses her job trying to track him down, in fact. The man’s name is Evan McIntyre. Or so he says. (Shoot– or was it Emmett? Ernest?)
Diane and Jackie get off on the wrong foot, but then realize they are unavoidably in this together when Josh hits Jackie with his mom’s car and disappears, looking for clues to find his father. And, oh yeah, the man in the tan jacket has been trying to get Josh to King City as well.
In most ways it felt like it always did. But now her entire body hurt. And she knew the paper was curled up in her cast like the hidden centipede nests that sometimes appear overnight in people’s beds.
The two women finally begin to bond as they face the library together. Too bad Tamika Flynn isn’t with them. They do find clues.
And now a word about librarians. We are all, from our youngest years, warned that the most dangerous, untrustworthy creature is that which stalks our public libraries… Librarians are hideous creatures of unimaginable power. And even if you could imagine their power, it would be illegal.
Inevitably, they come to the realization that they are both on a collision course with King City. Except they can’t get there. The King City off-ramp leads, in a suspiciously Lovecraftian way, right back to the center of Night Vale.
Finally, they decide to make the trip together using a dangerous method that has already resulted in at least one person being trapped in a time loop. (That was Sheila who marks people’s activities down on her clipboard at the Moonlite All-Nite). But time doesn’t really work in Night Vale to begin with.
An interesting afterward can be heard on the podcast (Episode 76: An Epilogue) when Cecil, the radio announcer notes that Night Vale citizens can now remember the man in the tan jacket, the one with a suitcase full of trained flies, who ends up being rather important to the conclusion of the novel.
Welcome to Night Vale is a strange, unique mixture of science fiction and horror that is compelling and fun, and not too scary for family listening. (Although there is a chance kids may be indoctrinated towards fighting in a Blood Space War.) This, the first book, does a great job of mixing a narrative story within the framework of the disparate parts of Night Vale from Cecil and Carlos to Old Woman Josie and her friends who are definitely NOT angels.
You will certainly want to familiarize yourself with at least the first ten or twenty episodes of the PODCAST before reading it if you aren’t already a fan. All hail the Glow Cloud.
Do not know this. Forget that you have heard of this book.