It is likely that you have heard in some way, shape or form of the podcast Welcome to Night Vale that has grown to incredible popularity over the last few years. In addition to putting up new episodes every couple weeks, the team continues to go on live tours not just across the United States, but also across the globe. While there are some overarching themes and ongoing subplots on the podcast, it can best be summed up as a wonderfully weird and random show that The Guardian says “Belongs to a particular strain of American gothic that encompasses The Twilight Zone, Stephen King and Twin Peaks, with a bit of Tremors thrown in.”
In the Welcome to Night Vale novel, there is the familiar setting and the many familiar characters listeners have come to know and love and hate and sometimes both at the same time. But there is also a coherent story being told from start to finish, which is a welcome change from the titillating randomness of the podcast. Of course, Cecil Palmer plays an important role in the novel, with some “excerpts” from his radio show after certain chapters.
Something mysterious is going on in Night Vale. Mysterious even for this town, which is saying something. Certain people in town are awaking to discover a piece of paper stuck to their hand that says “KING CITY.” When they throw the paper away, it magically appears in their hand again within moments. Whether they saturate the paper in water, burn it to ash, or tear it into tiny pieces, it just keeps coming back. And no one knows why.
Nineteen-year-old pawn shop owner Jackie Fierro is one of the “victims.” But she’s had enough with just being part of the status quo for like forever, and wants to get to the bottom of this. It will involve getting to King City. The problem is she has no idea where it is, and as far as she can recall she’s never left Night Vale, ever. She’s not even sure if she can leave the town.
For listeners who might be wondering how well this quirky podcast would get transposed into a novel, have no fear. The book is just as entertaining and addicting as the podcast, and is perhaps better in certain ways for its coherence and resolution. Two words that listeners have just come to accept rarely happens on the show, which is part of the reason they love it so.
If you’re new to Night Vale and are not sure what to start first, I’d recommend doing a few episodes of the podcast to get a feel for the show. But you could just as well read the novel and enjoy it and then feel super happy that there are a ton of episodes you get to hear and learn all about the characters you just read about.
And for the die-hard fans, you’ll want to get the audiobook because it is expertly and masterfully read by the voice of Night Vale Radio, Cecil Baldwin.
Originally written on March 23, 2016 ©Alex C. Telander.
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