While Welcome to the Night Night Vale is undoubtedly one of the biggest success stories in today’s podcasting era, it is also equally the strangest. When Joseph Frink, the co-creator, started posting this half-hour-long episode twice a week online, people hardly paid attention to it. But today, it enjoys an exceptional download record rate exceeding 100 million, regularly surpassing some of the most popular podcasts, including This American Life. Welcome to the Night Vale is now successful enough to conduct live tours and sell merchandise and now has a novel of the same name. The fans are not going to be disappointed, especially when the book has been penned down by Jeffery Cranor and Joseph Fink, the original creators.
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The book follows a creative mystery of appearances and disappearances that also very thoughtfully portrays the ways in which we struggle to search for our true selves. What’s amazing is that this applies to readers worldwide, regardless of where they live. Set in a nameless desert in the great American Southwest, Night Vale is a remote town where government conspiracies, aliens, angels, and ghosts are all common elements of daily life. In this town reside two women, a nineteen-year-old Jackier Fierro who runs a small pawn ship and a PTA treasurer named Diane Clayton with a shapeshifter son named son Josh. From the lives of these two women, two mysteries will converge.
The story begins when Jackie is sent a paper marked “King City” that she does not seem to get rid of. The paper is sent by a mysterious man “in a tan jacket with a deer skin suitcase,” the presence of whom unsettles Jackie tremendously since no one who meets this man seems to remember him or anything about him. With these ongoing mysterious circumstances, Jackie is determined to uncover what King City is and who the man in the tan jacket is posing to be in a journey where she eventually unravels herself.
The other story follows Diane Crayton and her son Josh who is moody and has recently developed an interest in knowing more about his estranged father. What sparks his interest is how her mother has started seeing his dad everywhere she goes, in the same appearance as he the day he left years ago. Josh’s strong commitment to finding out more about his father is slowly leading them toward a disaster that Diane can easily see coming, even when she is too helpless to prevent it. Jackie’s search for her long-lost routine and Diane’s search to reconnect with her son bring them together as they come back to two words: “King City.” It is indeed King City and the mysteries it contains that hold the key to both their problems and futures if they are strong enough to find it.
Welcome to Night Vale is the perfect example of those books that defy genres. It combines the properties of a thrilling whodunnit, an emotional family drama, and absurdist humor in a unique combination that makes it a great piece of entertainment literature. The storyline itself is interesting and is only a heightened portrayal of its dynamic characters by Cranor and Fink. What makes it more worthwhile is how the writers have not tied it too heavily with things that happened in the podcast, apart from one key question: What is the identity of the man in the tan jacket?
People who have never heard the podcast before will find enough information about the past storyline to make it more meaningful. At the same time, the fans of the podcast will really make the most out of the story as it continues to cover the mysteries behind this beloved character. Overall, the book is easy to read, full of twists and turns and several emotional moments that fully immerse the readers in them. No single part of the book seems like a filler but is a genuine expansion of the universe with an original and equally entertaining story that couldn’t have been delivered so beautifully in the podcast alone.
Welcome to Night Vale: A Novel is a must-read for anyone who’s a big fan of the podcast and its following parts: X-Files, Twilight Zone, and This American Life. It successfully combines all the disparate elements of these parts to form an entertaining and cohesive story that intrigues a wide set of audiences. It is highly recommended for anyone who adores absurdist humor and science fiction and has already been listening to the podcast. Alternatively, someone who’s simply looking for a good whodunnit with dynamic characters will also equally enjoy it.