Those not inducted into the off-kilter world of the desert town Night Vale are in for an awakening with the release of the first novel centred around the quirky happenings of this global phenomenon.
Beginning life as a free, fortnightly podcast in 2012, the Welcome to Night Vale series has resulted in world tours of live stage versions – including a tour to Australia earlier this year – and now a novel. The book is a complete story from start to finish, told from an omnipresent perspective, unlike the podcast which is told through a string of community radio announcements and updates by fictional radio host, Cecil.
Part abstract comedy, part supernatural drama, part science fiction, the Welcome to Night Vale podcast explores the isolated community where there is a museum of forbidden technologies, all angels are called Erica, librarians are dangerous, and the dog park is a gateway to another realm.
The novel is a mystery told with all the quirky humour expected from writers Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor. Their unique ability to turn everyday observations on their head is reminiscent of Douglas Adams’ unique gift to do the same – think Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy where Adams described spacecraft which “hung in the sky in much the same way that bricks don’t.”
The story introduces a raft of new characters, with a few cameos by familiar names from the podcast. It follows three people: John is a 15 year old shape shifter who is desperate to find his father; his mother, Diane, is realising that people are vanishing from existence and she’s the only one who remembers them; and pawn shop owner Jackie, who has refused to age beyond 19 for the past forty years, is in search of a man in a tan jacket that everyone knows but no one can recall anything about.
This trio of Night Vale normality come together in search of answers that may be linked to King City, a place impossible to reach but whose name is beginning to appearing on anything written.
With a number of genuine mysteries warping the supernatural haven of Night Vale, it’s near impossible to predict how the story will end.
The audiobook is narrated by the podcast’s central radio announcer Cecil Baldwin with his exaggerated enunciation that adds to the idiosyncrasy of the storytelling. Baldwin knows the Night Vale world inside out and, for the past 4 years, has made it his narrative home. He knows the characters, old and new, and he knows just how to deliver the inspired text. The unabridged audiobook runs for 12 hours and 2 minutes and works particularly well given the audio origins of the Night Vale universe.
As a stand-alone feature, Welcome to Night Vale: A Novel works nicely as an introduction to this highly bizarre world although, as always in this kind of situation, those who continue to follow the podcast will find many pleasing salutes to what has gone before.
The audiobook of Welcome to Night Vale: A Novel was released by Hachette Audio UK in October 2015 and is available through audible.
This review was first published on 17 July 2016 for Glam Adelaide.