Review: Welcome to Night Vale – Joseph Fink & Jeffrey Cranor


welcome to night valeFrom the creators of the wildly popular Welcome to Night Vale podcast comes an imaginative mystery of appearances and disappearances that is also a poignant look at the ways in which we all struggle to find ourselves…no matter where we live.
Located in a nameless desert somewhere in the great American Southwest, Night Vale is a small town where ghosts, angels, aliens, and government conspiracies are all commonplace parts of everyday life. It is here that the lives of two women, with two mysteries, will converge.

Nineteen-year-old Night Vale pawn shop owner Jackie Fierro is given a paper marked “King City” by a mysterious man in a tan jacket holding a deer skin suitcase. Everything about him and his paper unsettles her, especially the fact that she can’t seem to get the paper to leave her hand, and that no one who meets this man can remember anything about him. Jackie is determined to uncover the mystery of King City and the man in the tan jacket before she herself unravels.

Night Vale PTA treasurer Diane Crayton’s son, Josh, is moody and also a shape shifter. And lately Diane’s started to see her son’s father everywhere she goes, looking the same as the day he left years earlier, when they were both teenagers. Josh, looking different every time Diane sees him, shows a stronger and stronger interest in his estranged father, leading to a disaster Diane can see coming, even as she is helpless to prevent it.

Diane’s search to reconnect with her son and Jackie’s search for her former routine life collide as they find themselves coming back to two words: “King City”. It is King City that holds the key to both of their mysteries, and their futures…if they can ever find it.

Rating: 2/5

It is a friendly desert community, where the sun is hot, the moon is beautiful, and mysterious lights pass overhead while we all pretend to sleep. Welcome to Night Vale. 

I was so looking forward to this book, because I seriously adore the utterly bizarre, perpetually philosophical, vaguely humorous podcast that is Welcome to Night Vale (accompanied by the deep, dulcet tones of our narrator, Cecil Palmer), but unfortunately, at least for me, it did not translate well in a written medium. The magic that makes this show so weird and wonderful in audio format was lost, and I found myself frustrated and fairly bored with the repetition, backtracking and clarification that I otherwise don’t mind when I listen to the podcast. So yes, if I had the audiobook instead, my rating might have been very different. Here though, I was sorely tempted to DNF.

I do know there will always be problems for Night Vale. There are so many. Usually they pass. Often they kill many people, but what are people but deaths that haven’t happened yet? 

I mean, one good point (I think?!) is that the book still manages to give you an existential crisis which the show is known for, and it was also quite nice to encounter some of our favourite characters from the world of Night Vale. However, I just wasn’t invested in the narrative, and quite frankly, the only parts I enjoyed were the intermissions of Cecil’s radio broadcast. The novel at least manages to portray the sinister, weird atmosphere and events that characterise the town, but I got a very Groundhog-day vibe which can be quite frustrating for the reader.

Everything I do is for a reason and I know none of them. Everything makes sense and the sense is hidden from me. We live in a pattern that we’ll never detect, and that will shuffle us through invisible hierarchies to the actual death of us. 

Best for die-hard fans of the show, not new readers, and I highly rec the audio version instead.

We don’t have our children. We have the faint, distorted echoes of our children that this town sent back to us. 


ARC received from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.