REVIEW: Welcome to Night Vale: A Novel by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor

51izuxor7hlWelcome to Night Vale: A Novel is the first novel in the Night Vale series (based off the popular podcast of the same name) written by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor. Welcome to Night Vale: A Novel expands the universe of the podcast as we follow two women, Diane Crayton and Jackie Fierro, whose (already weird) lives get turned upside down when a man in a tan suit with a deerskin briefcase gives them both a piece of paper with the words “KING CITY” written on it. Their individual quests for answers will lead them on a journey that will change how they look at themselves, and at their families.

First things first, I adore this book. It’s honestly everything I wanted it to be, and even more. Fink and Cranor do a great job of taking the absurdity and humor of the podcast and making it work as a novel. The novel isn’t told from Cecil’s point of view – like the podcast is – and that’s the best decision they could have made. By changing the point of view, they’ve opened up the world of Night Vale more than ever. Now we have the chance to experience life as a “regular” citizen of Night Vale. And the fact that the book actually jumps between two points of view is even better, giving us a nice variety of characters and experiences.

One point of view is that of Jackie Fierro, a pawn shop owner who has been nineteen for as long as she can remember. The other point of view is Diane Crayton, a mother of a son who can change his appearance at will and desperately wants to know information about his dad. The book alternates between their points of view in nearly every chapter, and it’s utilized with panache, especially when Jackie and Diane start interacting with each other. I have a soft spot for stories that will show the same event from multiple points of view.

The prose itself is reminiscent of the podcast, which itself is reminiscent of writers like Douglas Adams. Again, I think this was a smart move for Fink and Cranor to make. It can be hard making a transition from one medium of entertainment to another, especially when you’re changing the entire format of the story. There was always the possibility that without Cecil as the narrator, this wouldn’t have worked. But it does, partially because the prose is so reminiscent of the language used in the podcast that it feels like an extension of what fans already hear and love.

As for the story itself, Welcome to Night Vale really is one of those books that defies genres. One part brilliant whodunnit, another part emotional family drama, another part absurdist humor, the book manages to combine a whole bunch of genres that often aren’t combined into this melting pot of entertaining literature. The mystery itself is interesting enough, and it’s only heightened by the excellent, dynamic characters written by Fink and Cranor. The story benefits from not tying itself too heavily into things that have happened in the podcast, aside from answering one of the biggest questions in the podcast: just who is the man in the tan jacket? People who have never heard the podcast before are given enough information about the man in the tan jacket for this part of the storyline to be meaningful, but fans of the podcast will really get a lot out of this as they uncover the mystery behind this well-known and beloved character.

It’s a quick and easy read, full of twists and turns and emotional moments that always end up feeling earned. No part of this book feels like a cash grab, adapting a popular property into another medium. Instead, it feels like a genuine expansion of the universe with an original, moving, and entertaining story to tell that couldn’t have been told with the confines of the podcast.

Welcome to Night Vale: A Novel is an enjoyable read for anyone who is already a fan of the podcast. Part Twilight Zone, part X-Files, part This American Life, Night Vale manages to bridge all these disparate elements together into a cohesive and entertaining story that appeals to a wide audience. I recommend it to anyone who likes science fiction, absurdist humor, Douglas Adams-style books, is already a fan of the podcast, or who just likes a good whodunnit with excellently written dynamic characters.

I give Welcome to Night Vale: A Novel 5 out 5 wands.

Welcome to Night Vale: A Novel is published by Harper Perennial and is currently available in hardcover, paperback, e-book, audiobook, and digital audio formats.

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