“Welcome to Night Vale” is perhaps one of the best-known podcasts out there. It’s no surprise, then, that a book set in that universe has been released. If you’re a fan of the podcast, this book has a lot for you.
Night Vale is a town where weird things happen. Secret government organizations are not-so-secret, the dog park is strictly off-limits, and the Glow Cloud holds a seat on the school board. Night Vale’s public radio station host Cecil Palmer narrates the city’s happenings on his show. This novel, however, takes place outside of usual world of Cecil’s show, emphasizing other residents of Night Vale.
The story in “Welcome to Night Vale” focuses on Jackie Fierro, a pawn-shop owner who has been 19 years old for as long as she can remember. Jackie likes her simple life running the pawn shop. But everything changes when the mysterious man in the tan jacket visits.
He leaves Jackie a slip of paper that reads KING CITY, the name of a neighboring town. Her life is turned upside down. She cares about nothing but discovering the secrets of King City, a place that is so close but which no one has ever visited. Jackie decides she must go there to solve the mystery.
Jackie meets Diane Crayton, a single mother who is trying desperately to be a good mother to her shapeshifting son Josh. Josh has run away to King City in search of his father. Diane wants nothing more than for Josh to avoid his father, but why? Together, Jackie and Diane must get to King City, no matter the cost.
Their journey takes them through the treacherous public library, where they must uncover secret documents and fend off attacks from the venomous librarians. Then, Jackie and Diane must try to get to King City itself, though no roads will take them there. Using the power of a pink plastic flamingo, Jackie and Diane set off to save the day.
“Welcome to Night Vale” is full of little inside jokes that will make sense to podcast fans. You’ll see cameos from John Peters – you know, the farmer – and Old Woman Josie. Even Steve Carlsberg shows up. Ugh.
About halfway through, the book loses a little steam. I think the longer format of the book (instead of a 30-minute podcast) makes wacky Night Vale harder to digest. There are some surprisingly poignant scenes about parenthood, being a teenager, and what it means to grow up, even if it takes you centuries to turn 20.
Overall, this is a fun book if you really like the “Welcome to Night Vale” podcast. I must warn you, though: if you’ve never listened to the podcast, you will likely be confused by the weird world of Night Vale.