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

Nilanjana Sikdar is an outsider to the small town of Night Vale. Working beside the town’s top scientist Carlos, her guiding principles are fact and logic. These principles are put to the question when Carlos gives her a unique assignment; investigate the strange rumblings and disappearances that have been occurring around town.

Not wanting to disappoint her boss, Nilanjana follows the clues to the Joyous Congregation of the Smiling God – and to Darryl, one of the congregation’s most devout followers. Grappling with her beliefs as well as her growing attraction to Darryl, she begins to suspect there is more to the congregation that meets the eye. And that they are planning a special ceremony that could threaten the lives of every person in town.

Welcome to Night Vale is a currently ongoing podcast that mimics the style of NPR and small town talk radio. The difference being that Night Vale is not your typical town. Strange and mysterious events happen aplenty and the town is populated with a wide variety of individuals – from a mysterious glow cloud (all hail) to a literal five headed dragon and from numerous humans of all walks of life to some who are mostly human. And for the most part, the citizens of Night Vale get along well enough.

The reader who decides to pick up It Devours should have some prior knowledge about Welcome to Night Vale. While they don’t need to be fully caught up on the podcast, some knowledge about the town and characters is essential. The novel itself focuses on two original characters – Nilanjana Sikdar and Darryl Sanchez – but other characters such as Cecil and Carlos do make appearances. There are also references to the hooded figures, the black helicopters, and the Smiling God – all of which have been referenced before in the podcast.

This aside, It Devours is an interesting book. The two main characters come from opposite side of a unique spectrum. Nilanjana believes in science – that we should question everything and always seek the truth. Darryl believes in his religion – that we should question nothing and should believe the truths given to us. Naturally they butt heads but they both eventually realize they are simply different sides of the same coin. They both want the same thing even if they end up going about it in different ways.

The ideas of religion versus science are handled very well in this book. Neither is lauded above the other, neither is declared “right”. And the individuals who proclaim that their way is the right and only way are actually shown the error of their ways. Whether it be by being eaten by a giant sand worm or by realizing that they are in fact the creator of the tremors that are decimating the city.

The characters themselves are also presented in an uncommon manner. Very little is dedicated to their actual physical appearance. Instead, the reader is encouraged to get to know Nilanjana and Darryl by their words; their thoughts and actions dictating the kind of person they are. The same can be said of all the characters of Night Vale. So little is known about what they physically look like, the only exception being we know that Carlos has “perfect hair”. This allows the reader to imagine themselves or any person in any of the roles.

In general, the average reader could possibly enjoy It Devours. While knowledge of the universe via the podcast does make the read more enjoyable, the opposite could also be true. By reading the book one becomes interested in the universe and seeks out the podcast. Either way, I enjoyed It Devours and recommend it to my own readers.

Welcome to Night Vale by Joseph Fink and Jeffery Cranor

A friendly desert town where the sun is hot, the moon is beautiful, and mysterious lights pass overhead while everyone pretends to sleep…Welcome to Night Vale…

Night Vale pawn shop owner Jackie Fiero is given a piece of paper marked “KING CITY” by a man in a tan leather jacket holding a deer skin suitcase. Everything about this is slightly unsettling until Jackie realizes she can’t get rid of the paper in her hand and no one who meets the strange man remembers anything about him afterwards. Finding her own mind beginning to unravel, Jackie is determined to find the truth behind the strange man and the equally strange message.

Night Vale PTA Treasurer Diane Crayton is a single mother with a teenage son named Josh. This would not be odd save for that Josh is a shape shifter and lately everywhere she goes Diane keeps seeing her estranged husband but he hasn’t seemed to age a day. With her son showing a stronger and stronger interest in his estranged father, Diane feels helpless to stop the incoming disaster should the two eventually meet.

Jackie’s search for her routine life and Diane’s search to reconnect with her son collide as both women find themselves coming back time and again to two words – “KING CITY”. They realize King City holds the vital clues to their pasts and their futures. Now they just have to find a way to leave Night Vale and get there…

Welcome to Night Vale is one of those strange fandoms where you either love it or wonder what the hell is going on. A bi-weekly podcast, I think the best way to describe it is: If Silent Hill had public radio, it would be Welcome to Night Vale.

The novel itself fits somewhere during Night Vale’s second season which is currently being broadcast. It introduces us to new characters but also brings back familiar faces such as Old Woman Josie and the Erikas. With the majority of the action surrounding lesser known characters with only occasional appearances by more well known individuals, one doesn’t need to be a rabid fan to enjoy the book.

For me, one of the things that stand out about Welcome to Night Vale is the fact that both main protagonists are women. It is a rare treat to see this, especially with both characters being strong and independent. They each walk their own path and rely on their own selves, something we unfortunately do not see that often portrayed in media.

Fans of the WTNV podcast will definitely enjoy this book. It gives the reader a better glimpse into life in Night Vale and explorers lesser known characters. Having at least a passing acquaintance with the podcast and such definitely helps though because otherwise the casual reader will find this book just plain weird. Which is what brings so many of us back time and again.