Review: ‘Night Vale’ mystifies

Sam Fishel, Staff Reporter

“Time is weird in Night Vale,” readers of Welcome to Night Vale are often reminded. But as it turns, time is only one of the many weird things going on in this desert hamlet where “the sun is hot, the moon is beautiful, and mysterious lights pass overhead while we all pretend to sleep.”

Welcome to Night Vale is writers Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor’s debut novel, based upon the landmark podcast of the same name, also written by Fink and Cranor.

These twice-monthly podcasts focus on the every day happenings of a small town in the American southwest where the paranormal and the surreal are part of everyday life, from the “Vague, Yet Menacing, Government Agency” spying on citizens to a government ban on believing that mountains are real. Think A Prairie Home Companion meets H.P. Lovecraft.

All of these strange happenings are communicated to the listener by Night Vale Community Radio host Cecil Palmer, a sugar-voiced reporter not unlike This American Life’s Ira Glass. However, “Night Vale” the novel departs from this singular view and communicates the stories of two Night Vale residents.

Resident Diane Crayton is faced with a turning point in her “normal” life as she is forced to confront her past for the sake of her shape-shifting teenage son, Josh. In an attempt to track down Josh’s father, Diane comes into contact with Jackie Fierro, a perpetually 19-year-old local pawnshop owner who has her uneventful life interrupted by a mysterious man in tan jacket carrying a deerskin suitcase.

Both women are drawn together by the mysterious pieces of paper handed out by the man in the tan jacket that monolithically read “KING CITY.”

Since they are unable to dispose of the pieces of paper (seriously, every time Jackie tries to throw away or destroy hers, it reappears in her hand, entirely untouched), they embark on a series of investigations to discover more about King City.

Their investigations bring them into contact with temporal-bending pink lawn flamingos as well as angels named Erika (despite the fact that the City Council strictly bans the acknowledgement of angels.) To learn more, the pair even has to pay a visit to the most loathed and feared place in Night Vale – the library.

Throughout the story, readers are enthralled by the slanted reality of Night Vale, one that reminds us of our own “normal” life with a mix of the paranormal. From the invisible pie at the Moonlite All-Nite Diner to the malevolent Glow Cloud on the school board, Night Vale’s “normal” gives readers a chance to step beyond their own doldrums to experience a more personal version of the Twilight Zone.

Authors Fink and Cranor open an old oak door to a world so unlike our own that it dips into the uncanny valley, making it all the more true-to-life. Through its passive acceptance of the paranormal, readers experience a sort of postmodern catharsis that leaves them questioning the true nature of “normality.”

For long-time listeners and new readers alike, Welcome to Night Vale is a splendid, well-written novel that interjects intellectual observations about the nature of the universe into deadpan humor with ease. Its wondrously strange perspective puts readers into a sort of willful trance that the Sheriff’s Secret Police would be proud of.

There really is nowhere else like Night Vale. In truth, that is all the more reason to pick up Welcome to Night Vale and give it a visit.

Learn more about the book at Welcome to Night Vale’s website –


Sam Fishel can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected]