Welcome to Night Vale (WTNV) is a strange podcast, so it would make sense that the novel follows in a similar vein. Yet, the rambling narrative that created such a success for the podcast nearly sinks its written sibling, and needs a dedicated fan to enjoy the ramblings that give little-to-no explanation.
The book follows town residents Diane Crayton, single mother to a teen with morphing abilities, and Jackie Fierro, 19-year-old who has been that age for decades, as they deal with strange mysteries that have inched into their odd lives in the mysterious town. Eventually, the alternating stories collide, and they find themselves working together to solve these mysteries. Along with that, readers will find interjections from radio host Cecil, getting to learn more about show favourites like Old Woman Josie and the ravenous librarians, and explore the town in more depth.
The book shines through as an excellent world-building piece for the radio show. Many of the odd stories and quirks fans have come to love are explored on a much deeper level, and readers will find answers—although only a few—to many of the questions and mysteries about the little desert town.
Sadly, this world-building is what starts to bog down the book. Even fans might find it hard to pick out the plot as reference after reference is thrown at them. The flowing and rambling narrative that translates so well to audio at times is hard to pick through in written form at times, and readers might find themselves frustrated with the lack of knowledge in regards to a plot. Cecil’s interjections into the story, although strongly written and hilarious, divert too much attention from the actual storyline.
It’s in the final third of the novel that everything starts to solidify and come together, and it starts to work. The tale becomes creepy, pushing the fear factor that the podcast can introduce, and will have the reader gripping tight with the lights on as the two characters fight to solve their now-intertwined mysteries.
Fans of the show will surely find some enjoyment in the novel, but WTNV virgins will likely become frustrated with the loose narration and constant references. It would be more enjoyable if writers Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor had dispensed with large sections of the world-building. Their writing becomes sharp and powerful near the end when the focus does end up on the plot. Perhaps a sequel to the book will hold this element now that Fink and Cranor have worked through their world-building. It may be worth finding an audio copy of the novel so the well-loved audio narration can help readers/listeners with this particular Night Vale story.