Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor’s Welcome to Night Vale Book Review by Alexander Cendrowski

wtnv co verNote: We asked Alexander Cendrowski to write this review over a month ago. He missed one deadline, then a second. This seemed about par for the course for him. But then last week we received a package in the mail. It was soaked in blood. Inside the bloody packaging was a book, which was and is the subject of this review. Also inside were a series of to-do lists, which we have determined to be from Alexander’s shower notepad. We have arranged them here with our best guesses for chronology. We wish him a swift recovery.

Entry 1:

1.  Write Welcome to Night Vale book review.

A.  Mention that the cover is really nice. People seem to want to know about
covers. This one is hard. It seems like it’d take a lot of abuse. Purple is a great color.

B.  Mention that Welcome to Night Vale is hard to pin down: the story switches perspective between a perpetually 19-year-old pawn shop owner and a mother whose teenage son can become anything he wants, literally. Primarily the book is a setting piece, surrounding the titular town Night Vale and the surreal things happening there—secret police forces on every corner, angels that city council forbids anyone from acknowledging, and strange lights hovering over the local Wendy’s. Co-creators Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor said in an interview with NPR that Night Vale began as a simple concept, “a town in the desert where all conspiracies were real,” and thus the conflict primarily revolves around the newest weirdo in town: a man whose face no one can remember handing out slips of paper no one can get rid of. Based on a podcast (which takes the form of a fictional Night Vale radio show) of the same name and by the same creators, Welcome to Night Vale is as often a radio comedy sketch as it is a story. If that sounds like your cup of tea, this book is for you.

C.  Mention that the pages appear to be waterproof, which is nice.

2.  Talk to the mail carrier about drinking red wine on the job. Absolutely ruined the packaging. Pages are okay.

3.  Google: Is eating the skin around the edge of your nails cannibalism? Is it more cannibalistic if you eat someone else’s skin (around the edge of their fingernails?)

Entry 2:

1.  Actually write Welcome to Night Vale review.

A.  Mention that Night Vale is seriously funny. Most of its humor hinges on the usurping of the normal, or else on twists in otherwise common phrases, and the comedic timing shows all the positives of being adapted from a podcast with very few of the associated negatives.

a.  On writing a ticket: “This took several minutes because, by law, police are required to describe the nature of the sunlight at the time of the infraction in verse, although meter and rhyme are optional.”

b.  On tarantula education: “Our town is once again facing a serious tarantula problem. The Night Vale Unified School District indicated that fewer than one in five tarantulas graduate from high school. Indeed, most spiders never even enroll in public education, choosing to instead spin webs and eat smaller insects.”

B.  Don’t mention the sleepwalking. Don’t mention waking up with a suit and dress shoes on, on the kitchen floor, with the book over your face. People don’t want to know about your personal life.

2.  Google: How long is too long to go without talking to a living person? Can you lengthen that time by talking to a non-living person? Does laughing alone while reading lengthen or shorten this amount of time?

Entry 3:

1.  Deadline is tonight. Finish review.

A.  Mention that, despite how weird things get, Night Vale never feels like it’s leapt past the point of accessibility and relevance.

a.  At the core of many small towns, and even many large cities, there is a certain kind of mythos of place that many of us subscribe to and help perpetuate. A reason why where we come from is different from anywhere else. Something weird, preferably. It just happens to be truer for the town of Night Vale.

b.  Despite the strange things going on at every turn, the main characters end up being pretty normal, at least relatively. Extraordinary things are happening all around them, and the characters themselves can often be extraordinary themselves, but the roles they play—concerned mother, edge-of-adulthood teenager (don’t worry, they’re not related)—stay consistent and relatable.

2.  Call the front office about those damn lights outside the window. There is no reason for them to be hanging in the sky until 4:30 in the morning. Sure, they’re good to read by, but you need your rest.

3.  Google: How far into ancestry study do you have to go to be an anthropologist? Is there a name for someone who only studies one absurd, hilarious, dangerous town?

Entry 4:

Note: Legibility for this and the following entry is absolutely awful and very difficult to transcribe. So, you’re welcome.

1.  If you finish the review today, maybe this will stop.

A.  Mention that you can’t put Night Vale down. The pacing, in both plot and humor, grabs the reader in such a way that, even at over 400 pages, the book is a quick read.

B.  Don’t mention that you literally can’t put Night Vale down. Go to a doctor if you can’t put it down by tomorrow. You should have picked it up with your left hand so you could actually write this review. At least the pages are waterproof.

Entry 5:

1.  Second deadline in three hours. Finish the review.

A.  Welcome to Night Vale is wonderfully addictive, pumped full of alternatingly absurd and dark humor, and a strong showing, especially as a debut novel. While based on the podcast, the book is easy to access without any prior listening or knowledge. The book’s unique personality and humor far outweigh the downsides of owning it.

2.  Call the maintenance guy personally. Water is scalding. Have to get out. Have to stop.

Welcome to Night Vale is a debut novel co-written by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor. You can purchase your own copy here. You can listen to the podcast the book is based on (also written by Fink and Cranor and also called Welcome to Night Vale) via the first seven links on this page. Read, listen, and shower at your own risk.

Alexander Cendrowski is a lemonade enthusiast and writer pursuing his MFA at the University of South Florida. His fiction has recently appeared in Word Riot, The Legendary, and Perversion Magazine. You can find him on Twitter @CendrowskiAlex. Do not feed him after midnight.