Welcome to Night Vale…a friendly desert community somewhere in the American Southwest, where ghosts, angels, aliens, and government conspiracies are parts of every day life.
Not only am I a fan of the Welcome to Night Vale podcast but their books. The first book is a fun read (here’s my review for it) and doesn’t pertain to this or even the podcast. So if you haven’t listened to any you can still enjoy the books as information is given throughout the story. However I highly recommend the podcast for long car rides as Cecil Baldwin’s voice takes you away to the desert town.
Nilanjana Sikdar is a scientist in Night Vale, something that just doesn’t fit in the abnormal town. Although she’s lived there for years and encountered all the weirdness she still doesn’t feel like she belongs or can come to terms with it all.
When her boss Carlos sends her on an assignment that gets the entire city involved, Nilanjana finds herself in the middle of science vs. religion, openings in the earth swallowing up Night Vale, and gravitating towards Darryl, a member of the religion.
Proof vs Faith
Night Vale isn’t one to dive into religion often. Sure angels exist but they’re considered to be from another dimension. There is a God who basically created Night Vale but it just came up recently in the podcast. The Joyous Congregation of the Smiling God catches Nilanjana’s attention as she believes the message of the God “devouring them and their sins” relates to the holes popping up in town.
It’s a nice balance of not picking a side but showing each have their beliefs. Scientists perform tests while the religious followers go on faith. As someone who is more scientific and isn’t religious I can relate to Nilanjana and her reactions toward the congregation, however I believe as long as it doesn’t harm others then believe whatever you want. In this case put those feelings aside because they truly believe the Smiling God will devour the earth.
In the end they work together. No bashing the other but using science and religion to defeat the overall threat.
Scientist vs Follower
Nilanjana and Darryl have an interesting relationship. They don’t call each other stupid for doing what they do but it can cause strife. They care about one another but Nilanjana finds it hard to trust Darryl. She’s a character who would like someone to have, not necessarily as a romantic partner, but someone to run to as the chaos of Night Vale threatens lives.
As I said, despite living in Night Vale for years she’s still an INTERLOPER. She hasn’t accepted the town completely and her science side holds her back. Carlos, also being a recent newcomer, helps her deal with this.
If you follow the podcast you’ll be aware of characters and references from past seasons. Something that came up during the first year is explained in this book and my jaw dropped. It has something to do with Larry Leroy, who lives on the edge of town, and a lighthouse.
There are references to the first book as well as incidents but it’s never without an explanation. Like the first book you can read this without knowing anything about Night Vale, however it is fun catching small hints here and there.
Now what about Cecil? The face of Welcome to Night Vale. Carlos steals the show in this one. Cecil is talked about a lot and he comes in from time-to-time but for once we get to learn more about Carlos and the fact that he wears a lab coat literally 24/7. It’s a nice change-up.
I love Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor’s writing style. From the metaphors they use and going into detail but not too much. It makes sense as I love listening to them explain the abnormality of Night Vale on the podcasts through Cecil.
Night Vale is so odd but not to the residents. Over time you’ll become used to it all. From the angels named Erika to the house that is there but isn’t. It’s a fun ride and seeing it from the perspective of, what is usually a background character with no depth, creates something more. Like Nilanjana you feel a bit out-of-place but soon you care about these people and become a part of the strangeness that is Night Vale.