You remember two years ago when I managed to snag an early copy of the then new Welcome To Night Vale book from the ALA Conference in San Francisco? Well, the ALA Conference moves around every year. This year it was in Chicago. Also this year, another Night Vale book is due out in October….Guess what happened.
That’s right! I got another early copy of the new book! Also signed, though only by Jeffrey Cranor this time. Joseph Fink wasn’t there. So guess who’s getting another early review?
Unlike the last book there is no free app where you can read the first few chapters for me to have free reign to spoil those first few chapters without the threat of lawyers. However, the good people at Night Vale helpfully released the first 20ish minutes of the audiobook during their last July Hiatus meaning I can spoil that instead. Woo!
First off, this book is a lot better than the first book. I just believe this book presents a much better view of Night Vale than the previous one. The last one did a fair enough job, it was their first attempt at translating their podcast into a novel, but here they’ve learned from past mistakes and have improved greatly. It’s written in a way that’s easier for non Night Vale readers follow and is a much more tight and cohesive story. While the first one’s genres were all over the place, this one is firmly rooted in three: conspiracy thriller, science fiction horror, and romance.
This is probably helped by the fact that one of the main character, Nilanjana Sikdar, is an outsider, one of Carlos’s scientists who came to Night Vale in the first episode, instead of a born Night Valean. For the most part, she’s our point of view.
We also get more time getting to know characters usually only mentioned on the podcast, such as Larry Leroy Out On The Edge Of Town, but most especially Carlos. As Nilanjana works for him, we get to see Carlos from someone else’s point of view instead of Cecil’s, adding some more depth to a beloved character. In fact, Cecil’s point of view is barely mentioned. There’s no community radio bits like the previous book though probably for the best. I seem to recall that being something some had a problem with and even I have to admit, while I did enjoy them, they were a bit distracting.
Even still, it’s still not necessary to have read the last book or listened to any of the podcast or live shows. This is still a stand alone work, albeit one that takes place after Episode 100 (possibly the 2017 season finale), and, like comics, though it’s nice to have all the knowledge from the previous material, it’s not required to enjoy the book.
The story is one of science vs religion. Nilanjana is a scientist. Her co-lead Darryl is a member of the Joyous Congregation of the Smiling God, which has been mentioned in the podcast a number of time previously. There is something that threatens the town and, though the two need to work together, they don’t know whether or not to trust each other. This is a debate that goes on in real life today: which is better to believe in? Science or fate? While I tend to lean more towards science, I do see the benefits in religion even if much of what we see in both popular media and the news tend to be the dark sides. This book presents both sides as being equally beneficial and equally flawed, something refreshing as most media has a clear winner in the debate (usually religion, for whatever reason).
What’s more, religious and outsider points of view are ones that have never been presented in Night Vale before. We almost always get the point of view from a Night Valean (mostly Cecil) and when we don’t it’s usually just Carlos commenting on something and by this point he’s adapted to Night Vale so much that he’s pretty much a native by now.
If you’re new to Night Vale and are intimidated by the 100+ episodes of the podcast, this is a much better introduction than the first one. I recommend it. If you’re a long time fan, you’ve already pre-ordered the book. Nothing I say is gonna change that.
“It Devours!: A Welcome to Night Vale Novel” will be released on October 17th of this year and is available for pre-order now. Also available is the audiobook narrated by Cecil Baldwin. The book is currently $19.34 hardcover on Amazon and a little less than a dollar less for the audiobook. As far as I know, there’s no book tour as of yet.
ALL HAIL THE GLOW CLOUD!