It Devours!: A Welcome to Night Vale Novel, Joseph Fink & Jeffrey Cranor; Cecil Baldwin, narrator (HarperAudio 978-006247610-4, $39.99, CD, 9.5 hr., unabridged [also available as a digital download]) October 2017.
This is the second standalone novel associated with one of my favorite podcasts, Welcome to Night Vale, set in a strange desert town in which all conspiracies are true and anything can happen (and usually does). At the behest of her boss, Carlos, the scientist Nilanjana investigates a series of mysterious earthquakes in Night Vale, which brings her into the orbit of Darryl, an adherent of the Joyous Congregation of the Smiling God. The two embark on a fumbling romance while attempting to avert an apocalypse.
Apparently, the book has illustrations, which you will obviously not get here. However, listeners are rewarded with the only possible reader: Cecil Baldwin, the voice of Night Vale Community Radio’s Cecil Palmer, and the primary narrator of the podcast. As in the previous book, the character Cecil doesn’t really appear in the book, which is somewhat disconcerting, but understandable, given that the book is supposed to serve both podcast fans and those who have never listened to the series at all. Baldwin has an edge over most narrators; because of his intimate involvement with the podcast, he knows Night Vale about as well as its creators do.
Accustomed to the podcast as I am, this book didn’t entirely work for me. The podcast is a lot more open-ended, asking more questions than it answers. The book works a lot harder to tie up loose ends, which kind of spoils the mystery for me. The Smiling God was a lot scarier to me in the podcast; once I learned it was actually a giant and probably non-sentient caterpillar, a lot of its menace was gone. In addition, podcast listeners will know that a threatened apocalypse is a fairly regular occurrence in Night Vale. The stakes just didn’t feel that high to me. This had not nearly the emotional weight of a multi-episode podcast apocalypse involving a collapsing multiverse observed by mourning goddess Huntokar (seriously, go check that out).
It’s a bit too stretched out and labored for me, but I do love Night Vale, and will take all I can get. For newbies, this is a decent entrée.
This review and more like it in the January 2018 issue of Locus.