Authors: Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor
Published/Publisher October 20th 2015/Harper Perennial
Format Read In: Hardcover
Summary from Goodreads:
From the creators of the wildly popular Welcome to Night Vale podcast comes an imaginative mystery of appearances and disappearances that is also a poignant look at the ways in which we all struggle to find ourselves…no matter where we live.
Located in a nameless desert somewhere in the great American Southwest, Night Vale is a small town where ghosts, angels, aliens, and government conspiracies are all commonplace parts of everyday life. It is here that the lives of two women, with two mysteries, will converge.
Nineteen-year-old Night Vale pawn shop owner Jackie Fierro is given a paper marked “King City” by a mysterious man in a tan jacket holding a deer skin suitcase. Everything about him and his paper unsettles her, especially the fact that she can’t seem to get the paper to leave her hand, and that no one who meets this man can remember anything about him. Jackie is determined to uncover the mystery of King City and the man in the tan jacket before she herself unravels.
Night Vale PTA treasurer Diane Crayton’s son, Josh, is moody and also a shape shifter. And lately Diane’s started to see her son’s father everywhere she goes, looking the same as the day he left years earlier, when they were both teenagers. Josh, looking different every time Diane sees him, shows a stronger and stronger interest in his estranged father, leading to a disaster Diane can see coming, even as she is helpless to prevent it.
Diane’s search to reconnect with her son and Jackie’s search for her former routine life collide as they find themselves coming back to two words: “King City”. It is King City that holds the key to both of their mysteries, and their futures…if they can ever find it.
“To be remembered is, I think, a basic human right. Not one that occurs to a person when it is there, but like a parched throat in a desert when it is gone.” – The Man in the Tan Jacket holding a Deerskin Suitcase; Welcome to Night Vale, J. Fink and J. Cranor
“This is Night Vale. Our mayor once led an army of masked warriors from another dimension through magic doors to defeat an army of smiling blood-covered office workers. There is definitely, definitely another way.” – Jackie Fierro; Welcome to Night Vale, J. Fink and J. Cranor
As a fan of the ‘Welcome to Night Vale’ podcast since day 1, I was so excited when I heard they were coming out with a book! I was late in my order of it, but at least I got it eventually! The cover is so great; I love Night Vale’s purple scheme and the text that is so old-school radio (despite the book not being focused on the famous Night Vale Radio Station)! Of course the Night Vale eye (probably a representation of Cecil Baldwin’s, the host of the Radio Station, third eye) is dead set in the middle which probably gives non-fans and eerie feel.
I feel like you could read and enjoy this book (if you like the truly bizarre) without having listened to the podcast, but I urge you to listen to the podcast since it has great writing and gives you more of the atmosphere of the town and it’s occupants.
So the plot of this book was used to answer our questions about a recurring character on the podcast: the man in the yellow tan jacket holding a deerskin suitcase. Literally that’s his entire title, repeated every time he shows up in a scene. He seems to be a foreigner to Night Vale and when people look at him, and then look away, they can’t remember what he looks like, what he said to them or even that they met him at all. He’s a strange conundrum and a source of mystery in the podcast. In the book, we get to learn that he is related to a city called King City a few miles from Night Vale but no one remembers hearing of such a city and even getting to it is difficult. But the uncovering of the mystery of King City and the man in the yellow tan jacket holding a deerskin suitcase Jackie Fierro, a 19-year-old pawn shop owner who ages when she decides to age (time is very weird in Night Vale), and Diane Crayton, your typical suburban man raising a shape-shifting son all by herself. These two ladies hare shoved together to try and solve the mystery of this man and King City; Diane, because she knows these two things are somehow related to her son’s father Troy whom her son is independently looking for, and Jackie, because she cannot get rid of the piece of paper that says ‘King City’ on it given to her by the man and she can’t write down anything else except for King City which disrupts her work and her life.
I think the story itself was really well put together! Fink and Cranor are extraordinary writers and the way they immerse you into the world of Night Vale without making a big deal over all the weirdness is excellent. I was a tad worried when I heard there would be a Night Vale novel because part of the charm of the podcast is Cecil’s throw-away comments and light-hearted tones when he talks about the strange happenstances and horrifying events transpiring by and to the town. I didn’t know how that would translate on paper but it worked out just fine! I was a bit thrown off during the novel when the story would break and we’d have a chapter dedicated to whatever Cecil was talking about on the radio, but as a fan, I wasn’t too bothered by this.
The plot flows well and foreshadowing is placed properly so no solutions or problems came out of thin air (though Night Vale could get away with anything popping out of thin air). I felt like the novel really wrapped up the mystery of the man and King City from the podcast concisely.
Jackie Fierro is the 19-year-old pawn shop owner who inherited the pawn shop from her mother when she turned 19 and the apparently stopped ageing and, over time, stopped remembering her life before she took over the pawn shop. Every day seems to be the same until a man in a yellow tan jacket holding a deerskin suitcase comes in, hands her a piece of paper that says ‘King City’ and runs off. From then on, no matter what she does to get rid of the paper is always finds its way back into her left hand and this begins to disrupt her monotonous life. She decides to embark on a quest to find this man and find this ‘King City’ so her life can go back to normal. I really liked Jackie’s characters! She was determined, head-strong and snarky, focused in her mission and willing to go far to find her answers (even going so far as to visit a deadly, monster-filled place like the library). This disruption in her life has also allowed her to think about herself more, about why she stopped ageing at 19 while her friends kept ageing and why she can’t remember her family and any life she had before the pawn shop. Her struggle to grow up is familiar despite the oddity of her non-ageing which is something I love about Night Vale’s narrative.
Diane Crayton is the single mother to Josh Crayton, a shape-shifter who doesn’t really take any human form for the whole book but somehow Diane can figure out which object or insect or whatever form he is. The power of motherhood I assume. So far, her life seems to consist of working at her job (it’s never specified what her actual job is) and attending PTA events at the school as the treasurer, all while struggling to build a relationship with her son who is nearing his teenage years. A disruption in her life comes when a man at her work suddenly stops showing up and everyone, even the records at her work, don’t remember him ever existing. This sets Diane on a path to find this man (whom she calls ‘Evan’ though it’s not his name) and as she is doing so, she begins to see Troy, Josh’s father, around town doing various jobs, though she can never get close enough to speak with him. When she realizes that Josh is also trying to find his father, she becomes determined to find Troy first. I really felt sorry for Diane. It seemed that before the disruptions, she had focused all her energy on Josh and when she tried to focus her energy into finding Evan and then Troy, I could sense the struggle and her frustration with trying to tame a teenager. The little snippets of her and Josh being able to connect were very sweet, however short-lived. I also liked her taking on the role as a supportive friend to Jackie, when they begrudgingly have to team up to solve this mystery that they share, rather than an adult talking down to a child, especially considering Jackie is technically much older than 19.
Josh Crayton is Diane’s son who is searching for his father secretly. As a shape-shifter, he has a hard time keeping form and believes if he can find the second parental figure in his life, he might find stability. I could sympathize with Josh’s plight and his child-like beliefs. I’m really glad he found stability in the end. Troy is Josh’s father, and without going into spoilers, is more than meets the eye. He seems to be connected to this King City and the man in the yellow tan jacketed holding a deerskin suitcase. I felt like I could understand that Troy has good intentions but the way he goes about it is just not right. Then there is the man in the yellow tan jacket holding a deerskin suitcase who’s name and face we never learn, which helps with the narrative that no one remembers who he is or what he looks like. I could understand his intentions, too, but much like Troy, he doesn’t go about solving the problem of King City well.
Incidentally, there is no real villain in this book, which I didn’t mind at all because I think the internal struggles of the characters was enough to drive their development and the plot along. Only in Night Vale can the plot be driven by just those two things and no outside conflict.
Because of the weirdness in the books, it took me a little longer to read because I had to focus on just about every sentence or I’d miss some elements, but otherwise I really liked the book, the writing style and the characters! The words are very eloquent and poetic, and if you pay close attention, there’s plenty of nuggets of wisdom! Now I shall wait patiently for an ‘Alive isn’t Dead’ and a ‘Within the Wires’ (two other podcasts written by the folks who wrote the Night Vale podcast) book!
My Rating: 4/5