Review of new book

Once more, say it together: Good night, Night Vale. Good night.

I was charmed by the world of “Night Vale”, that strange desert town run by aliens, hairy monsters and disembodied voices, when I read the first collection of scripts that were performed in the Welcome to Night Vale podcast, way back in 2016. Mostly Void, Partially Stars: Welcome to Night Vale Episodes, Volume 1 was my introduction to the nonchalant weirdness of “Night Vale”. Each podcast takes the form of a radio show, which is narrated by the host of Night Vale’s Community Radio station, “Cecil Gershwin Palmer”. Actor Cecil Baldwin is the velvety, mellifluous voice of Cecil, the Voice of Night Vale, and he can pronounce the phrase “briny depths” in a voice that’s so deep and resonant that it melts your toes. Oooooh…”briiiiny deppppthzz“. (Yay, Cecil.)

The Buying of Lot 37: Welcome to Night Vale Episodes, Vol. 3, by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor. Illustrated by Jessica Hayworth (Parodies, Satires, Podcast scripts; Publisher: ‎Harper Perennial; Illustrated edition, May 14, 2019; paperback; 336 pages)

The story continues

While this is the brainchild of writers Cranor and Fink/Fink and Cranor, like with all very successful long-running stories, the fans and guest writers have become more involved over the years. (Episode No. 219 (!) aired on Nov. 30, 2022.)

This collection of scripts, Vol. 3, contains episodes no. 50 to 70. I read the collections in the wrong order, because I’ve already read Vol. 4, Who’s A Good Boy? The scripts contained in Vol. 3 were written by Cranor and Fink, with contributions by 12 authors and/or voice artists. Each episode in the book is introduced with a chapter explaining what inspired it and how it was created. Because, after all this time, Night Vale is nicely puttering along on its own steam. But still, a story is a story and needs continuity from one episode to the next.

So in this volume, the plot continues with familiar elements and characters, all known and loved by listeners and readers. It revolves around Cecil who mysteriously saves the life of the town’s mayor, “Dana”, who is being attacked by “The Faceless Old Woman Who Secretly Lives in Your Home” and “Hiram McDaniels”, a five-headed dragon. (One good head, 4 bad ones.)

Also, Cecil’s boyfriend, the adorable scientist, “Carlos”, goes missing when he disappears into an alternate desert universe, after he ventures into the Dog Park where no-one is supposed to go, not even dogs. (At least I think that’s what happened.)

Night Vale continues to be an alternate reality, and a mirror that shows us, in very small little glimpses, real human nature. To quote Cecil and Carlos, after they survived their long separation and a frightful event at the opera house:

“‘Carlos, anywhere we’re together is home,’ I said. And I repeated it. And repeated it. And I said, ‘But Carlos, is Night Vale where we should live? Is Night Vale even worth living in?’
Carlos held my shoulder and said, ‘Night Vale is just a name, Cecil. Night Vale is just the name for an area where everyone you love lives,’ he said. ‘Don’t worry about the name. Worry about the everyone,’ he said.”

The Buying of Lot 37 – Welcome to Night Vale Episodes, Vol. 3, p. 274

Photo by Rafael Cerqueira on

True that, don’t you think?

This fan video is superb – if it doesn’t tempt you to listen to the podcasts, I’ll be surprised – and you have Cecil’s lovely voice in there too.

Posted in 2014 by Kali de Wildt; created by Kali de Wildt and Chelsey Furedi (Retrieved Nov. 12, 2022)

Nothing is quite as usual

Is it entertaining? Oh yes. Even when you read it rather than listen to the podcast. Is it strange and off-the-wall? Absolutely, which makes it a lot of fun. It’s packed full of so many odd things that I’d have to quote every page to explain.

For instance, since Night Vale is not the world as we know it, all references to art and literature have been turned upside down: composer Domenico Gallo, becomes Domenico Galli, and his Trio Sonatas becomes Sonata Quinta. Novelist Chinua Achebe’s book No Longer at Ease, set in Nigeria, becomes a “post-fatalist novel” that is prescribed reading for school children. Vladimir Nabokov is mentioned as the translator of A Hero of Our Time, a classic of Russian Literature, which was written in Russian by Mikhail Lermontov. Yes, Nabokov did translate it, but he did not “…add several thousand blank pages and a carbon steel, bullet-shaped dust jacket”. It’s a kind of “spot Waldo” exercise throughout the book and it’s quite amusing.

I have read all the Night Vale books – the collections of podcast scripts as well as the spin-off novels. I go back to them when I need something enjoyable, but not exhausting, to read. No doubt I’ll buy whatever Fink and Cranor publish next. So once more, I’ll mutter to myself before falling asleep, trying to imitate Cecil’s soothing voice, “Good night, Night Vale. Good night.”

PS: There’s music too

Every time there is a weather report in Cecil’s script, a song by an indie band is played in stead. I don’t know these bands or their music, but they are real. The first one in this collection is Ghost Story by Charming Disaster. The lyrics fit the narrative.

More about the Night Vale books

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