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Welcome to Night Vale: 01/04/19
Welcome to Night Vale by Joseph Fink is a novel inspired by the long running podcast of the same name. I've been holding off on writing a review of this book because I happened to finish it right as I was re-contextualizing my road narrative project in terms of what I now call the road narrative spectrum.
What I've been struggling to realize over these many months (five between finishing the book and attempting to write a review) is that both the podcast (as a single body of work, though individual episodes do stray) and the novel both sit in the 33CC33 category (couple, uhoria, Blue Highway) but for very different reasons and with completely different travelers.
The novel exists outside of the radio station. It's not Night Vale from Cecil's point of view via his radio show. Instead, it's an ensemble decoupage that finally settles on Jackie Fierro (the pawn shop owner) and Diane Crayton (mother of a moody shapeshifter). Where Cecil and Carlos would put the traveler aspect of the narrative into 33 (a couple), Diane, Jackie and Josh fit into the same category more as a family.
A man named Troy (possibly) carrying a suitcase and wearing a jacket has given Jackie a paper that says King City. There is nothing she can do to rid herself of it. It remains permanently in her hand. In trying to figure out what to do with it, she realizes that her life isn't normal. She's been nineteen for far too long.
It's already been well established by the podcast that Night Vale exists out of time, or rather in its own time. It's physical location is roughly where real world Pioneer Town sits. But it exists in its own pocket universe where time collectively flows at its own weird pace and individually at different paces too.
The novel examines more about the interplay of personal time and town time against world time, if you will. The examination of time is very similar to Paradox in Oz by Edward Einhorn and Eric Shanower (1999) but is presented as horror rather than fantasy (see my chart for why).
In the podcast, no one really ever leaves Night Vale except either to go Red Bluffs or to end up in the desert via the old oak doors (a rather Seanan McGuire approach to travel). The King City paper is a clue that the Night Vale temporal oddities are spreading and are somehow tied to King City.
For Californian fans and readers, Night Vale is in California. We know this for the Ralphs and the way that the mountains (which aren't real) are described. We know it's in a rural Southern California location near or in a desert. We can place it on a map (as I have) even though Night Vale refuses to be so categorized).
Night Vale for all of its horrors and small town charm, is very much like Oz. Except, unlike Oz which is canonically not in the same world as Kansas, though reachable by many mundane and fantastical ways from there (and the rest of the world at certain spots), Night Vale is in California but in its own weird time bubble). In this regard, the Night Vale novel and podcast come in one below the Oz books, in that they are uhorias (CC).
Finally there is the road taken. Night Vale has a certain pre-Interstate charm to it. It's one of those out of the way small towns that were bypassed by the Interstate system. In Night Vale's case, I think the town wanted it (not the people per se, but the town itself, in the same way that one can argue that Hill House has a will of its own). Night Vale, as I've shown on Google Maps, could be off Rte 62, Rte 247, and near US 58. One can drive from Pioneer Town (aka our stand in for Night Vale) to King City via nothing but Blue Highways, and I see it as no mistake that the author chose King City as the goal for the novel in that King City has a similar pre-Interstate small town charm but is actually a real town. In this regard, the Night Vale novel and podcast both have a 33.
Put all together, both podcast and novel sit at 33CC33 (family or couple, uhoria, Blue Highway).