I’m a big Night Vale fan and when I read the first novel (Welcome to Night Vale), I was genuinely worried if the podcast could translate into novel format, but the book they wrote was expansive and beautiful and genuinely emotionally impactful – it was a beautiful story of family and negotiating those relationships, about desiring to grow up, about not having the relationship with a parent you want, or they want with you. In short, it was a great book, the feel of which has stuck with me since my first and currently only reading (reviewed here).
At the 100 page mark of It Devours, I was totally ready to stop reading.
It wasn’t that I expected the same book, but I expected the same quality of writing, and this just isn’t on display here. It Devours bills itself more as an action book – it has giant sandworms, so, yeah – but it doesn’t work. Welcome to Night Vale had a wonderful action setpiece chapter where Jackie and Diane navigated the library and the horrible monstrous librarians they lay within but It Devours…
The main thing for me was the story and characters. There was no depth to them. Nilanjana is a scientist who works with Carlos, partner of Night Vale’s main character (and lead in the podcast) Cecil Palmer. She wants friends but doesn’t have any. She believes in Science. She meets Darryl from the Joyous Congregation of the Smiling God, a local religion, and he’s lonely too, but religious. See where this is going? And that’s pretty much the depth of their characters. So of course it’s a romance. But there was just no depth to the characters. I didn’t care. And what the writers did to the Joyous Congregation (whom were featured prominently in parts of the podcast with their spokesperson Kevin, who was terrifying), they declawed them. I get the point, and the joke Messrs Cranor and Fink but you had something otherworldly and that spoke to religious fervour in people like Kevin and his worship of the Smiling God.
Nothing worked in this. I read it to the end and went ‘Why’. I love Night Vale, and will always listen to their podcasts and buy their books, but this, I cannot recommend this at all. A formulaic action adventure.
That said, I could gladly recommend anything else they do – the podcast or the first novel are both consistently brilliant!