Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor have done it again!
I started listening to the Welcome to Night Vale podcast so I could read the book, and when this one came out, I impatiently waited for my library to get the audiobook so I could listen to it. It took forever, but it was so worth it because these books on audio are amazing. If you enjoy the podcast, I highly recommend listening to these books on audio.
On the surface, this was just a light, fun read, but like Fink’s first book (and like the podcast can be at times) I think it had a deeper meaning that’s worth exploring (and fun to explore in Nightvale). The main character, Nilanjala Sikdar, is a scientist working in Night Vale who relies on facts and logic and the idea that there is a scientific explanation for everything. But she starts to question that worldview when she starts dating Darryl, an acolyte of The Joyous Congregation of the Smiling God.
Darryl is completely immersed in the culture of his church – just as Nilanjala is immersed in the culture of her lab and the need to measure everything and account for variables.
Although their dates tend to go pretty well, their relationship starts to get tense when several earthquakes around town start devouring people and buildings. Nilanjala is pretty sure Darryl’s church has something to do with it, but he’s convinced that can’t be true and the result is some friction between them.
In the end it turns out that Nilanjala was basically right, although Darryl (and most of the church’s acolytes) had absolutely no idea. While they thought they were using metaphors to praise an unknowable god, it turned out they were talking very literally about a giant monster that lives underground and surfaces every now and then to eat people.
But Nilanjala and her lab aren’t entirely blameless either. Nilanjala’s boss, Carlos, has invented a machine that he thinks will help him predict future devourings, but it turns out the machine attracts the giant devouring monster. But Carlos is so obsessed with facts and measurements and finding the truth that he can’t see what he’s doing, even after Nilanjala explains it to him.
As someone who has struggled with the logical vs. the spiritual for most of my life, I really enjoyed this book (also because it’s another refreshing work from Welcome to Night Vale). I also appreciated that Nilanjala and Darryl don’t live happily ever after. They do manage to overcome their ideological differences and stay together for a while, but there’s a kind of epilogue that explains that, after dating for some months, they just kind of drift apart and I appreciated the inclusion of that kind of realism into a book that doesn’t normally bother itself with any kind of realism.
What did you read/listen to this week? Any other sequels that lived up to the expectations you had for them?