It Devours!: A Welcome to Night Vale Novel Audible Audiobook – Unabridged
From the authors of the New York Times best-selling novel Welcome to Night Vale and the creators of the international podcast of the same name comes a mystery exploring the intersections of faith and science, the growing relationship between two young people who want desperately to trust each other, and the terrifying, toothy power of the Smiling God.
Nilanjana Sikdar is an outsider to the town of Night Vale. Working for Carlos, the town's top scientist, she relies on fact and logic as her guiding principles. But all of that is put into question when Carlos gives her a special assignment investigating a mysterious rumbling in the desert wasteland outside of town. This investigation leads her to the Joyous Congregation of the Smiling God and to Darryl, one of its most committed members. Caught between her beliefs in the ultimate power of science and her growing attraction to Darryl, she begins to suspect the Congregation is planning a ritual that could threaten the lives of everyone in town. Nilanjana and Darryl must search for common ground between their very different worldviews as they are faced with the congregation's darkest and most terrible secret.
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|Listening Length||9 hours and 39 minutes|
|Author||Joseph Fink, Jeffrey Cranor|
|Whispersync for Voice||Ready|
|Audible.com Release Date||October 17, 2017|
|Best Sellers Rank|| #31,555 in Audible Books & Originals (See Top 100 in Audible Books & Originals) |
#101 in Humorous Fantasy (Audible Books & Originals)
#424 in Humorous Fiction (Audible Books & Originals)
#635 in Humorous Fantasy (Books)
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Nilanjana was a great main character. I love the role of scientists in this series--how they are, ridiculously, sort of like celebrities, and are presented as though they are always jockeying for awards and cannot wear any clothes but lab coats. Nilanjana works with Carlos, husband of Night Vale's radio host Cecil, voice of the podcast. It's really cool to get a peek into what goes on in the lab, and in Carlos's head, through Nilanjana's perspective.
Basically in this book we're dealing with a mysterious force that's destroying Night Vale sites with little warning, sucking them down into pits that open up into a desert otherworld. Nilanjana helps Carlos investigate, and though she feels she's getting closer to an answer the more she snoops, she's also getting personally more invested in the situation and more exposed to danger. Nilanjana befriends and eventually gets romantic with a very unscientific person: Darryl, who is a true believer in the Church of the Smiling God. He too wants to know whether his church is involved with some of the dangerous happenings, and he's rather torn between loyalty to the church that raised him and the hard questions Nilanjana is asking.
I love that the relationships, in such a weird world, are so recognizably human. Sometimes scientists can be wrong, and be in denial that they're wrong, and put people in danger because they're in denial that they're wrong. Sometimes relationships that have all the ingredients for happily ever after do not get to the ever after part. Sometimes survivors have guilt that spurs them to action. Sometimes a legacy is a celebration and a desperate act at the same time. Sometimes being disappointed in potatoes can be a plot point.
Just like the podcast, this book unexpectedly hits the audience with poignant truths out of nowhere so you (well, me) will end up crying on the bus. It's also absurd and laugh-out-loud funny at times. Sometimes it's just a phrase. Sometimes it's a situation that's been orchestrated from the beginning to pay off as funny toward the end. I just really love the tone chosen for this universe.
The only complaint I really have is that at one point toward the beginning Nilanjana is labeled as someone who's pretty antisocial and has some coping issues, which has precluded her doing much in terms of relationship pursuits, but then it's basically said that obviously she's human so she did a little dating, has been with people, etc. It's sort of upsetting to me that a franchise that normalizes same-sex relationships and is even willing to include a regular nonbinary character who uses they/them pronouns continues to make missteps regarding asexuality and aromanticism, as well as just you know, anyone who might not want to have a relationship. It's not the default that all people do this, and it is not one of the things that makes us human (or less human if we don't do it). I hope they'll make a note of that soon.
Favorite quotes and concepts:
1. "The usual things a downtown has: city hall, community radio station, hooded figures, a library, a shimmering vortex blocked off with yellow police tape, dangerous stray dogs, and propaganda loudspeakers on every corner."
2. DuBois spoke from a place of moral and physical authority to the intellectuals and politicians who stood in the way of equal rights for black Americans. He also spoke from the back of a flying dragon.
3. The fact that history doesn't exist because it's no longer happening.
4. That scientists are always expected to be glamorous and attractive.
5. The empty-eyed child messengers that you then basically have to take care of for a while until someone collects them.
6. There's this whole description of how the moon landing was faked, but it actually wasn't, and actually the director of the whole thing was a hologram, and the landing did happen but the government was hiding that they'd been out to blow the moon up, not just visit it.
7. Nilanjana has this really funny series of thoughts where she develops hypotheses, and at one point it reads like this: "Hypothesis: Shit."
8. A really poignant, somehow relatable bit about repressed PTSD came up in an anecdote about a boy who escaped Night Vale and had a really pretty normal life, but couldn't understand why he collapsed from emotional turmoil when his fortieth birthday took place at a pizza joint. (He'd been a young witness to Big Rico's Pizza disappearing into a pit.)
9. I really like that Nilanjana found Larry's diorama. It made me really sad that he invested so much in his work and then he figured it was all destroyed when his house was eaten.
10. "One of the most important parts of growing up, and of approaching the world as an adult, was understanding the difference between likable and good, and recognizing that one often had no effect on the other."
11. "He texted Jamillah about what had happened and she texted back the cry-laughing emoji, followed by the orange tree on fire emoji, followed by the child walking through the contemporary sculpture wing of the art museum emoji."
12. I really love the scene with Nilanjana comforting the helicopter!
13. The bit about trying to get a haunting license because ghosts are cool was funny.
14. I like that Nilanjana and Darryl had a realistic-sounding conversation about religion. He believes because he cares about community and he wants to see life as meaningful. Usually if the perspective character is a nonbeliever, there will be no convincing, compelling reasoning from the other party. But Darryl's reasons for believing sound like what people really offer as reasoning.
15. Apparently a science game that exists in Night Vale is called "Is That Beaker Going to Explode?"
16. Luisa throwing potatoes and being proud of them destroyed her experiment because it was supposed to be about what happens to potatoes when you are vocally and physically disappointed in them all the time.
17. I thought the helicopter helping Nilanjana's team was a great gut-punch after they'd bonded, but then he also comments that his ex-boyfriend accused him of having no emotional intelligence and I was just startled out of the feelsy interaction by laughing.
Anyway, it's this really peculiar mixture of super creepy, funny, and touching. I recommend it to Night Vale fans, but I also recommend it to people who don't know anything about the franchise. It's quite readable without the background, and you can rest assured that if something confuses you, it confuses the rest of us too. :)
Nilanjana Sikdar is a scientist who has somehow moved to Night Vale to work with Carlos, the scientist. At the start of the book her area of focus involves creating better pesticides while Carlos remains focused on finding ways to study that other desert wasteland that he had once been trapped in. In contrast there's also Darryl, one of the most devout members of the Congregation of the Smiling God. He faithfully tries to get more people to join their rather unique religion but struggles with expressing himself in a way that doesn't come across as sarcastic or downright creepy.
Things get weirder than normal in Night Vale when entire houses start to disappear into what can only be described as giant sinkholes. At the same time the City Council has issued stronger warnings to Carlos not to investigate the other world any further. This leaves Nilanjana to investigate the missing citizens of Night Vale and this somehow leads her to taking a closer look at the Congregation of the Smiling God.
What I Liked: As much as the Smiling God had been repeatedly mentioned in the show, it was always this big other thing without much definition and fans of the show only knew the general shape of it. This book found a way to have the odd religion at the center of a larger plot in a way that was quite fulfilling on different levels. And while mid-way through the book it may seem obvious how things would tie together in the end, you're still going to be surprised by the final outcome.
It's also oddly refreshing to experience the quirky natures of different prominent Night Vale characters in a new way as we're not limited to how Night Vale Radio host Cecil Baldwin would describe these characters. And to this end I appreciate the third person narrator that helps tell the story as this gives us a new way to experience this quirky world.
And Nilanjana Sikdar is an amazing character who is intriguing for a number of reason, but the one that stands out the most is the fact she is somehow from outside of Night Vale. This gives her a largely more logical stand on things, which oddly contrasts what Carlos has become given his years in Night Vale.
What Could Have Been Better: I will concede that a lot of my enjoyment of this book stems from being a Night Vale fan and I can only imagine how confusing the book may feel given references to magical doors leading to a desert other world or even just the mysterious hooded figures that are seen around the dog park that does not allow dogs or any other visitors. There's still enough to keep the story afloat on its own but the setup can be a little confusing.
The final resolution to things was certainly a surprising twist but depending on how you followed things it can feel totally left field or logical enough. I was a little on the fence about how we got to that conclusion as it did make sense in the end but it also felt that the essential clues that led to that conclusion came at the last possible minute. And as the larger structure of the book was more like a mystery, that naturally has readers like me wanting to feel like there's a chance to figure things out or at least follow the protagonists' scientific study to reach the same logical conclusion.
TL;DR: It Devours! is still a great book and in many ways it felt more narratively strong and fulfilling versus the first book. The book focuses on some pretty interesting characters and I hope that we see them more often in other Welcome to Night Vale media.