From the authors of the New York Times bestselling novel Welcome to Night Vale and the creators of the #1 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 world views as they are faced with the Congregation’s darkest and most terrible secret.
I want to say first that I thought this did a really good job of looking at the valid and the ridiculous parts of both science and religion and I appreciate that it didn’t just blow religion off in that “well if you think logically its just obviously garbage” way. Night Value has always been about appreciating the fact that we really know and understand so little about the universe and the dumbest thing anyone can say is that they understand everything (or anything) about it.
Past that, I thought the first book was much better written. The classic Night Vale wit and humor are here and the plot was interesting, but frankly many of the interesting parts were already explained in like the second year of the podcast. This is opposed to the first book where they explained a weird ass thing from the show for the first time in the book. The new information also so overly explained The Smiling God that by the end I felt it had taken away, rather than add to, the fun creepy intrigue surrounding the whole storyline.
That would all have been fine because the Other World is still really interesting, but my main problem was Nilanjana and Darryl. I didn’t care for her. I didn’t care for him. And I really didn’t care about their relationship. They aren’t bad characters – they feel like fully formed people which is the most you can really ask for, objectively – but they both just felt so flat.
Overall I did enjoy this book more the second time, but I think it’s always going to be my least favorite of the series.