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Urskuul’s Reading Circle: It Devours! by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor

Hello all, and welcome to the latest newsletter from Urskuul’s Reading Circle. It has been a while since the last one was issued, and I’d like to extend my apologies for that. While we had a meeting last month, it was sadly cut short and we didn’t have a chance to do much discussing.

minotaur calf by Rudy Siswanto

See, Garim, our resident door-minotaur had brought his brood along. It turned out he didn’t much like having children and had finally tired of putting up with them all, there being thirteen in total. So, he’d decided to give them out free for members of the Reading Circle who fancied a new pet. A parenting scheme I could get behind. However, it turned out one of them had reached an intelligence level that it was able to work out how to undo the lock on their cage.

Thirteen minotaurs, aged between 3 and 7, that were a little peeved at having been locked up decided they would now run amok. It made it very difficult to discuss the latest book, and I think everyone quickly understood why Garim wanted to get rid of them. Anyhow, we decided to postpone.

The book we read for last meeting was It Devours! by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor. That might not mean much to you, but the authors are the creators of the excellent Welcome to Night Vale podcast. Have you listened to it? It’s amazing. The podcast is about a town, Night Vale, “where every conspiracy theory you know is true”. It’s delivered by the local radio host, Cecil Palmer who provides the local news on what is happening in Night Vale at that time. For example:

The City Council announces the opening of a new Dog Park at the corner of Earl and Summerset, near the Ralphs. They would like to remind you that dogs are not allowed in the Dog Park. People are not allowed in the Dog Park. It is possible you will see hooded figures in the Dog Park. Do not approach them. Do not approach the Dog Park. The fence is electrified and highly dangerous. Try not to look at the Dog Park and especially do not look for any period of time at the hooded figures. The Dog Park will not harm you.

Welcome to Night Vale (logo)It’s extremely funny, at least if you have a similar sense of humour to myself, and I highly recommend you try it out. It’s been running for a number of years now, so you have a good back catalogue of episodes if you’ve never experienced it before. In addition to the podcast, if you’d rather read than listen, you can buy two books, Mostly Void, Partially Stars and The Great Glowing Coils of the Universe, which include the first forty-nine episodes. Though doing it this way does mean you miss out on The Weather.

The creators have also released two full books related to the town called Welcome to Night Vale: A Novel and It Devours!. Unlike the radio show, we’re not listening to the comforting tones of Cecil but experiencing a story told through the eyes of some of the residents of Night Vale. It helps to listen to the podcast prior to reading these as you’ll know more about the history of these people, but it isn’t necessary if you do fancy jumping straight in with the books.

It Devours!, as you can guess from my comments above, is the second novel of Night Vale. It follows the investigation of Nilanjana, an outsider to Night Vale, into the mysterious rumbling in the desert wasteland outside of town. The story begins as such:

It Devours (cover)Not everyone believes in mountains, yet there they are, in plain sight.

Scientists insist, rather half-heartedly, that mountains are the bulging results of tectonic shifts along massive rocky plates. Mountains developed naturally over the course of many millennia, scientists say under their breath.

Most people believe that mountains aren’t there at all. Even when mountains are visible, as they often are, nonbelievers will explain that our minds create sensory illusions to help explain what we cannot understand, like the shapes of gods and monsters in the stars, or messages in tea leaves, or government codes in cloud patterns.

Caught your attention? It certainly did mine. Welcome to Night Vale is littered with fascinating facts like this about mythical mountains, helicopters hovering above the town at all times, and the Great Glow Cloud [ALL HAIL THE GLOW CLOUD] who is the head of the PTA.

Nilanjana is a scientist working under Carlos (a fellow scientist and husband of Cecil, the radio show host). Nilanjana is currently working on bacteria, trying to develop a natural pesticide. At the moment, farmers mostly got rid of bugs by setting them on fire, but this tended to have an adverse effect on the crops the bugs lived on. Carlos is investigating the house that doesn’t exist, having once entered it and left in the desert otherworld through the door for a time. This rather played on his mind a bit, even though the council had left him messages to simply look pretty and write papers rather than go searching around for the ‘truth’.

Welcome to Desert Bluffs by AngryOwlInABush

While investigating with a machine designed to take measurements, he had become convinced someone was watching him since every time he attempted to take the measurements a rumbling occurred like an earthquake, ruining his work. Therefore, he recruits Nilanjana to look into the source of the rumbling hoping she can solve that problem and he will be able to take his measurements without interruption. This leads Nilanjana on a strange and weird journey around Night Vale, bringing her into contact with Darryl, a member of the Joyous Congregation of the Smiling God. They may have something to do with this. Or they may not. Who knows? Well, I mean everyone who’s read the book knows. And everyone who I’ve told the ending to knows as well, even if they did try and avoid the spoiler by sticking their fingers in their ears and singing, “la la la la la la la la la I can’t hear you!”

The humour is weird and twisted. The happenings are mostly irrational. The helicopters are sometimes friendly and helpful but are mostly there to watch what you’re doing and tell you not to ask questions. Oh, I shouldn’t have mentioned the helicopters. Some information is forbidden.

Anyway, I can’t recommend the podcast or the books enough. Listen to the episodes. Buy and read the books. Find more ways to work plinth into daily conversations.

– – –

And now, a word from our sponsor:

Have you recently lost a loved one? Are you going through the stages of grief alone? Are you struggling to cope? Maybe you should see someone who can help you through this.

Urskuul’s Grief Removal Service is now on hand to help and we’re offering a 50% discount for a limited period of time. We have a horde of memory eating demons who will happily feast upon the memories of the loved one so you don’t remember them and thus no longer have to suffer grief at their loss.*

Carnival by Justin Sweet

*Please ignore any rumours you may have heard about the demons eating too many memories and leaving you a drooling mess, unable to remember how to perform basic tasks such as walking, talking or breathing. Technically they’re not rumours, they’re news reports, but we’d rather you ignore them for fear you might be put off from taking advantage of this offer.

Many thanks all, until next time!

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