I sometimes refer to the Five Nights at Freddy’s books as my guilty pleasure reads, though, truthfully, I don’t feel guilty about a damn thing I read. However, they do provide a mix of cheesy entertainment and frustration bordering on rage at how terribly they’re written. I suspect creator, Scott Cawthon, had no idea how successful his games (and subsequent spinoff materials) would be, thus making the timeline and rules of his world difficult (if not impossible) to pin down, but that’s not what I’m here to talk about today.
Strap in for a part-review, part-ramble, part-tear-into-these-crap-books journey where I say whatever the hell I want about this series and its lack of quality. Despite what follows, I am a fan of the franchise overall and love watching Lets Plays and fan theories. But, if you’re a die-hard Freddy fan, this might not be the post for you.
Random: my very brief review for book 2, The Twisted Ones, is by far my most popular Goodreads post coming in at 8 likes and 12 comments (yes, I know that’s probably not everyone’s idea of popular.) So very strange.
A little background on my love affair with Freddy’s for you: I am not a subscriber of Markiplier, but I check his channel now and then when I have the urge to watch a fairly comprehensive playthrough of a new game complete with a grown man screaming nonsensical words the entire time. I probably came across his Five Nights at Freddy’s videos later than most, but I was immediately hooked.
I’m a 100% certified, grade-A wimp, so I can’t play scary games, especially not ones made primarily of jump scares because I’d probably have a damn heart attack. I can, however, watch them, because when I suspect a scary bit is coming, I can close my eyes and/or mute the video. Thus, I watched Markiplier screamily beat the first game. Not only was it creepy and fresh (I’ve certainly never watched or played a game about living animatronics haunting an abandoned and nostalgic pizzeria a la Chuck E. Cheese) but there was clearly a little something more going on than just life-sized animal robots hungry for the player’s flesh. I was a little freaked out and very intrigued. These games are like popcorn. I just can’t stop!
I’m not here to deep-dive into the convoluted and seemingly contradictory plot of the franchise. I’ll leave that to MatPat. But, for those of you unfamiliar – essentially there’s an old pizzeria that’s closed because the animatronic performers have definitely murdered restaurant patrons and now some poor sap is hired as night guard to keep an eye on the haunted robots and trying his best to stay alive from midnight to six am armed only with a flashlight and a limited power supply which he can use to close the thick metal doors of his tiny office.
Long story slightly less long, I was hooked on watching Markiplier play these stupid games. More games came out and I watched his complete playthroughs of them all. Sweetbeeps thought it was funny and my little brother was pleased that someone actually wanted to discuss the finer points of the games with him (he also merely watches others play – and for those of you in the know, he dressed up as the puppet one year for Halloween. Super cute.) In December 2016, as a joke, Sweetbeeps gifted me The Silver Eyes, the first book in the Freddy’s franchise. Little did he know, he was feeding right into my obsession!
So I read the first book, bought the second when that was released and accidentally pre-ordered the third. (“How does one accidentally pre-order a book?” you ask. Well thanks to the stupid, one-click order button on Amazon and my phone lagging, I ended up picking that option when I was actually trying to add it to my cart for later. Then I figured I’d just let it be, since I knew I’d read it eventually.)
In prepping to read the third (lamely titled) book, The Fourth Closet, I’ve decided to re-read the first two. I’m 100% not sure where the hell these books fit in terms of the game lore – if they even fit at all. I get the sense they’re a kind of prequel, but then some of the events might actually be mixed in with the timelines of the games. It hurts my brain when I try to piece it all together, so I just don’t bother.
The first book, The Silver Eyes, (I’m not even sure whose eyes are silver – probably I missed it) goes a little like this: Charlie, our blandtagonist (yep), is 17 now and going back to her hometown 10 years after her childhood friend Michael was kidnapped and killed at her father’s pizza joint, Freddy Fazbear’s. She’s reuniting with the rest of her group for the anniversary of their friend’s death and the group decides to investigate the ruins of the old restaurant after they find out it’s been preserved inside an abandoned mall. Charlie also visits her old house, which her aunt mysteriously still pays the mortgage/property taxes/whatever for, bringing back vague memories of her family, including that of her father’s suicide. Charlie and company soon find themselves trapped in the pizzeria, hunted by murderous robots and a deranged security guard. They’ll have to stay alive and also figure out what the hell is going on!
Oh, and, if it’s not already abundantly clear, spoilers ahead.
Amidst poorly developed characters, painfully dull dialogue that often makes no sense and a convoluted plot, we have a story about animatronics haunted by the souls of murdered children and the crazed man who killed them. That last bit is the part that somehow keeps my interest in this franchise, but boy, do I wish these books had been better executed.
A quick intro of our characters for you. We have: Charlie, our main character; she’s awkward and doesn’t seem to enjoy being around people. Jessica, who is pretty and confident (at one point in the book Charlie wonders if it’s hard for Jessica to make friends, “looking the way she did,” meaning pretty, I guess. Thus, we establish Charlie also comes with the signature low self-esteem found in the leading ladies of most YA novels.) Marla, who is cheerful. John, who likes Charlie (but whyyyy?) Carlton, a prankster. Lamar, who dresses nice and likes Marla, I guess. And Marla’s little brother, Jason, who is…a kid. That’s essentially their personalities, right there. These characters are interchangeable; they have zero development and almost no connection with each other.
By the way, this is set in the 80s, which has no bearing on the plot except that there are no cellphones. In no way does this book feel like it’s set in the 80s.
So here we go – these kids all break into Freddy’s after Carlton (the only one who still lives in town) mentions they started building a mall where the pizzeria used to be, but then stopped because retailers didn’t actually want to put stores there. For some reason the pizzeria wasn’t torn down, they simply built the mall around it, leaving it perfectly intact – they didn’t even bother to go in and take out the robots, tables and chairs, arcade games or any of the other junk in there. Why not? Who friggen knows. I’m sure the series won’t explain that.
The kids easily find their way into the mall, whereupon Jessica “sang a brief, wordless scale suddenly, startling them all into silence. Her voice rang out pure and clear, something beautiful into the emptiness.” Carlton compliments her and Jessica shrugs it off, “attempting humility but not meaning a word of it.” So. That happened. Why would a character sing during a break in? Who knows. Does she ever sing again? Not that I recall. But I guess that’s some character development for you…
The gang finds the blank space where Freddy’s used to be and realizes it’s still there, but while they’re trying to break in, a security guard starts to head their way. While crouched beside Carlton, hiding from a security guard, Charlie says “that’s nice,” and Carlton immediately (somehow!) knows she’s talking about the smell of his shampoo, which sets him off on a little tangent about the different scents available. Wow, teenagers! Wow, character development! Carlton sure is a barrel of laughs.
Once inside, the nostalgia is heavy. Despite having only one flashlight, the crew has no trouble exploring the deserted pizzeria. Charlie stands before the famed Freddy animatronic: “He was the most genial looking of the three, seeming at ease where he was. A robust, if lean, brown bear, he smiled down at the audience, holding a microphone in one paw, sporting a black bow tie and top hat. The only incongruity in his features was the color of his eyes, a bright blue that surely no bear had ever had before him.” Really, Charlie!? The only incongruity is the shade of blue of his eyes? Not that fact that he’s holding a fucking microphone and wearing a top hat? Quality writing, folks. Meanwhile, Carlton is checking the kitchen for food in a restaurant that’s been abandoned for about 10 years.
After a night of putzing around their old hangout, Charlie dreams of another restaurant from when she was younger, as well as her twin brother she’d forgotten about until just that moment. She and John take off on a romantic excursion to find it based on the details of Charlie’s dream – some place near train tracks and a tree. How helpful! Miraculously (and unsurprisingly) they find the old place with little issue. There Charlie digs up more memories of her father and someone else wearing bear and bunny suits and performing, before the development of Freddy and friends. She also remembers her brother being kidnapped by someone in the bunny costume. In thinking about her missing brother, Sammy, and her friend Michael, and the “other kids” who are vaguely mentioned, Charlie has the brilliant thought that “lightning might strike twice, but not murder.” Apparently she’s never heard of serial killers.
Understandably, her parents shut down that location. Her mother left and Charlie and her father set up shop in whatever stupid town this book takes place in (Hurricane maybe?) where he proceeds to invent all sorts of creepy animatronics and eventually opens up another restaurant. Charlie grows up a seemingly normal, if socially awkward and boring as hell, teenager with no residual side-effects after witnessing her twin’s kidnapping and her mother’s abandonment and no need for therapy.
Given how long this post has become (thanks to how fired up I get when reviewing “bad” books), I think I’ll stop here. If you’re interested in more of my ranting review, come back on Wednesday for Part 2 (hey, that rhymes)!