3 out of 5 stars.
Released as an extension of the indie video gaming franchise Five Nights at Freddy’s, The Silver Eyes is the debut novel written by series creator Scott Cawthon and Kira Breed-Wrisley. It was first published in December 2015 in typical FNaF style – i.e. ahead of schedule and as a complete surprise to everyone keeping tabs on any sort of FNaF updates.
Personally, I have mixed feelings about this story.
I’m not going to go on a rant about this book or try to sway anyone from one side or another. The Five Nights at Freddy’s series since the first game was released has always been something I have enjoyed. Though the gameplay is simplistic, repetitive and grows old quickly, the story (for me at least), did not. And that was something I was hoping for when it came to this novel. I knew from the offset that it wasn’t going to be a one-hundred-percent canon confirmation of the story of the game. I knew that it was going to be somewhat of an AU, a retelling and counter timeline just to give a different feel for the franchise, and though I was disappointed to have the answers left open for me still, I was happy with the concept put before me.
The story follows a cast of characters but focuses primarily on Charlie, a teenager whose father created the Freddy Fazbear restaurant chain. When she and her friends were children, five children went missing from the restaurant including their best friend, Michael. During that time, Charlie’s father dies and she is taken away from the small town to live with her aunt. Some of the other children move away too. However, a decade later (I think) the teenagers are called back to the town to attend an announcement ceremony for a new scholarship being set up in Michael’s name. Reunited and curious about how the town has changed, the group goes exploring and discovers Freddy’s hidden away in the remains of an unfinished mall, animatronics and all. When one of the group goes missing, it becomes a race against time to discover the truth about what happened to the missing children, who kidnapped them in the first place, and just how long Charlie’s family has been connected to the disappearances so they can find their friend and stop the child killer once and for all.
For the most part, I enjoyed reading it. The story was interesting in its own clichéd way, and it definitely had the feel of an old horror movie. It had that janky kind of pacing to it – sometimes it was a tad too slow and tedious but when things were supposed to feel scary they definitely did. It reminded me of old horror movies like Scream; there was a sense of foreboding from beginning to end, the main character had a tragic backstory that is spoken about like it’s taboo, and I didn’t quite know who to trust.
The characters were something and nothing. The main girl, Charlie, had a lot of deus ex machina thrown her way – she remembered things conveniently when she’d been suppressing things from when she was as young as three-years-old. There were moments when she would be alone in a dark room thinking about how things use to be for her and something would jolt her memory – there is a scene where she and her love-interest, John, discover the site of another restaurant from when she was three-years-old and she remembers a very specific thing she’d been repressing. For one, forgetting that thing in the first place was a little unbelievable, but how she remembered it and in enough detail to have some decent answers felt like they were throwing out an entire scene just because they felt bored of it. Each of the others all seemed a tad bland and stereotypical. There wasn’t much diversity between the names of each character, they all felt pretty standard for a horror-movie-like setting. There was John, Jessica, Marla, Lamar, Carlton, and Jason. Including Charlie, that’s three J names, two C names, and two characters that are pointed out within the story to have names that anagrams of each other. Plus they all had stereotypical character types too: Jessica was the pretty one who was also kind of smart, Marla was the hyperactive one, Jason was the annoying little brother… They just felt a little monotonous.
And the main villain was exceptionally obvious and painfully underwhelming. If you’re at least a little bit aware of the storyline of the FNaF games, or have watched the many, many theory videos by GameTheory on YouTube, then you’ll be aware of the infamous Purple Guy. In most theories, Purple Guy was a former security guard for the restaurant and, as depicted in the mini games, is the guy responsible for killing the missing children. A lot of people believe that he and the Phone Guy, the dude that will talk to you at the beginning of each night with plot filler or little hints as to how that night is going to differ from the last, are one and the same. In this story, however, the security guard is around and he’s been with the franchise since day one but there is nothing special about him. He’s creepy, that’s for sure, but not very threatening. Well, except for one part where I was 98% convinced he was actually going to kill one of them but apart from that he never feels like the threat they’re trying to set him up to be. But with the threat of the live animatronics as well as this guy, I wasn’t sure who I should be more worried about.
The ending was underwhelming. I know I’ve already added a spoiler warning at the beginning of this post, but I won’t spoil it for anyone who really wants to read this book. I will say though that certain characters don’t really have an ending they really should considering their actions, and the final paragraph felt as though it could have a bit more detail. It’s very abrupt. An event happens in front of a police officer that is practically murder and yet nothing is done about it. It’s treated as though it never happened. Not to mention, the general structure throughout got a tad confusing when trying to figure out who I was actually following. One scene melted into another without warning. In most novels I’ve read there is always an indicator when a scene has ended within a chapter or the perspective is going to change to another character. A single asterics in the centre of its own line, a full line or any other symbol, anything that can indicate that scene has ended. But this had nothing. Not good.
I know it must sound like a completely hated this book, but somehow I still enjoyed the majority of it and thought it was a nice alternative take on Scott Cawthon’s Five Nights at Freddy’s series. I’m not ashamed to say I’m a fan of the games – the backstory has been something I’ve enjoyed piecing together since day one. It honestly inspired me a little when I started finally putting together the pieces of my own story. I love old horror movies; Scream was a favourite of mine for ages, and I will always love the cheesiness of A Nightmare on Elm Street. When a scene was supposed to be tense and frightening, I definitely felt tense and frightened. It did a lot right. However, this book came out before anyone was expecting it to, just like the games really, but with this I feel like it should have been held back a little longer. It should have been polished up and properly thought through because if it had come out a few months later, I think this could have been a book I would have happily given a higher rating.
Still, good job Scott and Kira. You managed to spook me.