Well, it took almost six months, but we’re to the final canonical Fazbear Frights book. The only one left is the odd Felix the Shark book, which won’t be out until next year. So, in the meantime, let’s look over Prankster.
Section 1: “Prankster”
The prevailing theme of my critiques throughout this article is “great concept, poor execution.” The reasons vary between stories, but for the first one, it’s simply an issue of length. “Prankster” is short and while I’ve found the stories dragged too long in earlier books, speeding it up apparently isn’t the solution. “Prankster” has a gut-wrenching, gnarly plot—and that’s great. Having the main character’s motivation be romantic is also refreshingly uncommon. But, after setting that up, it doesn’t explain or even hint really at what could’ve caused the plot to happen. Perhaps the cop story I’ve been saving for the end will illuminate matters, but without more context, this is shock for shock’s sake. And, once upon a time (before I read stuff like “Together Forever” and “The Breaking Wheel”), the gore alone would’ve at least been noteworthy for a children’s book, but this barely made me twitch. What’s even worse is “Prankster” sets the disappointing tone for the rest of the book.
Section 2: “Kids at Play”
This could’ve been brilliant. It uses one of the classic Fazbear Frights tropes: “guilt manifests as dangerous animatronics.” It’s also one of the most visceral instances of it. The biggest problems here are two-fold. The first is that the main character is so unlikeable it’s annoying to read him—until he becomes a paranoid mess. Watching his guilt eat him alive and the supernatural way the universe seems to torment him is great. There’s an actual sense of dread. But then the second issue comes: the story runs out of time and the horrific resolution has to be yanked into existence in such a way the hand of the author becomes obvious. This is the first Fazbear Frights story begging for a full novel exploring its ideas. What’s left instead feels utterly half-finished.
Section 3: “Find Player 2!”
This story has a great usage of dark irony—also a common Fazbear Frights trope—but this one makes it much more tragic by tying it to a likable main character. “Find Player 2!” has parts that made my stomach drop out without even using excessive gore. I could see adults getting more out of this premise than the kids reading it. “Find Player 2!” deals with trauma, neglect, and dark subjects like child abduction. But then there’re the problems. It’s too slow, too ponderous, meanders a lot, and is mean-spirited with how it presents a foster child. Mary Jo gets treated like a plot point and is not described in a very friendly light. I understand for the plot to make sense she has to be unlikable, but with how sad and devastating the ending is, it feels even crueler. It’s not been this emotionally brutal since “The Real Jake.” What’s been interesting is seeing how the series flip-flops between more or less realistically depicting the tragedy and resultant trauma of child death and explosive, campy shock horror. To end it on the former is perhaps a strange choice.
And that’s the last of the mainline entries. We’ve got a few more articles to do, a little more to look at, but this does feel like the finale of this strange, surprising, and odd Fazbear Frights odyssey. It’s no Goosebumps, but it will stick with me for a long time—of that, I’m very sure.
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