Slender Man

Slender Man was first published in 2018 and penned by an author who, it seems, wishes to remain anonymous. The novel is formed by a collection of journal entries, police reports and newspaper cuttings which slowly piece together the tale of a teenage boy’s encounter with a certain modern-day myth. The novel stands alone but would probably be best enjoyed by people who are already familiar with the “nature” of Slender Man.

If it wasn’t for his nightmares, Matt Barker would be a perfectly ordinary teenager. Although he rarely remembers what causes him to wake up in the night, his parents have decided that it would be best for him to talk to someone about it. When his psychiatrist advises that he keeps a journal of his thoughts, Matt initially thinks that it is ridiculous. However, it soon becomes the perfect way for him to document the strange things that are happening around the city.

It all starts when his childhood friend, Lauren Bailey, walks out of her family home in the early hours of the morning and disappears off the face of the earth. There is no evidence of foul play – no body, ransom note or signs of trouble. Although everyone at school seems to have an opinion of what might have happened, only Matt knows the truth. As his dreams grow increasingly sinister, he realises that Lauren’s obsession with Creepypastas has lured something terrible to her door.

As Matt starts to research the Slender Man for himself, he realises that there is a tiny chance that he might be able to get Lauren back. However, the Slender Man does not release his victims for free. In order to save his friend, he might have to pay a terrible price. But who knows what the Slender Man does to those that disappear and is Matt strong enough to find out?

Before I begin, a bit of history. If, like me, you enjoy a scary story then you probably already know what a Creepypasta is. The term has been common place for the last decade and refers to the horror legends of the internet – spooky and often gruesome urban myths that are written as though told by survivors. Some of these have become modern classics (seriously, google Candle Cove or the Russian Sleep Experiment for a quick chill), but the most famous of them all is the Slender Man.

The Slender Man was originally created by Eric Knudsen in 2009. The entity is usually depicted as an unnaturally tall and thin humanoid figure with a featureless white face. It is often dressed in a suit and is able to sprout shadowy tendrils at will. The figure is predominately depicted in black and white photographs, standing near groups of oblivious people. It takes a particular interest in children and, like a modern-day Pied Piper, lures them away to never been seen again. The Slender Man is very recognisable and has become the subject of a number of television shows, movies and video games. It also inspired a few real-world acts of violence, which fortunately do not have anything to do with the novel that I am going to talk about today.

While knowing the history of the Slender Man isn’t really necessary to enjoy the novel, I do really think that it helps. If, like me, you already have a soft-spot for Creepypastas, you’re probably going to get a lot more out of the story. Basically, it reads like a 335 page long Creepypasta. In the same way that a lot of these online stories are told in the form of forum threads, Slender Man collects journal entries, police reports, Reddit threads, WhatsApp conversations, newspaper cuttings and even excerpts from the protagonist’s horror novel to form a coherent story. And, to its credit, it uses this collection of mediums very well.

Slender Man is an interesting experiment. It’s a horror story told through modern media that is fully aware of what it is. It is firmly rooted in our reality – a world in which most people “believe” that the Slender Man is just a story. Because of this, Matt soon discovers that everyone thinks that he is trying to write his own Creepypasta when he tells them that he has actually encountered the entity. This concept alone is very entertaining and I certainly never felt bored while reading it.

Yet the one thing that I felt that the novel was lacking was the extended media. There are things that an online Creepypasta can do that the book cannot, especially as it made a lot of reference to sound files that we could never hear and photos that were not included. I was especially disappointed that a Dropbox link that was included in one thread did not work when typed into my browser. This felt like a bit of an oversight, as it could have been a nice Easter egg to make the story seem more real.

Yet, while Slender Man does make a half-decent Creepypasta, it is not a great novel. We see nothing in the story due to its structure, with events generally only exposited to the reader after the fact as Matt documents them in his journal. The Slender Man itself is used incredibly sparingly, not appearing until over half-way through the book and never physically doing more than looming over the protagonist.

Because of this, the book is a bit of a slow-burner. It takes a long time before it feels as though Matt is in danger and it is often difficult to tell what is happening to him due to the fact that he doesn’t have the words to express what he sees. At the ending of Slender Man, little is resolved. The protagonist’s ultimate fate is unclear and little of what happens is explained.

I also found it difficult to connect with most of the characters. While Matt is at least likeable, we find out very little about him. This is a bit surprising, given that we have access to his journals, but he does not actually write much about himself. Even when he does detail things about his sessions with his psychiatrist, later information that we are provided shows that Matt can sometimes be an unreliable narrator. Due to this, it’s impossible to know just how accurate his journal entries actually are.

Yet, due to the way in which the story is structured, we find out even less about the supporting characters. My biggest disappointment with Slender Man was how insignificant Lauren is in the greater scheme of things. Matt barely communicates with her over the course of the novel, despite the fact that she is the one person who could presumably shed some light on what the Slender Man is. Her disappearance purely acts as a plot device to further Matt’s character development, while giving her none. I believe I’ve mentioned the Women in Refrigerators trope before so I won’t go into it here, but this is something that I find tiresome. One of my pet peeves is when bad things happen to women in stories purely to give development to men.

However, while the human characters were a bit flat, I must admit that I did like the way in which the Slender Man was presented. Although he influences everything that happens in this story, we learn nothing about him beyond the fact that he exists. He is presented as being unknowable, as even people who see him seem unable to comprehend precisely what he is. The extent of his power seems limitless and his motivations are beyond our comprehension. While some may not enjoy the lack of answers, I personally think that anything we could learn about the nature of the Slender Man would be deeply unsatisfying.

Anyhow, I don’t really have a lot more to say. Slender Man is a curious novel that may entertain fans of Creepypastas for a while, but it does not have a lot of substance. If you’re a horror fan, or just mildly curious, it’s probably one that you could give a miss. While I didn’t hate it, I also don’t think that it’s a novel that I’m ever likely to read again.

Slender Man can be purchased as a Hardback and eBook on Amazon.co.uk

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: The Owls Have Come To Take Us Away | Arkham Reviews

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© Kim Dyer and Arkham Reviews, 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Kim Dyer and Arkham Reviews with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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