Dreams Come to Life
Dreams Come to Life
Suddenly something threw itself against the door. It shook. There was a large bang, and a shadow appeared and then disappeared in the crack beneath the door.
Definitely someone was being kept inside. Or was it…something? I noticed I’d been holding my breath and I let it all our now, gulping for air after I did.
Something? Like an animal? Like a…ghost?
That was stupid. I just needed to see it with my own eyes, know that whatever it was made perfect sense. Stop my imagination from making things into a bigger deal than they were.
The wail began again, this time definitely coming from behind the door. Up close there was something to it that felt different. Almost sad, almost like crying. But not human crying. Animal crying. It sounded helpless, and I felt bad for it. About as bad as I felt scared of it. I reached down slowly and tried the door handle. It was locked. Of course it was. Who would keep a door unlocked with something like that behind it?
The lock should have been a sign. Not even a sign, really. It wasn’t magic, it wasn’t a message from a higher power. It was a locked door. And a locked door means “Keep out.”
Dreams Come to Life is a novel by Adrienne Kress set in the same world as the video game Bendy and the Ink Machine (which this reviewer will admit to never having played), and it describes the events leading up to the game which is a first-person horror-puzzle-action survival game. This review cannot speak to how well the novel serves the purpose of a video game prequel, but Dreams Come to Life succeeds as a noir/horror novel aimed at young adults. Told in the first person by Daniel “Buddy” Lewek, a young man who dropped out of school to help support his recently widowed mother in the summer of 1946, this book is an engaging mix of suspense and horror (with no gore, making it a good choice for some younger readers).
Buddy takes a job as a gopher at Joey Drew Studios, the creator of the ubiquitous (in this world, at least) Bendy cartoons. Buddy dreams of being an artist and hopes this job will allow him to make a break in cartoons and animation – but it quickly becomes apparent that not everything is at it seems. Joey Drew, co-founder of Joey Drew Studios, seems to be keeping secrets. Too focused on a potential art career and the promise of more pay than he’s had in the past, Buddy continues to work for Mr. Drew while hoping to break into being an art apprentice in addition to running errands for the studio. As he gets settled into the studio, Buddy makes friends with Dot, another studio employee, and together they begin to piece together the reason behind the strange occurrences at the studio.
As Buddy continues to deal with his new workplace, he has to get used to a new roommate – his grandfather, who can barely speak English, has come over from Poland to live with Buddy and his mother. Initially resentful of this stranger in his home, Buddy’s relationship with his grandfather grows when he finds out that his grandfather is an art teacher – as Buddy begins taking lessons from his grandfather, the old man also begins to see that something is not right at the studio. While the language barrier does make communication difficult, it quickly becomes clear that Buddy’s grandfather is concerned for Buddy’s safety at the studio – and, in the end, Buddy and Dot discover what, exactly, Mr. Drew has been up to.
Kress’ use of the noir style in a young adult novel is engaging and interesting – this story is being told to us by Buddy, both as a warning from the future and as a letter to Dot, who, we can assume, was separated from Buddy before the book’s end. This book is sure to appeal to fans of the video game as well as to youth who like horror and suspense genres. All the tropes you would expect in a noir are, happily, present, and it was hard not to picture this novel unfolding as a black-and-white mystery narrated by a hard-boiled detective. Kress builds suspense and scares without resorting to gore (a hallmark of the teen horrors I read in the 90s), making Dreams Come to Life an excellent choice for any squeamish readers who still like being scared.
Susie Wilson is the Data Services Librarian at the University of Northern British Columbia. When she isn’t at work, you’ll find her curled up with a cup of coffee and a good book.