Kress (The Quest for the Kid, 2019, etc.) creates a hair-raising tale based on the popular survival horror video game “Bendy and the Ink Machine.”
She capitalizes on its survivalist plot and creepy ambience by setting her story—like the video game—largely on the premises of Joey Drew Studios, a New York City–based production house dedicated to creating “Bendy” cartoons. Emulating the shifting perspective of this genre, in which players have less control than in a typical action video game, the 16-year-old Jewish protagonist, Daniel “Buddy” Lewek, begins his story by ominously looking back to the summer of 1946, warning readers that while dreams may come true, nightmares do as well. Though somewhat cagey as a narrator, Buddy is an extremely likable character, having dropped out of school to help support his recently widowed mother. He’s now dealing with the unannounced arrival to their Lower East Side tenement of his Polish grandfather, who speaks little English, is pale and shockingly thin, and has strange numbers tattooed on his arm. Buddy thinks his dreams of financial solvency and becoming an artist are about to become a reality when Mister Drew hires him to be an errand boy and art apprentice, but he soon discovers something as dark as the ink that animates the Bendy figures lurks in the Drew Studios halls, forcing him to reexamine his entire worldview.
Sinister and twisted, this Faustian page-turner enlightens as it frightens. (Horror. 12-18)