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The Imaginary Corpse by Tyler Hayes

September 15, 2019

Book Cover of the imaginary corpse

Once upon a time, Tippy the triceratops was a much-loved imaginary friend. But the real world got in the way and Tippy fell into the Stillreal, where discarded ideas are too Real to die. Until now. When friends begin dying for good after an encounter with The Man in the Coat, Tippy sets out to solve the case before the rapidly disappearing body count rises (yes you read that right). But in the process Tippy has to face his worst fears and more.

When I encountered the blurb of The Imaginary Corpse for the first time, the whole premise sounded as if the writer had a brainstorm and was on some type of psychedelic trip while pulling a toy cupboard over on himself. On reading the novel I came to the conclusion I was right and that what came of the encounter was something quite remarkable. Tyler Hayes while clearly in touch with his inner child is also able to provide an intelligent commentary on real life. There is enough material to analyse in this novel for a thesis.

Tippy is adorable. That he is a hardboiled detective in the noir genre, with a heart of gold and a once much-loved toy triceratops, who has effectively been physically and psychologically abandoned by his young friend after a particularly traumatic event, builds in some very interesting character development. That he is as he is says a great deal about his now lost friend.

Because all the characters in the book were once ‘living’ in the real world and had developed such deep connections with their owners (or creators) means that what has happened or is happening in the real world may be in some way impinging on their lives in the Stillreal.

Tippy is trying to do adult things. He certainly goes through all the motions that an adult detective would, even succumbing to the effects of physical violence (literally getting the stuffing knocked out of him), but his perception of the world he lives in and the characters are very much a child’s interpretation of the grown-up world through the filter of their parent or the media.

We know that Tippy’s friend had a father who was always busy. This is reflected through a character called Big Business who sits in a big office outside of which sits the character of Front Desk who acts as the gatekeeper for all his visitors. It is a satirical concept that many can relate to for different reasons. When they want to unwind, the characters drink in the type of bar that is the staple of every American crime TV series or film, except that it serves root beer and ice cream.

The friends are a bizarre lot, one not much more than a toddler’s scribble, but I did become deeply involved with them. This was largely due to the authenticity of their behaviour and interactions. Spiderhand (reminiscent of Thing from the Addam’s Family, but also a common way of entertaining a small child) was my favourite and the most emotionally affecting friend. Good going for something with no eyes or mouth and reliant entirely on gestures.

When the nastiness comes, it creeps up on you and, given what unfolds, becomes very disturbing, particularly because it has seeped in from the real world outside of the Stillreal and its possible that Tippy’s actions may somehow be affecting those in the real world, but you’re not quite sure (remember that thesis I was mentioning earlier).

The Imaginary Corpse is one of those books which entertains, but at the same time has you going back through it again because, like an absorbing puzzle, you’re still working through all the ramifications of the plot.

The Imaginary Corpse was courtesy of Angry Robot.

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