The Imaginary Corpse
By Tyler Hayes
- The Imaginary Corpse
Author: Tyler Hayes
- Publisher: Angry Robot Books
- ISBN: 9780857668318
- Published: September 2019
- Pages: 300
- Format reviewed: Paperback
- Review date: 10/09/2019
- Language: English
Where do dreams go when we forget them? Do they dissipate into the ether, or do they settle somewhere? This is the intriguing premise of Tyler Hayes’ The Imaginary Corpse, an alternative detective noir novel. How alternative? It stars a stuffed toy triceratops private investigator called Tippy who solves crimes in a world called the Still Real; the place that forgotten ideas go to rest. With the entirety of human imagination to work with Hayes is going to have to be very careful if he is going to create a story that will make any sense…
Tippy the Triceratops was not always a Private Investigator. He used to be a companion to a little girl, but one day she was gone and he found himself in the Still Real. His compulsion is to help others so now Tippy aids new members settling into their environment. He deals with concepts, ideas and even nightmares in the same gentle manner. When new residents start to be brutally killed, Tippy finds himself in the highest stakes case of his life. This is a land in which no one stays dead, but somehow these characters are remaining dead-dead.
The concept behind Corpse is mind blowing. Hayes has had the ultra-ambitious idea of creating a world in which every forgotten idea goes to rest. There is only room for ideas that are imbued with real passion by their creator, but still, this is a huge amount of stuff. It is amazing that in one short prologue Hayes is able to explain what is happening perfectly and the reader can move on. It is a shame then that the rest of the book then decides stumble backwards and confuse things more by trying to over explain.
As a fan of alternative PIs, I have no issue with a triceratops being the detective. In fact, this is not even the first dinosaur PI book I have read. I have read zombie PIs, wizard PIs, teddy bear PIs. The noir crime world is a solid foundation for an urban fantasy series as it gives structure to the book. The main driving point here is Tippy trying to understand what the new danger in the Still Real is and why it is killing folks.
There is not just one world in the Still Real, but the possibility of an entire universe. Tippy and his cohorts are able to jump from place to place by looking at an object and going somewhere similar. The reader is introduced to a children’s world, a business world, a superhero world, an underwater world and more. Each is well realised, but many are not allowed the space to breath. Hayes has many great ideas, not all of them have to be in the same book. The structure of a crime novel means that this could easily have been a series. Hayes should have started a little smaller with one or two worlds and then expand the universe as the series progressed.
Complaining about a book having too many good ideas is a little mean. There may be too many of them, but jumping from place to place is fun. Hayes is also brilliant at creating odd characters. Many of his creations are not human or can even speak, but Hayes is able to bring character to all off them, even a giant hand. He is also great at writing empathy. Tippy specialises in putting new ideas at ease, he even asks them what pronoun they prefer. The book has a real sense of community to it and it is nice to see that no matter how bad someone is in the Still Real, they have some good. The fact that everyone gets along also means that the jeopardy is high, permanent death is a new concept to the people of Still Real so it changes the way they view their very existence.
The set up for Corpse is designed perfectly for a running series in which Tippy stubbles across another bizarre case that needs solving. Hayes has set out a world that has infinite possibilities, his job as a writer is not to put them all on paper, but select only the very best. For any fan of urban fantasy, this book will give them a hit of enjoyable crime noir with added dinosaur. You just have to wade through a book that starts of perfectly understandably and becomes more opaque as it progresses.
Written on 10th September 2019 by Sam Tyler .