Review: The Imaginary Corpse by Tyler Hayes

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ARC received from the publisher (Angry Robot) on Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

Absolutely adored it. Sometimes, even my cynical self needs something 100% sweet and wholesome. I got it recommended by Keikii who got the ARC first as “it’s weird in a delightful way you’ll love” and she was so right.

I like solving mysteries. I like gathering clues. I like feeling a puzzle come together in my mind. But those are tools, a means to an end. What I really do is help people, both with their problems and with believing the best of the world.

This is a book that will make you go hug all your childhood plushies. Though it deals with trauma heavily, the end result is whimsical and imaginative and utterly adorable. Or is it the other way around? Though it may seem fluffy, it has a lot of substance to it too. Either way, if you’ve been recently let down by a book or just need a palate cleanser, I’d highly recommend it – it’s a pure comfort read.

The Imaginary Corpse takes place in the Stillreal, a place where ideas, characters, imaginary friends, nightmares, and concepts that were beloved enough to become Real go when their creators are forced to abruptly abandon them, usually in a traumatic fashion. Because of that, pretty much everyone is broken in one way or another. And someone’s been killing off Friends, for real. Enter Tippy, a triceratops plushy detective who loves root beer floats, turns in the dryer, and naturally, solving crime. 

The concept is wonderfully unique and unlike anything I ever read before. A world of abandoned concepts? A dinosaur plushy protagonist? It manages to work very well. After arrival, every Idea and Friend in the Stillreal goes to where it belongs best – so you have a superhero city, a hyper-capitalist skyscraper-filled city, islands and underwater landscapes, and more. It’s a place where every Idea, no matter where they came from, no matter their gender, no matter their past can find a place to belong. Tippy, being a little girl’s Friend, lives in Playtime Town.

And he’s one of the kindest, most empathetic characters I had the pleasure to encounter. I found him awfully easy to like. He’s not perfect, but god damn he tries his absolute best. He also flushes when he hears a swearword, he drinks root bear floats and takes turns in the dryer when stressed, he has anxiety and trauma related to rain. I wanted to hug him so much (seriously, we need Tippy merch).

While it may look like this book could be appropriate for a younger audience at first, the fairly complex themes it deals with and some dark bits put it firmly in the adult category. It’s primarily an examination of trauma and anxiety and it inspires ALL the emotions. All of them. It’s as heartbreaking in places as it’s ultimately uplifting.

If there’s one thing that mildly irritated me, it’s that a lot of chapters, especally early on, end on some variety of (paraphrased) “I wish I hadn’t done this, then things may have ended differently” – ominous, heavy-handed foreshadowing like this is a pet peeve for me.

Regardless, it’s a wonderful, deeply compassionate book and I’d recommend it to absolutely everyone.

Enjoyment: 4/5
Execution: 4/5

Recommended to: anyone looking for an unique read, fans of sweet, wholesome books, those looking for a palate cleanser, could also be appropriate for younger readers who can handle difficult themes
Not recommended to: those who like their books darker, those who can’t stand heavy-handed foreshadowing

3 thoughts on “Review: The Imaginary Corpse by Tyler Hayes”

    1. Yeah, it does in a way. A lot of Friends in the Stillreal are children’s imaginary friends, for one, and well…Tippy is a dinosaur plushie.

      Pixar movie but for adults does come pretty close 🤔

      Liked by 2 people

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