Book Reviews

The Imaginary Corpse by Tyler Hayes


Released: September 2019
Publisher: Angry Robot (these guys have been killing it in 2019 with their publications)
Pages: 400
Rating: 5/5

“The name’s Tippy, ex-imaginary friend and once-and-current detective. It’s nice to meet you.”

From the publisher:

A dinosaur detective in the land of unwanted ideas battles trauma, anxiety, and the first serial killer of imaginary friends.

Most ideas fade away when we’re done with them. Some we love enough to become Real. But what about the ones we love, and walk away from?

Tippy the triceratops was once a little girl’s imaginary friend, a dinosaur detective who could help her make sense of the world. But when her father died and she no longer needed him, Tippy fell into the Stillreal: the underbelly of the Imagination where discarded ideas go when they’re too Real to disappear. Now, he passes time doing detective work for other unwanted ideas – that is until Tippy runs into The Man in the Coat, a nightmare monster who can do the impossible: kill an idea permanently. Now Tippy must overcome his own trauma and solve the case before there’s nothing left but imaginary corpses.


Even though I knew the basic premise when I started it, I was still seriously surprised at the plot and its world building. Definitely written for adults, this fantasy world of forgotten ideas, dreams, and imaginary friends reeled me in right from the beginning. I adored every single page of this engaging, fantastical book. It was often hilarious as well and I found myself unable to stop laughing several times. The first case he was on absolutely killed me, the one starting “with the screaming corn.”

The story was a little heartbreaking, too. Everyone and everything in the Stillreal is left over from thoughts and fantasies that were so strong that when their creators didn’t need them anymore, they never really went away. Instead they exist abandoned within this makeshift world filled with other thought-refugees. It was devastating whenever these characters remembered the people they were so cruelly ripped away from. Think Toy Story 2 and Jessie’s song, “When She Loved Me.” Yeah, you can borrow my hankie.


Now that I’ve finished the book, I have to say that our gumshoe Detective Tippy may just be my new favourite imaginary detective. A hardened investigator who is literally soft inside, he is smart, caring, daring and delightful. And I love how he drowns his sorrows in root beer. A detective with an impressive solve rate due to how his person imagined him, he is faced with the hardest case of his life when the very fabric of his imaginary world starts to unravel.

While those within the Stillreal have to adhere to the boundaries of what their original creators imagined, there is some leeway within their makeshift world. However, some things are supposed to never ever be possible, like true death. When several Friends start dying and not returning, the residents of the Stillreal are gripped in terror at facing their first ever serial killer- one who can kill them forever.

Tippy lives within Playtime Town, a more childish realm filled with imaginary friends mostly made up by younger minds. There’s also Avatar City, a place chock full of villains and superheroes, many of whom end up coming to Tippy’s aid in a major battle that was a bit like Imaginary Friends Assemble. It was an awesome scene.

My favourite place, though, was the one ruled by Big Business. As someone who has worked within the bleak hellscape of the corporate world, The Heart of Business was a pretty hilarious (and terrifying) place. There are a few rumors about how it was created, ranging from it being built out of the rants of unemployed workers to being created on the back of an Internet manifesto about the evils of corporate culture. However it was created, it’s pretty bang on the head about what life in financial districts is like.

“Big Business’s office is all the proof I need that Big Business started as a nightmare. The angles are the giveaway: the whole room’s perspective is shifted so the oak desk in front of the floor-to-ceiling window is the central focus, standing bigger and better lit and more expensive than anything else in the room.”

In the Heart of Business, it’s always nearly closing time so everyone in their drab office attire is endlessly rushing to finish their work and enhance the bottom line. Oh, and if that all wasn’t bad enough, everyone talks in business speak, too. I started having major flashbacks to previous jobs when I was reading these passages. Corporate culture is pretty much the worst.

In the end though, because these deaths were bad for profits, Big Business decides to help the Friends. He and his minion fact-finders become a crucial part of the imaginary dreamteam that battles the serial killer in that epic fight scene I mentioned earlier.

There were so many characters in this story, but never did it get overwhelming. Plus I liked each and every one of them, even the baddies (okay- especially the baddies). I’m utterly blown away by the thought processes that must have been at work for this intricate and wonderful book. With so much going on and with the sheer amount of detail involved, this could have easily become too much and too hard to follow. Luckily, though, The Imaginary Corpse was amazingly well put together and was a blast to read. I hope we get more of Tippy!


It’s been hard to really describe this story because there is so much going on within its pages, but I hope I got my main thought across, which is: I LOVED THIS BOOK. It’s one of the most unique books I’ve ever read and has some of the most detailed and satisfying world building I’ve come across.

The Imaginary Corpse was a thoroughly entertaining ride with a lot of heart to boot. I went through just about every emotion there is while I was reading it. The world building was so incredibly thorough, really making me feel like I was within this unbelievable land of forgotten make believe.

Side note: I’ll certainly be more careful with my daydreaming in future so that my discarded ideas aren’t left abandoned in a world without their creator, no matter how many root beers they’ll be compensated with.

Buy on

Buy on


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