Book Review: Mr Mumbles

1 Comment

Hands up those of you who had an invisible friend or two when you were young? Quite a lot of you, right? Okay, then hands up those of you whose invisible friend was a Space Alligator that lived in your bedroom wall and would eat you in your sleep unless you said goodnight to it every night?

 

… Just me, then?

 

*Ahem*

 

Moving swiftly on!

 

Space Alligator or not, I doubt any of us had an invisible friend quite like Kyle Alexander’s. That’s because Kyle’s invisible friend was a mute giant by the name of Mr Mumbles, who kept him company between the ages of four to six.

 

So far, so normal, right? Well, that all changes on Christmas Day six years later. Because that’s the day Mr Mumbles comes back. And he’s none too happy at being forgotten for so many years… in fact, it’s put him in a particularly murderous rage.

 

And thus begins ‘Mr Mumbles’, the debut novel by Barry Hutchison (unless you count the numerous titles he wrote for in the past, including ‘Ben 10’*. But this is his first original novel) and just the start of Kyle’s problems in what is proving to be an amazing and exciting six-book series. As if he didn’t have a killer invisible friend to worry about, he soon has the horrors of the Darkest Corners to contend with.

 

The Darkest Corners…

 

Aside from having an amazing name, there’s very little about the Darkest Corners to write home about. Imagine a parallel world alongside our own, where every invisible friend is consigned when they are forgotten. But it’s no holiday resort (well, maybe a Haven’s), with the majority of the buildings in this dimension lie derelict under a roiling dark sky. It’s quite the nightmarish place, made all the more terrifying by the thousands of malevolent imaginary monsters roaming its horizons, having festered and evolved into things both horrific and barbaric in the absence of the loved they had once been so accustomed to.

 

But I’m getting ahead of myself, and I really don’t want to spoil anything. But what I will do is talk a bit about the overall feel of the book.

 

Now, I’m not going to assume that any of what I’m about to say was intentional by Mr Hutchison when he wrote ‘Mr Mumbles’ – it’s only what I personally felt whilst reading it. Anyway, having said that, I must say I had flashbacks of many great horror classics whilst reading the book.

 

The character of Mr Mumbles himself reminded me of the three big names of ‘slasher’ horror: not only did he possess the mute, seemingly unstoppable force of nature traits of Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees, but he also has element of making you fear your own imagination that made Freddy Krueger so notoriously terrifying (at first, anyways). This guy never quits in his vicious pursuit of Kyle, and nothing seems to stop him. And when your foe is a being you created in your own mind, what can you do? Only time will tell…

 

Another thing I loved about this book was the characterisation and dialogue – whether it’s Kyle’s seemingly-eccentric Nan, his mother struggling to keep her family together with the absence of the father, the new friend Kyle soon makes in the mysterious strange girl Ameena, or the silent tornado of Mr Mumbles, each and every character bursts from the pages with a stark vibrancy that is hard to find in most debut novels. And nowhere does this shine through more than in the dialogue between Kyle and Ameena. Writing believable dialogue can be a difficult fiend (no pun intended**); writing believable children’s dialogue? Doubly so. Yet Hutchison pulls it off time after time, page after page.

 

On a side note, whilst I’m on the subject of characters and dialogue: pay close attention to the first person Kyle meets in the Darkest Corners. Not only is she deliciously freaky as hell, but she’s one to look out for…

 

‘Mr Mumbles’, as a book, is every bit a pulse-pounding juggernaut as it’s titular villain, and with it Barry Hutchison has paved the way for a spectacular series sure to thrill and chill readers of all ages from page one, where the prologue flashes forward to show the beginning of an apocalyptic world where the denizens of the Darkest Corners have overrun our world. And that’s just the first few pages! After that we jump back over a month to start recounting Kyle’s hard-fought journey to the point previously recounted.

 

Whatever the endgame Hutchison has in mind, it’s sure to be incredible and terrifying.

 

If you read one horror book or series, give Invisible Fiends a go. You won’t be disappointed.

 

Rating: 9/10

 

 

Next Time: Invisible Fiends, Book Two: Raggy Maggie. It’s a scream!

 

* – For those of you interested, hunt down the Eggmont range of Ben 10 books – you’ll find that the fine Barry Hutchison wrote the majority of them, and they are awesome.

** – Well, okay…maybe a little.

The Ivan Brett Interview-a-Palooza!

Leave a comment

As promised, (albeit heavily postponed), here is the interview I recently carried out with the spiffing young chap*, Ivan Brett, author of  ‘Casper Candlewacks in Death by Pigeon!’

Enjoy…

 
1) Welcome, Ivan; first let me just say congratulations on the publication of ‘Casper Candlewacks in Death by Pigeon!’. It’s a great read and I’m glad to see it’s getting the attention and praise it deserves.

Hi David! Thanks so much, I’m really proud of it.

 
2) Tell us a little bit about yourself; how you got the idea for Casper, what you were doing before and during your writing journey, stuff like that.

I was a philosophy undergraduate at Bristol University when felt the call to start writing. It came as a reaction to feeling slightly underwhelmed by parts of my course and desperately wanting to create something. So, on holiday in Cornwall, when an idea for a funny platform for some kids’ stories came to me I latched onto it. By the end of the day I had Corne-on-the-Kobb fully formed and bubbling away inside my head. The concept of a village of idiots is just great fun, and that’s all that matters in the end.

 
3) Now, be honest… some of the idiotic stuff written in the book seems too real to be made-up; is the book semi-autobiographical by any chance? What’s the most idiotic thing you’ve ever done?

What are you trying to say? 😛 No, I’ve done some pretty idiotic things in my life but none of them have reached the pages of Casper Candlewacks. It’s impossible to rank all my life’s actions in order of idiocy, but recently I went to bed really early and got up at 8:00 for breakfast, except it was the wrong 8:00, so the rest of my house were having supper. I do stuff like that surprisingly often.

 
4) Likewise, is there a bit of Lamp, Casper’s hopeless would-be inventor friend in you? Have you ever tried to come up with the world’s next big invention? Or are you a DIY Disaster?
 

Oh no, I’m not an inventor. Sorry to disappoint you! The best thing I’ve ever made was a wonky table. I make a lot of stuff in my head but it’s a relief to everyone I know that it never gets further. You should see me wire a plug (actually you shouldn’t. The last person who did is still in the NHS queue for a new set of eyebrows.)

5) Since we’re rolling through the characters – The Great Tiramisu; was a magician your first idea for a villain (if he can be called that)? Are you as mad about magic as I am? If you could perform any illusion, which would it be?

The Great Tiramisu didn’t start off as a villain, actually. He only entered the story as a funny instigator for the curse. But as the whole thing came together I realised we needed a stereotypical Italian smarmy hate-figure for Casper to make that terrible mistake that sets the story into motion.

As for the magic, I’ve got a few tricks that’d be useful to learn. For example, if there’s a tiger who’s about to eat me I’d love to know how to turn his teeth squidgy. Survival magic, that’s what I want to learn.

 
6) Take us through the Ivan Brett writing process (‘Available in 4 installments of just £39.95!’); how long did it take from concept to drafts to publication?

I haven’t discovered my ‘process’ yet. I try to work 9-5, I work on a laptop in coffee shops, parks, pubs, libraries or bed. I’ve spoken to authors who can write 5,000 words in a night or get three chapters done on their olive green typewriters before breakfast. Perhaps that sort of thing will come, but who knows. Once your hobby becomes your job it’s never as easy as you expect.

‘Casper Candlewacks in Death by Pigeon!’ took two and a half years from concept to publication. I wrote about 18 drafts in all, which seems like loads but that’s just how publishing works.
 
7) What’s an average day in the Brett household? Anywhere near as mad as the Candlewacks’ residence?

I’ve had a couple of housemates who’d quite easily fit into Corne-on-the-Kobb, but I couldn’t tell you about them on the internet. No way. My home life’s actually very calm, except that I sing to myself quite a lot. I need pets or children or something.

 
8) What does the future hold for Casper and Lamp?

Ooh, they’ve got some pretty exciting adventures over the next four books. Cat burglars, stolen bejewelled swords, evil French food critics, a boffin invasion and a time machine. Listing them like that, even I want to read my next books!

 
9) Did you know you can make pigeons explode by feeding them fizz? They can’t pass wind either way, so they just pop! (The book would have turned out very differently had the residents of Corne-on-the-Kobb turned guerilla in the face of their feathered threat…)

I have heard that, actually. But I’ll let you try it first.

10) Finally, any words of inspiration and wisdom to all the budding authors (myself included) out there…?
 
I’m no good at these bits because I generally think profundity is just a mix of tautology and truism hidden behind lots of shiny ribbons. So, erm, how about this: as long as you’re enjoying writing you’re doing it write. See what I did there?
 
 
Thanks, Ivan, for that great first interview! Here’s to many more…
 
Stick around for a review on ‘Invisible Fiends: Mr Mumbles’, by Barry Hutchison!
 
Dave
 
* – I can call him that cos I’m actually older than him. Young whippersnapper!