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?




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.