What if the imaginary friends you had as a child came back years later? What if they were no longer the fun and playful friends you remembered, but instead had become bitter and violent distortions of their former selves, after being forgotten for so long? This is the premise of the Invisible Fiends series by Barry Hutchison. Mr Mumbles is the first book in the set and centres around 12-year-old Kyle and the vicious return of his former imaginary friend Mr Mumbles.
The story itself is aimed at older children and teenagers, but Hutchison writes well and creates vivid worlds excellently. The only real differences between his books and those written for adults are the lack of sex, slightly toned-down gore and the fact that the main character is only twelve. I don't really mind those differences, to be honest, as a lot of sex and gore scenes in narratives are just filler and, although Kyle and his "sidekick" Ameena do have their cringe-worthy one-liners during fights, they aren't irritating.
The lines between reality and imaginary are frequently blurred throughout and it's often purposefully unclear what is actually real and what is a product of imagination. For example, Hutchison uses common fears of children - banging on windows, storms, dark attics etc. - to signal Mr Mumbles' presence. However, it could easily be assumed that Mr Mumbles is simply the personification of those fears, at first and that Kyle just has an over-active imagination. This works effectively as you don't immediately guess the plot and it makes you want to read on to find out more.
There is also an unexpected and slightly odd twist involving Kyle and his parents, which still isn't explained completely by the end of this Invisible Fiends installment, but hopefully that will be addressed in later books. It is quite a big plot detail and something that will either make the series very good or not make any sense at all. It would be a shame if it was the latter though, as this is such a promising opening.
Posted as part of the Month Before Halloween event: