Ever spend an entire day being sucked into someone else's scary imagination? I did. It was scary, even though it was a kids book. I speak, of course, of the brilliant Mr Mumbles by Barry Hutchison, the first book in the Invisible Fiends series. Now, I don't scare easily. Not in fiction terms, anyway. Scary movies... yeah, I get startled by them, I jump, but I sleep perfectly well afterwards, safe in the knowledge that the movie or book was adequetly disturbing to keep me entertained.
Then I read Mr Mumbles. That was beyond creepy. Waaaay beyond creepy. A very short synopsis: Mr Mumbles comes back, after six years of absense from Kyle's imagination, to kill his old friend. He's big, he's bad, and his mouth is stitched shut. And no matter what you do, you can't kill him.
Rat-at-at-at. That's him at your bedroom window now. He wants to play. He's come down from your attic just to see you.
Admitedly while reading this book I reached one point where I thought, "Oh no, the magic is lost." I'm sure Hutchison himself knows when I mean. I'll you this though, if you think this, keep reading! That moment of lost magic is short and evil. Really evil. It's a bad thought. It's a trap. Don't fall for it. The rest of the story actually fits perfectly around it. It's neccessary.
Was the book better than I expected? That's a tough one to answer. I had very high expectations for this book as a high fantasy story of magic. I got Urban Horror. I was actually more satisfied with that. It was scarier. It helped, of course, not to look up anything about the book. I didn't know what it would be like apart from the online extract on Barry's website.
Was it really scary? Hollah? Hollah. Twice. This book is the scariest kids book I've ever read. Ever. Scarier than Darren Shan. But that's the thing, Shan is best at his gore. Yes, it's horror, but of a different sort. Hutchison has managed to get inside the head of the reader and use their own imagination against them. Mr Mumbles, the character, is an imaginary friend. How crazy is that? I didn't have an imaginary friend, but I do have an active imagination. As do kids who read. Once they read this, they'll be scared. Really scared. In the good way of course. Fear is important. And if they get too scared? I suppose then they can read something like The Fall, or Mister Monday, both by Garth Nix. They're not scary at all. Seriously. But really they should be glad to be scared. And they should come back for more.
What about sequels? You said it was a series. Oh, it is. It's a great big nasty series. An extract from the next book, Raggy Maggie, was in the back of Mr Mumbles. It looks to be even scarier! I won't give away any spoilers on that end, but my goodness! I can't wait for that to come out in July!
So... really recommended, then? Yes! You're missing out if you don't read it. You're underestimating the brilliance of the series if you don't read it!
Mr Mumbles is available in all good bookstores as of February 4th 2010. If they don't have it in stock, it might be sold out. Or they're still waiting for a delivery. It happens, you know. Harper Collins were lucky enough to swoop it up. We should all thank them. Oh, and Google Barry Hutchison, find his Twitter, YouTube or website, and tell him what you think of his book. Tell him Paul Carroll sent you. ;-)
(Oh look, something in italics. That's interesting!)