Book Review: Mr Mumbles (Invisible Fiends)
I read Invisible Fiends: Mr Mumbles on the train to a children’s writers’ event in London and then on the way back again, and so engrossed was I that I had to carry on whilst walking in the dark from the station to my house. It wasn’t an easy task, trying to catch the light from the sparsely arranged streetlamps and, as you will realise when you read on, it wasn’t an entirely sensible thing to do either.
Mr Mumbles is the first of what will become a series of Invisible Fiends books. And it is not for the faint-hearted. It is 250 pages of fast-paced, spine-tingling fun with a dystopian vision that is truly horrifying. Shall I tell you more?
The eponymous, Mr Mumbles, (hero, he is not) was Kyle’s childhood imaginary friend. He was a skinny little man with friendly eyes who made up for his lack of intelligible speech by a wide range of slapstick and mime. He wore a high-collared overcoat and a hat pulled down too far and he had big ears and bushy eyebrows.
But that was then. The new Mr Mumbles isn’t friendly at all. He looks like he has been through Hell and he wants to bring it back with him. Here’s a flavour:
‘The lips were grotesque: thick, bloated, and sewn tightly together with grimy lengths of thread. Each stitch crossed over its neighbour, forming a series of little Xs from one side of his mouth to the other, sealing it shut. The holes the threads passed through were black and infected, the flesh rotting away from within.’
Perhaps I should have mentioned this is not a book for the squeamish either?
Mr Mumbles blames Kyle for what has happened to him and he is out for revenge. In the chase that ensues, Kyle is helped by the mysterious and resourceful Ameena and discovers powers he never knew he had. He also finds himself thrust into The Darkest Corners, the dystopia from which Mr Mumbles has come, and where he find an even more mysterious, and, it turns out, significant, figure.
Invisible Fiends is part good old-fashioned quest. There are some great fight scenes and a real sense of danger as Mr Mumbles comes back from everything that Kyle and Ameena throw at him. Kyle’s quest, therefore is to find a way to overcome and destroy him.
This is all fairly straightforward, if exciting stuff. The horror, however, lies in what feels like the sub-plot for this novel, but is more likely the story that underpins the series as a whole. Kyle has never met his father and his mother will not tell him anything about him. Nan might, but she’s long since lost her marbles. By the end of this novel, Kyle has some idea who his father is, and that brings me back to the reason why it wasn’t a very good idea to finish this novel walking down a dark road. The denouement is truly, spine-tinglingly creepy. I’m not sure if a ten year old would get it, but it left this grown-up with some very disturbing thoughts on which to go to bed.
And maybe that’s the point. Little boys will love it: fast action, sassy dialogue, gruesome imagery and a scary ending. Just don’t read it to them at bed-time. You may have trouble getting to sleep afterwards.
Invisible Fiends: Mr Mumbles by Barry Hutchison, published by Harper Collins on 7 January 2010