The Imaginary Corpse by Tyler Hayes

The Imaginary Corpse by Tyler Hayes

Series: stand aloneRating: 5/5
Date of Publishing: September 10th 2019Genre: fantasy, mystery
Publisher: Angry RobotsAvailable: Amazon, Barnes & Noble
Number of pages: 297Author’s website:


Quote of the Book

“What I really do is help people, bot with their problems and with believing the best of the world.”



A dinosaur detective in the land of unwanted ideas battles trauma, anxiety, and the first serial killer of imaginary friends.

Most ideas fade away when we’re done with them. Some we love enough to become Real. But what about the ones we love, and walk away from?
Tippy the triceratops was once a little girl’s imaginary friend, a dinosaur detective who could help her make sense of the world. But when her father died, Tippy fell into the Stillreal, the underbelly of the Imagination, where discarded ideas go when they’re too Real to disappear. Now, he passes time doing detective work for other unwanted ideas – until Tippy runs into The Man in the Coat, a nightmare monster who can do the impossible: kill an idea permanently. Now Tippy must overcome his own trauma and solve the case, before there’s nothing left but imaginary corpses.


Personal notes

I’ve got an ARC through Edelweiss. Thanks to Angry Robot for the copy!

Song of the Book

I picked one of my all time favourite songs for this book. This song partly inspired my tattoo which says “Handwritten Story”. It’s a song about not being afraid, about moving on, about even though there were hard days, there is always something waiting after the next turn. And also about being so much more in us than the world sees – you might not expect much from a tiny yellow stuffed triceratops, but you’d be surprised how awesome he really is.


I’ve read The Imaginary Corpse back in June, but it still lives vividly in my mind. Most of all Tippy, the main character, the yellow triceratops who is one of the best private investigators in the Stillreal. I have a feeling this review will become incoherent at one point, so let me just make it clear: Tippy is one of the most loveable characters I ever read about, and The Imaginary Corpse is just like a huge warm blanket you can wrap around yourself on cold days to feel safe, and believe the world is a kind and nice place.

Have you ever had an imaginary friend as a kid? Or an idea you worked on for weeks, months, even years but had to discard in the end? Have you ever had to say goodbye to something you loved – a beloved stuffed animal for instance? Did you ever think about what happened to these friends and ideas? Tyler Hayes did and created one of the most unique worlds, one that never stops changing or expanding thanks to new Ideas and Friends popping up all the time. This is a world where you could never get bored, because there are practically infinite options before you, whether you seek adventure, peace, dark alleys and edgy villains. Stillreal has it all and some more. This is the place where discarded Ideas and Friends go after they have to part with their creators. Stillreal has a place for literally everyone no matter what their age, gender, species, colour, etc are. Most of the Friends who end up in the Stillreal continue to do what they were created for be it good or bad, and they all exist beside each other – more or less in piece and understanding. As Tippy puts it:

“For us, there’s the Stillreal. The underbelly of the Imagination. The place for Ideas too Real to fade away, too anonymous to go Big, and too messed up to stay where we are. We’re a patchwork of places, a population of emotional refugees, all knitted together at random and doing our best to survive without literally life-giving love. In other words, we’re a mess.”

Our main character is Tippy, a yellow stuffed triceratops, who is a private investigator. As everyone else in the Stillreal he went through a trauma when he found himself in Stillreal, and though he learned to cope with his new life, he still suffers from anxiety and some kind of PTSD when it rains – and I swear one of the most heartbreaking thing I’ve ever read was the scene when he, after a long and hard day, climbs into a dryer for a few spins, which is his safe place.

But Tippy also has a job to do. It falls on him to figure out who is responsible for Friends being killed, permanently. Tippy doesn’t have a lot as far as clues go, but the Spindleman case leads him to some unexpected events until he slowly gets to the end of the matter. He is accompanied by a series of Friends along the way – Spiderhand, his roommate and best friends whose hobby is to have tea parties; Miss Mighty, the superhero who fights an everlasting battle with the villain Dr. Atrocity; Frieda, the owner of the Freedom Motel where every new Friend without a place to go lands; the Sadness Penguins about whom we didn’t learn nearly enough but I really want to; the memory whales (!!) and a series of other intriguing, unique characters you just come to love to read about.

“Real-world whales breathe air. But this Idea’s whales breathe memories.

Sometimes I need to stop and remind myself that I do love my job.”

I’m usually not a person who gets easily emotional, but The Imaginary Corpse did all kind of things to my and my heart (at one point I was practically begging to get my cold, stone heart back, because I just couldn’t cope) and all I could think about was “Damn, I want to hug Tippy sooo much!” Not because I pitied him – well, of course I was sad for him, because losing part of your life and restart it somewhere else is never easy – but because of his personality. It’s not everyday that you read a book with a main character who is so pure and wholesome, and whose real strength is his kidness and understanding. Put your hand on your heart and tell me honestly, if you’d ever offer a hug to someone who tried to do you wrong. I thought so. I think we all could learn something from Tippy and this book – mostly that kindness and love is not a weakness, and that everyone needs it, even if they don’t know they do.

“The idea that pops into my head is absolutely ridiculous. Fortunately, I’m no stranger to that, so I ask,”Do you need a hug?””

Tyler Hayes successfully played with bending the genres as The Imaginary Corpse is a fantasy book, but in its core, it really is a murder mystery sprinkled with a bit of awareness raising for the importance of mental health. It really is a bit of mix of everyhting and maybe less would have been more in some cases – like we really get introduced to a lot of characters – but at the end of the day, what you really remember is how emotionally engaging this book is. And the witty humour of it. It got a few chuckles out of me which is always a good sign.

The Imaginary Corpse is one of the most imaginative books I’ve read in a long time. As someone who is a sucker for stuffed animals and battles with anxiety this book really hit close to home. Tyler Hayes’ debut fantasy novel just ruined me in the best possible way, and not only jumped somewhere near the top of my “Favourite Books Ever” list, but also landed him on my auto-buy list.

In case you need more reason to read The Imaginary Corpse, I had the pleasure to chat with Tippy, and you can read our interview here!