Don's Reviews > Kraken

Kraken by China Miéville
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it was amazing

For the past few years I've been hearing the name China Miéville without ever having read any of his works. This, then, was my first foray.

Oh man. OH MAN. I absolutely LOVED this book!

You've probably read the blurbs: The impending apocalypse is kicked off when a giant squid is abducted from the Natural History Museum in London. Except that having the world end in one way means it won't end in another; for instance, the Krakenists may find themselves exultant, but other cultists are decidedly less pleased and want to usher in their particular Armageddon instead. Yes, instead of the usual sci-fi trope of battling the apocalypse, Kraken raises the bar by pitting our heroes against dueling apocali!

And this is the sort of madness that makes Kraken such a wonder to behold: Like all the best sci-fi, it takes ludicrous concepts and treats them with deadly seriousness; a particular thrill came early in the novel, with protagonist Billy Harrow on the run from seemingly everyone, when I realized that this story, utterly insane and patently ridiculous, was being styled - at least in part - like a horror novel. And yet the situations that occur are so wildly, unpredictably bizarre that it beggars belief! It's rare for a novel to be both terrifyingly suspenseful, and laugh-out-loud funny, yet this one surely succeeds.

But terror and comic relief couldn't support a 500-page novel if the characters weren't there - and, thankfully, they are. Billy may spend more of the story than we'd like being staggeringly overwhelmed, but we can't deny that the circumstances (ludicrous piled on unbelievable piled on Doomsday) would be enough to knock anyone off their feet. The paranormal crime unit that's investigating both Billy and the squid are interesting as both protagonists of their own, and antagonist to Billy, with the foul-mouthed and spiky Agent Collingswood a particular delight; she may be the most enjoyable character of the bunch, and almost certainly steals nearly every scene in which she appears. Throw in characters like Wati, an ancient Egyptian spirit who can only manifest in carved or created figures (like statues or dolls) and is now a union leader for mystical familiars, or Simon, a teleporter who is the world's biggest Star Trek fan (and dresses accordingly, complete with working phaser), and you begin to get a sense of just how large this world is that Mr. Miéville has constructed.

In the end, the novel is impressive just for how well it maintains this balancing act between the terrifying and the hilarious, the sublime and the bizarre, always going nearly almost just-about-too-far ... but never quite over the edge. Impressively, the sense of terror and being lost in a world far far weirder than one could have ever imagined is kept simmering through the length of the novel, and as events speed toward their climax the headlong rush towards doom is deeply felt. As befitting an apocalypse, not everyone will survive, and the actual resolution is something that will either impress or enrage you, depending on how much you're able to buy into the conceit. I personally found it entirely satisfying; several other readers, however, seem to have been far less forgiving of the conclusion.

After reading this novel (and having begun some of his more recent works), I get the sense that China Miéville is not for everyone; I suspect that many of his plots may be weirder than some readers wish to entertain, and his writing style can be byzantine in a way that I find impressive - I like an author that makes me look up words I didn't know - but which might be off-putting to those who wish to completely immerse.

However, though China's writing may not be for everyone, it certainly works for me. Now I have just the rest of his already-prolific backlist to start working through...!
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Reading Progress

April 2, 2012 – Started Reading
April 2, 2012 – Shelved
April 2, 2012 –
61.0%
April 21, 2012 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-4 of 4 (4 new)

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message 1: by [deleted user] (new)

The only thing I need to add to this excellent review is a comment on the magic the characters use: it's astonishing. No one has ever done magic like the characters in this book. The spells leave me flabbergasted and reeling. Every time a spell is cast I have the same reaction, I've never seen that before!


message 2: by Don (new) - rated it 5 stars

Don Alfred wrote: "The only thing I need to add to this excellent review is a comment on the magic the characters use: it's astonishing. No one has ever done magic like the characters in this book. The spells leave m..."

You may also want to check out another recent read of mine, Among Others . Its approach to magic is alarmingly subtle, yet almost revolutionary in concept.

Also, the book is amazing. That too.


message 3: by Erica (new) - added it

Erica Your review is the review I might have written if I weren't writing it from my phone. Clearly I need to be asking YOU what books I should read!


message 4: by Don (new) - rated it 5 stars

Don Erica wrote: "Your review is the review I might have written if I weren't writing it from my phone. Clearly I need to be asking YOU what books I should read!"

Thanks! I loved the holy heck out of that book. You're right; the density of ideas within is one of its most compelling and enviable traits.


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