j's Reviews > Kraken

Kraken by China Miéville
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Oh hey. An lolcat.That's new. But wait, because even though they are 1,000,000 years old in internet time, lolcats are only kittens in "offline" time, by which I mean the time by which your parents live their lives (go on, check your email right now: your dad just forwarded you a bunch of them. Hahaha Invisible Bike. I forgot about that one).

Moreover, judged by the molasses pace of the publishing industry, they're younger still. So I give props to China Miéville (you're only getting that acute accent once in this review, so enjoy it) for offering up perhaps the first blatant lolcat reference in what could be termed a major novel (certainly the only one to receive a starred review in Booklist). (This book does not count.)

But that's just one fun thing in this very fun book, one fun thing out of many. About 200 pages in, I started ripping off a tiny scrap of my bookmark every time I came across an idea so cool it would probably be a major plot point in a book less crazily mescaline-fueled. Very soon I ran out of bookmark. To be fair, I was using an oversized Post-It. Still. I don't recall making scraps of anything whilst reading Boneshaker, another ostensibly punk-leaning sci-fi romp that boringly stretches out a handful of Mieville's cast-offs into a sad excuse for an adventure.

I don't want to spoil everything. A few things were spoiled for me. Like I knew there was a real, working phaser in there. But no one told me about the real, working Tribble. One lovable character speaks through inhabiting statues, and his idea of what constitutes a statue is very broad indeed (imagine: portentous dialogue between a squid cultist and a pencil topper shaped like a unicorn). Three bad guys that are worthy enough to have their own books but don't even rate as this one's mastermind (granted, the man behind the curtain is usually just a man). Also there are these guys who read the future in London's entrails. Like, literal entrails: they cut through and pry apart pavement and the city has literal blood and organs and stuff. I spoiled that one because it was my first bookmark, but for the rest I will give page numbers: 200. 208. 234. 288. 303. 308. 322. 329. 362. 374. 385. 420 (NO WAY!). 463. I hope I got them all. Some of the pieces of paper were very small. That's probably going to be pretty annoying for the next library patron.

That's not to say it's a 5 star book, because it isn't. In fact, I am giving it 3.5, which is less than I gave The City & the City even though I had more fun reading Kraken. Because for all the ideas crammed in here (ink! squirting from the pages! um, literally at several points!), the story... is not so hot. I mean, it sounds cool, but a stolen squid god macguffin is still a macguffin, and a bland hero is still a bland hero. And the central character here is bland. He's your patented outsider, introduced into a crazy world (UnLunDun! Squid cults Gunfarmers! Paranormal cops! Wizards' familiars striking for better working conditions!) just so he can say "What the fuck?" and other characters can explain things to him. Though China is British, our hero does not, sadly, say "Wot's all this then?" though he would certainly be justified in doing so.

I was never bored or anything, don't get me wrong. Also I don't know if it would be possible to get bored reading this, unless you are bored by awesome. But sometimes it is almost boring, in that you don't really feel for any of the characters (even though I really like and would read a sequel starring several of them), and the story tends to wander off into these nifty-idea side-plots that don't strictly go anywhere. And something about reading Mieville, both of the ones I have picked up, anyway, makes me feel like my eyes are dragging through molasses or maybe I'm actually stoned (oh shit, did I really read this book?), because it takes me FOREVER and I have to read every. single. word carefully or I'll lose track of everything.

And you don't want to miss a thing, including the many squid puns. Like squidnapping (obviously) and squid pro quo (he makes you wait for that one). Missed opportunities: a cult of Siddharthists, come on. And also the lead character's name is Billy. Billy... the Squid?

Oh fine. Go write your own puns.

Like this one:


...and it was.
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Reading Progress

April 6, 2010 – Shelved
July 11, 2010 – Started Reading
July 11, 2010 –
page 112
July 12, 2010 – Shelved as: 2010
July 12, 2010 – Shelved as: 52-in-2010
July 12, 2010 – Shelved as: library-books
July 12, 2010 – Shelved as: sci-fi-fantasy
July 12, 2010 –
page 156
July 13, 2010 –
page 201
39.49% "More backstory, Billy thought."
July 13, 2010 – Shelved as: squid-friendly
July 14, 2010 –
page 241
47.35% "'Vardy, you reading lolcats?' She peered over the edge of his computer screen. 'I can has squid back?' she said. 'Noooo! They be stealin my squid!""
July 15, 2010 –
page 283
55.6% "'Squid cult.' What are you like? Which are you talking about? Khalkru? Tlaloc? Kanaloa? Cthulhu? It's Cthulhu, ain't it? Always is. I'm just fucking with you, I know what you're talking about. Church of God Kraken, isn't it?"
July 16, 2010 –
page 333
65.42% "'Woof,' the dogman Nazi said."
July 18, 2010 –
page 405
79.57% "'Wait,' grumbled Billy. 'I want to see the apocalypses fighting.'"
July 19, 2010 –
page 446
87.62% "squid pro quo."
July 19, 2010 – Finished Reading
July 21, 2010 – Shelved as: minus-half-a-star
January 17, 2011 – Shelved as: vote-getters
February 2, 2011 – Shelved as: lolcats
October 18, 2011 – Shelved as: signed-copy
March 24, 2012 – Shelved as: chinatown

Comments (showing 1-16 of 16) (16 new)

dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by karen (new)

karen i am voting, but i want you to remove those pieces of paper before you return the book to the library or i will remove my vote for discourteous behavior.

message 2: by j (new) - rated it 4 stars

j I think I got them all. I taped them back together and it made a square.

Jasmine The book you are reviewing seems like it was a better book than the one I read.

message 4: by karen (new)

karen Joel wrote: "I think I got them all. I taped them back together and it made a square."

hahhhhaha that's cute.

message 5: by Reese (new)

Reese Very amusing review of a book that I have no plans to read -- ever.

BTW, I have that post-it-tearing habit. But I own what I read. I figure that, if the book is worth my time, it's worth my money -- or my husband's money.

message 6: by Aloha (new) - added it

Aloha My favorite review ever! LOL

message 7: by j (new) - rated it 4 stars

j thanks, glad you enjoyed it!

Jasmine I decided to read this again since I think I might have gone in expecting something unfair from mieville, plus I borrowed it and had a due date, and I just feel like it didn't get a fair read.

wish me luck.

message 9: by j (last edited Apr 03, 2011 03:09PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

j cool! it is china miéville month -- i have to start reading perdido street station for my in-person book club.

Jasmine I have that from karen and his new book about aliens soon!!

message 11: by Craig (new) - added it

Craig I tried this one after reading and largely enjoying The Scar. It read like it was from a completely different author to me.

It was poo.

message 12: by j (last edited Jun 09, 2011 09:48AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

j i read it before i read perdido street station. i think i would have liked it less the other way around.

i still think it has a lot of fun ideas, but the writing style is really hard for me to read. i thought that was what people meant when they said mieville was difficult but it's just this one.

message 13: by Ian (new) - rated it 1 star

Ian Great review; I must've missed it when it first posted. Though I didn't think the book was so great. Many of the things that almost ruined the book for you did ruin it for me. But the working phaser and tribble were worth at least half a star by themselves.

message 14: by Richard (last edited Dec 23, 2011 11:23PM) (new)

Richard So it's puns he wants, is it? Does he think I have nothing else to octopi my time with? Well actually, this review had me kraken up!

message 15: by silversprite (new)

silversprite Totally agree with the point that it is hard work reading Mieville.. Miss a word, miss the plot!

message 16: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan Mcelhatten Some of us still love lolcats! XD

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