I thought it might be about time that I added my take on the wildly blogged about book that is China Miéville’s Kraken. It’s understandable that he attracts such attention considering he recently won the Clarke Award for his previous book, The City & The City. And it is also important to note that it was not the first time he received that award. No, it was his third time. That is an achievement. My first foray into this author’s work, Kraken was just what I expected from the author’s and the book’s reputation. A high caliber read, Kraken makes me wonder why I haven’t delved into Mr. Mieville’s books before now.
Deep in the research wing of the Natural History Museum is a prize specimen, something that comes along much less often than once in a lifetime: a perfect, and perfectly preserved, giant squid. But what does it mean when the creature suddenly and impossibly disappears?I don’t venture too often into the realm of urban fantasy, though there is always the occasional title that I just cannot miss out on. As you can understand, Kraken is just such a title. It begins in the manner of a crime novel except that the crime, in this case a theft, is just a little too impossible. Soon enough, though, something changes and Miéville plunges us into a very different, cult and magic infested London. From then on the story zips along on an unpredictable course.
For curator Billy Harrow it’s the start of a headlong pitch into a London of warring cults, surreal magic, apostates and assassins. It might just be that the creature he’s been preserving is more than a biological rarity: there are those who are sure it’s a god.
A god that someone is hoping will end the world.
Miéville’s style is both witty and dazzling in its detail. The novel takes a while to get up to speed, but once it does there is no possibility of not becoming immersed in the text. The dialogue excels in its authenticity and it’s often comic tone. Through his narrative and descriptions Miéville manages to capture the reader’s attention and present him with an entirely different, yet just as believable (as long as one is willing to accept the supernatural), London. Having just been exposed to his writing, I am amazed at the sheer inventiveness of the story and the quality of his prose.
Thematically, Kraken appealed to me in a number of ways. Cults and religions, direct from the author’s imagination, play an immense part in the plot of the book. Their origins, theology and actions intrigued me throughout the book and so did the various knack-possessing or undead characters. Their inclusion in the story colored the scene and helped to expand the supernatural atmosphere of the book. The kraken itelf is a perfect example of what Miéville does in this novel. It is depicted as a creature of wonder and power, the center of worship for a cult, a god. The implications of its theft, of course, become the drive of the story.
Kraken is a brilliantly strange, witty, action-filled, thought-inducing read. Really. It’s all of that. Though difficult to get into, it is an inevitably rewarding book. In fact, I fear my review doesn’t even quite do it justice. A highly recommended read for all, Kraken is one of those books you just have to read. Also, you might consider taking a look at some other books from Mr. Miéville, notably the aforementioned The City & The City, but there are some others such as Perdido Street Station, Un Lun Dun or Iron Council.
My Rating: 5 out of 5
Reading Age: 16 and up
China Miéville's Website: http://www.chinamieville.co.uk/