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Kraken, China Mieville

2010/08/18

I’m not sure what I was expecting when I picked up this particular novel, but it certainly didn’t turn out to be what I thought it was. I was under the impression that it was going to be a science fiction novel about a giant squid, which it is, but the squid only one of many minor characters in the overall plot. If I had to classify it, I might say science fiction/fantasy with a strong urban horror bent.

The novel starts out seemingly grounded in reality, with Billy Harrow, a curator and specialist in cataloguing and preservation, giving a tour at the Natural History Museum in London. The highlight of the tour is a giant squid, which Billy worked on during the preservation process. However, on this particular day, when Billy opens the door to the room, it is gone. “It couldn’t have, not disappeared, so many metres of abyss meat could not have gone. There were no suspicious cranes. There were no giant tank-nor squid-shaped holes cartoon style in the wall. It could not have gone, but there it was, not.” Billy soon becomes acquainted with several members of a special investigative team, and within sixty pages, is violently introduced to two of the strangest and most horrifying characters, oddly named Goss and Subby. Ancient Egyptian spirits, animal familiars, a malevolent tattooed figure, and an obsessive Star Trek fan also join the cast.

In many ways, this novel reminds me of a mashup of Charles de Lint and Stephen King, with the fantastical urban setting and the corruption of humans fueling the plot. While it certainly wasn’t what I thought it was, and not something which I would read for pleasure, I can see its appeal. At just over six hundred pages, it is not a quick read, although the pace is fast if you can keep up with the many many names and characters which pass through.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. 2010/08/20 16:53

    Is this your first Mieville? He’s pretty weird, and takes some getting used to. If you’re willing to give him another try, his young adult novel Un Lun Dun is adorable, and his dark fantasy The Scar is just incredible.

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