06 April, 2011

Review - Kraken by China Miéville

First off, a book with the title Kraken is required to have a sinking ship attacked by a Kraken or at least have the line "release the Kraken" make sense. Sorry, it's in the rules...This did not have any.

If that's what you're looking for, look elsewhere, although if you know anything about Mieville (I'm told), you should know that you never really get what you expect from his novels.

Kraken [US] [UK] was my first crack (or should I say krak) at China Mieville outside of the 100 or so pages I read of Perdido Street Station [US] [UK], which I do plan to someday finish. This is one of those books that leaves an indelible impression on you for a very long time after. This is also why I changed my rating a few days later (in the upward direction) as I'll explain in a bit.

Throughout the book, I was thinking I'd give Kraken at most a 2 out of 5.
I have to applaud the imagination the Mieville has. It's impressively insane. He not only has the craziest characters/entities/whatchamacallits, but he describes them in a way that makes it completely believable in the world he's created. It's quite amazing and I'd say Mieville's worth a read for the sole opportunity to have your mind blown with an extremely unique take on a fantasy novel.

The problem, and the reason for the initial rating, was that I felt so bogged down in the imagination, in the vivid descriptions and interesting characters, that I didn't feel like there was really any progression to the story; any reason to continue besides to find out about more cool creatures. This was much the same reason I stopped reading Perdido Street Station part-way through, although to a much larger degree. Like I said, I will get back to it as I now know it will all be worth it in the end.

The tale's protagonist, Billy Harrow, is a curator at Natural History Museum in London and its biggest draw, and on which Billy has personally worked, is the Giant Squid - Architeuthis dux. The only problem is that it's suddenly disappeared...out of nowhere...with no trace whatsoever.

Thereafter, Billy finds himself in a London that is not the same London he knew before he found the Kraken was gone. There are cults and gangs, creatures and spirits, Billy never would have believed existed including the notorious gang leader Tattoo, who is actually a tattoo of a face on the back of an unwanting punk, and Wati (my favorite), the Egyptian spirit who can only inhabit figurines and statues that are at least mostly human shaped.

The problem for Billy is that all these groups in this underground London think Billy is behind it all and he doesn't know a thing.

Like I said earlier, Kraken is amazingly imaginative and it stays with you long after you read this book, as I'm told are many, if not all, of China Mieville's work. The more I get away from reading this book, the more I find myself still thinking about it. It really was an enjoyable book that I'd definitely recommend.

Because this is my first Mieville book, I'm not the expert, but I've read this is the most linear and accessible of all his work.

Why Should You Read Kraken?

Well, don't read it if all you wanted were pirates and ships and sword-fights, etc. You won't get any of that. What you will get is a great book filled with characters and creatures that you can't believe how real you think they now are. :) (like henchmen that have actual hands, fingers and everything, for heads)

4 out of 5 Stars


Mark Lawrence said...

Interesting review! I started 'Perdido Street station' about 8 years ago and like you I gave up after a 100 pages or so. Perhaps like you I'll give it another go ... or let you blaze that trail for me and see whether it works for you once you've invested the effort :)

Bryce L. said...

Haha, that's really funny. Seriously, there was just no push to go on. I didn't stop because it wasn't good, the imagination is just amazing. I'll get to it one day, hopefully sooner rather than later. :)

Anonymous said...

A shame not to read through PSS and of course The Scar. Even Iron Council is well worth the read. All three novels tower way over other "urban" fantasy.

Bryce L. said...

@Anon - Good to hear, like I said, I'll definitely read it. I don't think I read long enough to really get sucked in. It will happen.