- Paperback: 400 pages
- Publisher: Pan; Unabridged ed edition (1 January 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0330492322
- ISBN-13: 978-0330492324
- Product Dimensions: 13 x 3 x 19.7 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 340 g
- Average Customer Review: 2 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 113,606 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Kraken Paperback – Unabridged, 1 Jan 2011
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About the Author
China Mieville lives and works in London. He is two-time winner of the prestigious Arthur C Clarke Award (Perdido Street Station and The Scar) and has also won the British Fantasy Award twice (Perdido Street Station and Iron Council). The City & The City, an existential thriller, was published in 2009 to dazzling critical acclaim and drew comparison with the works of Kafka and Orwell (The Times) and Phillip K Dick (The Guardian).
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If you haven't read China I would suggest the Scar because it's awesome but this is not far behind.
Loved every minute of it and on a genre peppered by spin offs this is truly original and amazing.
An embalmed kraken, a forty-foot-long giant squid, disappears from a London museum where Billy Harrow is a curator. There is no imaginable way that the kraken and its tank of preserving fluid could have fit through any of the too-small exits. The theft is investigated, first by the London police, then by a secret police squad that deals with the occult, and finally by Billy and a member of the underground cult that worships the missing kraken.
The story begins slowly, but picks up as readers encounter odd characters with odd motives and oddly-constrained magical powers. The memorable cast includes:
Dane, a devout member of the Church of Kraken Almighty, carries a spear gun because a regular gun isn't "squiddy" enough.
Wati, the ghost of an ancient Egyptian slave, organized a modern labor movement among the other ghost slaves. He can only see and speak through statues, large or small.
Tattoo, an oversized face tattooed on another man's back. A ruthless crime lord, he rages because he's always facing the other way when interesting things happen.
Grisamentum, a departed mage, is the best off-stage character since Godot. His menacing, unseen presence brings the story's ink to life.
Strangest of all is the villainous, man-and-boy presence of Goss and Subby. There's no stopping or understanding Goss and Subby. Once contracted, the job is always finished. Messily.
There are other characters, less central but no less colorful. They include gun farmers, who hatch and raise their own weapons; knuckleheads, strangely-transformed henchmen wearing black motorcycle helmets; memory ghosts, who inhabit and protect museums; and the Sea itself, dealing impartially through its embassy on a magically-concealed side street. These richly-imagined persons all make sense, each in their way.
I've yet to read a bad China Mieville book. Dismiss me as a fan, but maybe a fanatical mindset helps understand the intense, inter-cult conflicts of Mieville's London. There's much to digest after you wolf it all down. What's this thing the author has for embassies, for example? Perdido Street Station, here, then in Embassytown in a big way. One more oddity among many.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
It's extremely rare that I abandon a book. I really love this author's keen eye and delicious way with words, and maybe I'll try another of his titles. This one, though, was just too much.
Oh, that's right, there's also a story. At heart this is a mystery novel about what may or may not be a plot to bring about the end of the world. It's fast paced with good characterization. It presents an almost plausible alternate reality that may invisibly exist all around us. It's especially interesting how ordinary people, we might call them "Muggles" are brought into an awareness of this magical realm.
I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. The various players were all compelling. The Tattoo (a magical mob boss banished to a man’s backside) and his henchmen Goss and Subby were especially memorable. I also liked Wati, a magical totem from ancient Egypt who is now a union organizer for magical creatures.
I highly recommend the book for readers who enjoy a fast paced mystery that skates along the edge of absurd.
Kraken centers around a scientist at the Museum of Natural History in London named Billy who is responsible for preserving a specimen of a giant squid, architeuthis. The squid is one of the most popular exhibits at the museum, but has also caught the attention of London's secret underworld of mages and cults, who believe it to be both a god of the deep and the harbinger of an apocalypse. The Kraken is stolen from the museum, although there is no practical way to remove it from the room. Billy finds himself flung into the depths of a London he never new existed, a reluctant prophet for a cult that worships the squid, as well a person of great interest to the various supernatural factions in the city. What follows is a fairly standard "chase the McGuffin" story in which Billy and his new allies attempt to locate the squid and stop the end of the world, while various antagonists hunt for him.
I won't reveal any spoilers here, because there's lots of great surprises in the book -- an unusual labor movement, a Star Trek loving mage (as well as an insightful look into a particular Star Trek trope that is often taken for granted by fans), a pair of terrifying immortal hit men called Goss and Subby, a man with a bizarre tattoo on his back and much more. However, for all the unique ideas, I can't help but think of Kraken as a crazier version of Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere, or a saner version of Grant Morrison's comic book series, The Invisibles - either way, it covers ground that other writers have explored in better stories. In many ways, it is a conventional urban fantasy novel, except unlike others in the genre, the characters are ciphers who exist to carry Mieville's big ideas. Billy, though the central character, is mostly unknown to us through the end. We know he's very good at pickling squids, but other than that, we learn very little about him as a person. Others we get to know a little better, but given the strength of Mieville's past protagonists, I expected more.
Overall, Kraken is an entertaining read, but not Mieville's best. If you're new to his work, I'd recommend starting out with Perdido Street Station and The Scar, both of which are worth your time.
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