Monday, September 26, 2011

Kraken by China Mieville

Book Details 
Kraken by China Mieville
Hardcover, 528 Pages
2010, Del Rey
ISBN: 034549749X

With this outrageous new novel, China Miéville has written one of the strangest, funniest, and flat-out scariest books you will read this—or any other—year. The London that comes to life in Kraken is a weird metropolis awash in secret currents of myth and magic, where criminals, police, cultists, and wizards are locked in a war to bring about—or prevent—the End of All Things.

In the Darwin Centre at London’s Natural History Museum, Billy Harrow, a cephalopod specialist, is conducting a tour whose climax is meant to be the Centre’s prize specimen of a rare Architeuthis dux—better known as the Giant Squid. But Billy’s tour takes an unexpected turn when the squid suddenly and impossibly vanishes into thin air.

As Billy soon discovers, this is the precipitating act in a struggle to the death between mysterious but powerful forces in a London whose existence he has been blissfully ignorant of until now, a city whose denizens—human and otherwise—are adept in magic and murder.

There is the Congregation of God Kraken, a sect of squid worshippers whose roots go back to the dawn of humanity—and beyond. There is the criminal mastermind known as the Tattoo, a merciless maniac inked onto the flesh of a hapless victim.

Kraken was supposed to be amazing. It would have been amazing given the hype, the awesome premise and an author is renowned for being able to take weird and make it mind-blowing. Yet, somehow, Kraken failed abysmally.

I think the major problem with Kraken was that it was all over the place. In trying to take so many different ideas and themes and bring them together into one plot, it was hard to tell what mattered. The book started off in a promising manner. Billy conducts tours at a museum that houses a rare (and dead) giant squid. During a tour, the squid is found to be missing. This starts off a mystery that has potential. Who would want the squid? How would someone get it out of the museum? It's too big to fit through the doors.

We learn that the squid may have been taken by a cult that worships it. Fantastic - a mystery with a potential sci-fi twist that has a cult of squid worshipers. I can get behind that. Except, then Mieville throws in the supernatural. We aren't looking at a sci-fi twist at all,  but rather many different people with many different abilities. The bad guys have abilities. The good guys have abilities. The cops have abilities. Hell, even Billy ends up having an ability. Try keeping that all straight.

Now I'm lost. I can barely keep the plot or the characters straight. Kraken quickly went from entertaining to utterly dreadful in the matter of a few chapters. Somehow, the squid factors into an apocalypse, but don't ask me how. It was a complete blur as I just wanted to get finish this book and forget I ever picked it up in the first place.

Kraken was an extreme disappointment. I was very excited to read this book and wound up just sort of disgusted by the entire mess. I've disliked books before, but never one that held so much promise and potential. Kraken was a complete letdown.


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