Kraken by China Mieville is a superb book. I know it's a cliché, but I really couldn't put it down -which made everyday tasks like washing up quite tricky!
It is set in the present day in London. However, it is not the mundane London that you might know, rather it is a strange, fantastic, magical pseudo-religious London where nothing is as it seems or should be. This other London exists right alongside the everyday London that 'normal' people inhabit.
China Mieville strikes a marvellous balance between tacky, hackneyed ideas and novel invention. As each new character turns up, you find yourself trying to figure out what is the motivation behind it, and it never turns out to be what you had guessed.
If I had one criticism of this book, it is that as a non-Londonner, I felt a little as though China wants to marry London and take it to bed. He could just as easily have set the novel in a fictional city, but I suppose he might have had to work harder to draw out the contrast between the underworld described and the normal world we know.
In summary, it's a good book but China needs to realise that we don't all love London.
I will begin by stating that this is not a book for children. It is macabre in places and some of the concepts dealt with, I feel, would be too complex for children to understand. I think older teens would be able to gets to grips with it though.
Kraken is an urban fantasy set in London. As the title may suggest a lot of it revolves around giant squid. It's a beautifully crafted story filled with realistic characters that you will come to care for.
The writing itself -
Mieville has a very fluid writing style which means there is very little filler to contend with. Things happen in this book - things happen to the characters that make them develop. The descriptions are well thought through and there are very few cliches to contend with. Mieville includes a couple of pop culture references that the reader will get.
However, the writing can be heavy in some places and I did find words that I had never come across before. It is very macabre in places which may put some people off. However, these scenes are not forced in and instead add a layer to the characters in question.
If you like reading something that is a little different, give Kraken a go. I thoroughly enjoyed it and will be re-reading it again. The locations in London were well researched and you may even recognise some of the places mentioned. I really enjoyed Mieville's writing style as it was very fluid and he is very good at bringing loose ends together. I will warn you that Kraken is macabre in places, especially in regards to the characters Goss and Subby. However, do not let this deter you as it adds another layer to the narrative and they are not shoe-horned in but rather woven in with great care.
Also on Ciao! under the same username :)
Kraken is the latest novel by China Mieville who is the current hottest property in the social fantasy setting. This novel is about the theft of a giant dead squid from the British Museum.
The novel starts with the theft discovery by Billy, a curator at the British museum, the giant squid is huge and was being kept in a large glass vessel. The theft appears to be impossible but Billy is soon drawn into a wider world of strange religions and a battle ground between sinister magicians and religious leaders.
This book is all set in a modern London but a London very different to the one we know, London is on the surface looks normal but there are strange cults which operate just under the radar. The squid is being worshipped as a god by the cult of the giant squid; they are in competition with strange people who want to destroy the squid. Alongside are the police with a division which solely looks at crimes in the paranormal. The police are sinister and are as dangerous as the criminals who have stolen the kraken; it soon becomes apparent that the police not only want to find the culprit but also the squid as well.
The middle section of the book develops into a crime novel and a battle between differing psychic and paranormal active gangs. Billy is kidnapped by the vicar of the kraken church who thinks he has the information on who has stolen the squid he considers his god. The pair is soon chased by the man who is only described as Tattoo, Tattoo wants to destroy the cult of the kraken and his sole desire is to destroy. Against Tattoo is the god grisamemmthum, grisamemmthum is a deity who can travel between any statue and can then talk to people. Grisammemmthum, Tattoo and the cult of the kraken have been fighting for centuries and the control of London is at stake.
Yes, this novel is a complex one, it starts in what appears to be a normal setting but it seems to love to move the story into a world reminiscent of Malcom Pryce's Aberystwyth series in which all things appear to be as we would know but has a different culture underneath. The characters of Billy and Dane, the vicar of the kraken are the leading ones but the policewoman Collingsworth steals the boy as she is demented driven and loves to play the bad cop.
This was to be honest a tough read for certain sections but some of the chapters are genuinely brilliant with the flow of action making sense and giving the reader a real feel of a paranormal London. Billy and Dane finally work it out and of course the action is nicely rounded up and we get a final act of Tattoo, Grisamemmthum, the kraken and the fate of London is determined.
The concept of a cult worshipping a kraken leading to a style of gang warfare over the paranormal control over a modern London sounds crazy and in a way there is a sense of craziness involved but as a narrative text it works brilliantly. China Mieville once again peppers his works with a little bit of social commentary with a left leaning view on spread of resources and the desire for a correction in social equality.
If you want to move away from tepid fantasy novels about angst driven teenagers or young boys wearing glasses and instead want some proper hard hitting fantasy writing then the novels of China Mieville are a must. This is his latest piece of work and in my opinion his best so far.