Saturday, July 10, 2010

Book Review: Kraken, by China Mieville

Title Kraken
Author China Mieville
Rating ****
Tags fiction, adventure, paranormal, religion, cults, fantasy 

This was my first experience reading Mieville, and I feel like I've been on Mr. Toad's Wild Ride - but that ride is far too tame a comparison.

Billy Harrow is a curator at the Darwin Center in London. His greatest accomplishment is preserving the Center's giant squid specimen. So he is astonished to find one day, while leading a tour of the Center, that the squid and its tank have vanished.

Soon thereafter he finds a body in a bottle, and his best friend disappears, swallowed whole by a supernatural hit man named Goss and his sidekick Subby. The police who deal with the supernatural become involved, and Billy finds out that London is awash with cults, all of them certain that Apocalypse is coming. Very soon. One of the cults is the Teuthies, worshipers of the giant squid known as Architeuthis. One of the Teuthies, whom Billy had known as a guard in the Center named Dane, becomes Billy's protector, though he goes rogue from the cult in order to do so. Everyone is searching for the squid, some of them with harm in mind, including the criminal mastermind who lives as a tattoo on another man's back.

Meanwhile, Billy and Dane are aided by Wati, a spirit that moves from figure to figure and inspires dog and cat familiars and other servant spirits to go out on strike for better working conditions.

Mieville writes about a lot of cults in Kraken, but I suspect that if he belongs to one it is Discordianism, which worships chaos. The author bludgeons the reader's ability to suspend disbelief until it gives way with a whimper, and after that the reading is easier. One doesn't so much read this book as wrestle it to the ground, to emerge victorious on the last page. Do I recommend it? Yes, if you want an unusual experience. It definitely makes most books seem tame by comparison.

Publication Del Rey (2010), Hardcover, 528 pages
Publication date 2010
ISBN 034549749X / 9780345497499

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