Kraken

Kraken

by China Mieville

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Overview

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 duxbetter 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. There is the FSRC—the Fundamentalist and Sect-Related Crime Unit—a branch of London’s finest that fights sorcery

with sorcery. There is Wati, a spirit from ancient Egypt who leads a ragtag union of magical familiars. There are the Londonmancers, who read the future in the city’s entrails. There is Grisamentum, London’s greatest wizard, whose shadow lingers long after his death. And then there is Goss and Subby, an ageless old man and a cretinous boy who, together, constitute a terrifying—yet darkly charismatic—demonic duo.

All of them—and others—are in pursuit of Billy, who inadvertently holds the key to the missing squid, an embryonic god whose powers, properly harnessed, can destroy all that is, was, and ever shall be.
 

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780345497505
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 03/15/2011
Pages: 528
Sales rank: 303,505
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

China Miéville is the author of King Rat; Perdido Street Station, winner of the Arthur C. Clarke Award and the British Fantasy Award; The Scar, winner of the Locus Award and the British Fantasy Award; Iron Council, winner of the Locus Award and the Arthur C. Clarke Award; Looking for Jake, a collection of short stories; and Un Lun Dun, his New York Times bestselling book for younger readers. He lives and works in London.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

An everyday doomsayer in sandwich-board abruptly walked away from what over the last several days had been his pitch, by the gates of a museum. The sign on his front was an old-school prophecy of the end: the one bobbing on his back read forget it.

Inside, a man walked through the big hall, past a double stair and a giant skeleton, his steps loud on the marble. Stone animals watched him. "Right then," he kept saying.

His name was Billy Harrow. He glanced at the great fabricated bones and nodded. It looked as if he was saying hello. It was a little after eleven on a morning in October. The room was filling up. A group waited for him by the entrance desk, eyeing each other with polite shyness.

There were two men in their twenties with geek-chic haircuts. A woman and man barely out of teens teased each other. She was obviously indulging him with this visit. There was an older couple, and a father in his thirties holding his young son. "Look, that's a monkey," he said. He pointed at animals carved in vines on the museum pillars. "And you see that lizard?"

The boy peeped. He looked at the bone apatosaurus that Billy had seemed to greet. Or maybe, Billy thought, he was looking at the glyptodon beyond it. All the children had a favourite inhabitant of the Natural History Museum's first hall, and the glyptodon, that half-globe armadillo giant, had been Billy's.

Billy smiled at the woman who dispensed tickets, and the guard behind her. "This them?" he said. "Right then, everyone. Shall we do this thing?"

He cleaned his glasses and blinked while he was doing it, replicating a look and motion an ex had once told him was adorable. He was a little shy of thirty and looked younger: he had freckles, and not enough stubble to justify "Bill." As he got older, Billy suspected, he would, DiCaprio-like, simply become like an increasingly wizened child.

Billy's black hair was tousled in halfheartedly fashionable style. He wore a not-too-hopeless top, cheap jeans. When he had first started at the centre, he had liked to think that he was unexpectedly cool-looking for such a job. Now he knew that he surprised no one, that no one expected scientists to look like scientists anymore.

"So you're all here for the tour of the Darwin Centre," he said. He was acting as if he thought they were present to investigate a whole research site, to look at the laboratories and offices, the filing, the cabinets of paperwork. Rather than to see one and only the one thing within the building.

"I'm Billy," he said. "I'm a curator. What that means is I do a lot of the cataloguing and preserving, stuff like that. I've been here awhile. When I first came here I wanted to specialise in marine molluscs—know what a mollusc is?" he asked the boy, who nodded and hid. "Snails, that's right." Mollusca had been the subject of his master's thesis.

"Alright, folks." He put his glasses on. "Follow me. This is a working environment, so please keep the noise down, and I beg you not to touch anything. We've got caustics, toxins, all manner of horrible stuff all over the place."

One of the young men started to say, "When do we see—?" Billy raised his hand.

"Can I just . . .?" he said. "Let me explain about what'll happen when we're in there." Billy had evolved his own pointless idio-superstitions, according to one of which it was bad luck for anyone to speak the name of what they were all there for, before they reached it.

"I'm going to show you a bunch of the places we work," he said lamely. "Any questions, you can ask me at the end: we're a little bit time constrained. Let's get the tour done first."

No curator or researcher was obliged to perform this guide-work. But many did. Billy no longer grumbled when it was his turn.

They went out and through the garden, approaching the Darwin with a building site on one side and the brick filigrees of the Natural History Museum on the other.

"No photos please," Billy said. He did not care if they obeyed: his obligation was to repeat the rule. "This building here opened in 2002," he said. "And you can see we're expanding. We'll have a new building in 2008. We've got seven floors of wet specimens in the Darwin Centre. That means stuff in Formalin."

Everyday hallways led to a stench. "Jesus," someone muttered.

"Indeed," said Billy. "This is called the dermestarium." Through interior windows there were steel containers like little coffins. "This is where we clean up skeletons. Get rid of all the gunk on them. Dermestes maculatus."

A computer screen by the boxes was showing some disgusting salty-looking fish being eaten by insect swarms. "Eeurgh," someone said.

"There's a camera in the box," said Billy. "Hide beetles is their English name. They go through everything, just leave bones behind."

The boy grinned and tugged his father's hand. The rest of the group smiled, embarrassed. Flesh-eating bugs: sometimes life really was a B-movie.

Billy noticed one of the young men. He wore a past-it suit, a shabby-genteel outfit odd for someone young. He wore a pin on his lapel, a design like a long-armed asterisk, two of the spokes ending in curls. The man was taking notes. He was filling the pad he carried at a great rate.

A taxonomiser by inclination as well as profession, Billy had decided there were not so many kinds of people who took this tour. There were children: mostly young boys, shy and beside themselves with excitement, and vastly knowledgeable about what they saw. There were their parents. There were sheepish people in their twenties, as geeky-eager as the kids. There were their girlfriends and boyfriends, performing patience. A few tourists on an unusual byway.

And there were the obsessives.

They were the only people who knew more than the young children. Sometimes they did not speak: sometimes they would interrupt Billy's explanations with too-loud questions, or correct him on scientific detail with exhausting fussy anxiety. He had noticed more of such visitors than usual in the last several weeks.

"It's like late summer brings out the weirdos," Billy had said to his friend Leon, a few nights back, as they drank at a Thames pub. "Someone came in all Starfleet badges today. Not on my shift, sadly."

"Fascist," Leon had said. "Why are you so prejudiced against nerds?"

"Please," Billy said. "That would be a bit self-hating, wouldn't it?"

"Yeah, but you pass. You're like, you're in deep cover," Leon said. "You can sneak out of the nerd ghetto and hide the badge and bring back food and clothes and word of the outside world."

"Mmm, tasteful."

"Alright," Billy said as colleagues passed him. "Kath," he said to an ichthyologist; "Brendan," to another curator, who answered him, "Alright Tubular?"

"Onward please," said Billy. "And don't worry, we're getting to the good stuff."

Tubular? Billy could see one or two of his escortees wondering if they had misheard.

The nickname resulted from a drinking session in Liverpool with colleagues, back in his first year at the centre. It was the annual conference of the professional curatorial society. After a day of talks on methodologies and histories of preservation, on museum schemes and the politics of display, the evening's wind-down had started with polite how-did-you-get-into-this?, turned into everyone at the bar one by one talking about their childhoods, these meanderings, in boozy turn, becoming a session of what someone had christened Biography Bluff. Everyone had to cite some supposedly extravagant fact about themselves—they once ate a slug, they'd been part of a foursome, they tried to burn their school down, and so on—the truth of which the others would then brayingly debate.

Billy had straight-faced claimed that he had been the result of the world's first-ever successful in vitro fertilisation, but that he had been disavowed by the laboratory because of internal politics and a question mark over issues of consent, which was why the official laurel had gone to someone else a few months after his birth. Interrogated about details, he had with drunken effortlessness named doctors, the location, a minor complication of the procedure. But before bets were made and his reveal made, the conversation had taken a sudden turn and the game had been abandoned. It was two days later, back in London, before a lab-mate asked him if it was true.

"Absolutely," Billy had said, in an expressionless teasing way that meant either "of course," or "of course not." He had stuck by that response since. Though he doubted anyone believed him, the nickname "Test-tube" and variants were still used.

They passed another guard: a big, truculent man, all shaved head and muscular fatness. He was some years older than Billy, named Dane Something, from what Billy had overheard. Billy nodded and tried to meet his eye, as he always did. Dane Whatever, as he always did, ignored the little greeting, to Billy's disproportionate resentment.

As the door swung shut, though, Billy saw Dane acknowledge someone else. The guard nodded momentarily at the intense young man with the lapel pin, the obsessive whose eyes flickered in the briefest response. Billy saw that, in surprise—and just before the door closed between them—Dane looking at him.

Dane's acquaintance did not meet his eyes. "You feel it get cool?" Billy said, shaking his head. He sped them through time-release doors. "To stop evaporation. We have to be careful about fire. Because, you know, there's a fair old bit of alcohol in here, so . . ." With his hands he made a soft explosion.

The visitors stopped still. They were in a specimen maze. Ranked intricacies. Kilometres of shelves and jars. In each was a motionless floating animal. Even sound sounded bottled suddenly, as if something had put a lid on it all.

The specimens mindlessly concentrated, some posing with their own colourless guts. Flatfish in browning tanks. Jars of huddled mice gone sepia, grotesque mouthfuls like pickled onions. There were sports with excess limbs, foetuses in arcane shapes. They were as carefully shelved as books. "See?" Billy said.

One more door and they would be with what they were there to see. Billy knew from repeated experience how this would go.

When they entered the tank room, the chamber at the heart of the Darwin Centre, he would give the visitors a moment without prattle. The big room was walled with more shelves. There were hundreds more bottles, from those chest-high down to those the size of a glass of water. All of them contained lugubrious animal faces. It was a Linnaean decor; species clined into each other. There were steel bins, pulleys that hung like vines. No one would notice. Everyone would be staring at the great tank in the centre of the room.

This was what they came for, that pinkly enormous thing. For all its immobility; the wounds of its slow-motion decay, the scabbing that clouded its solution; despite its eyes being shrivelled and lost; its sick colour; despite the twist in its skein of limbs, as if it were being wrung out. For all that, it was what they were there for.

It would hang, an absurdly massive tentacled sepia event. Architeuthis dux. The giant squid.

It's eight-metres and sixty-two centimetres long," Billy would say at last. "Not the largest we've ever seen, but no tiddler either." The visitors would circle the glass. "They found it in 2004, off the Falkland Islands.

"It's in a saline-Formalin mix. That tank was made by the same people that do the ones for Damien Hirst. You know, the one he put the shark in?" Any children would be leaning in to the squid, as close as they could get.

"Its eyes would have been twenty-three or twenty-four centimetres across," Billy would say. People would measure with their fingers, and children opened their own eyes mimicry-wide. "Yeah, like plates. Like dinner plates." He said it every time, every time thinking of Hans Christian Andersen's dog. "But it's very hard to keep eyes fresh, so they're gone. We injected it with the same stuff that's in the tank to stop it rotting from the inside.

"It was alive when it was caught."

That would mean gasps all over again. Visions of an army of coils, twenty thousand leagues, an axe-fight against a blasphemy from the deep below. A predatory meat cylinder, rope limbs unrolling, finding a ship's rail with ghastly prehensility.

It had been nothing like that. A giant squid at the surface was a weak, disoriented, moribund thing. Horrified by air, crushed by its own self, it had probably just wheezed through its siphon and palsied, a gel mass of dying. That did not matter. Its breach was hardly reducible to however it had actually been.

The squid would stare with its handspan empty sockets and Billy would answer familiar questions—"It's name is Archie." "Because of Architeuthis. Get it?" "Yes, even though we think it's a girl."

When it had come, wrapped in ice and preservative cloth, Billy had helped unswaddle it. It was he who had massaged its dead flesh, kneading the tissue to feel where preservatives had spread. He had been so busy on it it was as if he had not noticed it, quite, somehow. It was only when they were done and finished, and it was tanked, that it had hit him, had really got him. He had watched refraction make it shift as he approached or moved away, a magic motionless motion.

It wasn't a type-specimen, one of those bottled Platonic essences that define everything like them. Still, the squid was complete, and it would never be cut.

Other specimens in the room would eventually snare a bit of visitor attention. A ribbon-folded oarfish, an echidna, bottles of monkeys. And there at the end of the room was a glass-fronted cabinet containing thirteen small jars.

"Anyone know what these are?" Billy would say. "Let me show you."

They were distinguished by the browning ink and antique angularity of the hand that had labelled them. "These were collected by someone quite special," Billy would say to any children. "Can you read that word? Anyone know what that means? 'The Beagle'?"

Some people got it. If they did they would gape at the subcollection that sat there unbelievably on an everyday shelf. Little animals collected, euthanized, preserved and catalogued on a journey to the South American seas, two centuries before, by the young naturalist Charles Darwin.

"That's his writing," Billy would say. "He was young, he hadn't sorted out his really big notions when he found these. These are part of what gave him the whole idea. They're not finches, but these are what got the whole thing started. It's the anniversary of his trip soon."

Very rarely, someone would try to argue with him over Darwin's insight. Billy would not have that debate.

Even those thirteen glass eggs of evolutionary theory, and all the centuries’-worth of tea-coloured crocodiles and deep-sea absurdities, evinced only a little interest next to the squid. Billy knew the importance of that Darwin stuff, whether visitors did or not. No matter. Enter that room and you breached a Schwarzschild radius of something not canny, and that cephalopod corpse was the singularity.

That, Billy knew, was how it would go. But this time when he opened the door he stopped, and stared for several seconds. The visitors came in behind him, stumbling past his immobility. They waited, unsure of what they were being shown.

The centre of the room was empty. All the jars looked over the scene of a crime. The nine-metre tank, the thousands of gallons of brine-Formalin, the dead giant squid itself were gone. 

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Kraken 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 193 reviews.
Andrew_Shaffer More than 1 year ago
China Mieville has constructed a loving homage to H.P. Lovecraft, right down to the odd characters, mysterious beastlies, and awkward phrasing. Dialogue and sentence construction take backseats to the concepts, though every few pages there is a laugh-outloud line that will keep the reader entertained--but not, necessarily, engaged. KRAKEN reminds me a lot of Warren Ellis's fiction debut, ONE CROOKED VEIN, another "weird" book that seemed to run off the rails at times. A reviewer in the UK put it best: "Less is more where weirdness is concerned." Readers will either embrace the madness or go mad trying to make it through KRAKEN.
harstan More than 1 year ago
In London's Natural History Museum, curator Billy Harrow escorts a tour into the Darwin Center where a giant squid resides in a special tank prepared by him. Billy is proud of what he and most experts consider the top attraction of the Darwin center and perhaps the entire museum. When he and the tour group reach their destination, Billy is stunned to find it empty as that is not possible. What is more eerie is that not just the squid is gone, but the tank and preservative too. Investigating police officer Kath Collingswood explains magical teleportation to a shocked Billy. He has now entered the realm of sorcery where Kath explains the only way to fight back is with sorcery. As Billy learns more about a part of London he and most residents never knew existed, the Congregation of God Kraken worship the giant squid while one of their flock Dane Parnell tries to keep curious Billy safe from two nasty wizards who get off with torture. Sent by their leader Tattoo the insane gangster survived sans body of his own as a tattoo put on the flesh of a wretched soul thanks to the greatest dead wizard. As the curator becomes more acquainted with the other London, city's familiars are refusing to perform as they picket for better pay, improved working conditions and health care. Kraken is a wild over the top of Big Ben urban fantasy starring a likable curator, a fascinating dedicated cop-mage, and a vision of London that feels like something from Alice in Wonderland or Simon R. Green. Although the plot meanders much more than a Hyde Street Park speaker, and at times is overwhelmed by the paranormal antics throughout the city, fans of China Mieville will enjoy his jocular lampooning of the police procedural-amateur sleuth in an urban fantasy environs. Harriet Klausner
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Brilliant story. Very deep story,but not for kids. Highly recommend this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a good book, with levels of lore so deep that it brings me back to the days when I was reading Harry Potter, sticking all of my mental capacity into prying open the magnificent world of wizarding. Even though I enjoyed the read, it is not for everybody. If you have a child that you don't want reading lots of slang and cursing, then you probably shouldn't give this to them. It is also a very complicated world Mieville has opened up, and that makes it a complicated read.
Jacob Sykes More than 1 year ago
This book starts fast and kept me interested with the fascinating setting. However there are some chapters that tend to drag on. Even with those hickups it is a fantastic story!
ksprings 7 months ago
This review was first published on Kurt's Frontier. Synopsis: Billy Harrow is a cephalopod specialist in the Darwin Center of London’s Natural History Museum. The tour he conducts through the center has its climax at the center’s giant squid. This is their prize specimen. Except the squid isn’t there when the tour ends. This sparks a life or death struggle between forces Billy has been unaware of until now. The Fundamentalist and Sect-Related Crime Unit (FSRC), which deals with sorcerous crimes for the London police, approaches Billy. He is also faced with a group of fanatics that worship the squid as the God Kraken and various other magical persons and entities. Billy has become the uncomfortable center of attention of this Magical underworld in London because he holds the key to powers that can destroy all that is, was, and ever shall be. Review: China Miéville’s Kraken borrows elements from H. P. Lovecraft to spin a thriller of magical intrigue that was witty. However, he overused the East London accent to the point where, unless you speak it yourself, it becomes distracting. Moreover, Miéville spent much of the book on setting up this complex world. If you like to get to the story proper, you will have to wait a bit. And, at five hundred plus pages, it is quite a wait
WDBooks on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
PictureKraken is the newest offering from China Mieville. I have to admit to reading several books by China in the past and have to say I¿ve liked and disliked them at the same time. His characters and places all intrigued me and I¿ve enjoyed the stories, I just suspect that there has been too much ¿stuff¿ in the stories, to weird a location maybe, though I¿m not 100% sure what has turned me off from the books.Kraken takes place in modern day London, though the London is split between a normal city and one rich in magic. The story wraps around the theft of a Kraken from the Darwin Centre and drags its curator from the normal world into the one full of magic. A massive power struggle is going on between differing factions, all vying to lay their hands on the missing Kraken which as vanished into thin air. Some want to stop the end of the world, others want it for their own ends and others just want it because the other groups want it!It¿s a well paced, enjoyable read that has a decent plot is grounded in a recognizable world, albeit one that has a strong tendencies towards the fantastic.7.5/10
ccthulu on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is my first read of China Mieville and it will be my last. Its just not my thing. I know they have many fans. My main reasons are due to a lack of a cohesive narrative and a writing style that is a bit too free-flowing. That is not a literary critique, per se, but a personal one. Lots of people like this style. I do not. I did like the concept and the overall story. Some of the characters were interesting. Very cthulhu-esque in a mad-cultist kind of way. I just realized my review is as stream of consciousness as Mieville can be. Difference is, I am not writing a book. Read the first couple of pages. If you dont mind the style you will like the book. I rather read The Call of Cthulhu again instead.
bragan on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Billy Harrow works in a museum in London, until the day their carefully preserved giant squid goes missing, along with its equally giant tank... which is a bit perplexing, considering that you'd need a crane to move the thing. Or, just possibly, magic. From that moment on, Billy finds himself falling deep, deep down a rabbit hole into a London filled with supernatural gang warfare, crazy cults (including, yes, giant-squid-worshipers), and a union of striking familiars, among other forms of weirdness. Not to mention a looming apocalypse or two.My only criticism of this book is that the story moves a little slowly -- though it has has what feels like it should be a non-stop action plot, often surprisingly little seems to be happening -- and then wraps up a little too quickly. But, really, the appeal of China Mieville's stuff is always more in the setting and the wild inventiveness than in the plot, and this book certainly doesn't fall down in that respect. As usual, it's full of all kinds of weird, wonderful, utterly crazy stuff, and gives the strong impression that we're seeing only one little corner of a world with its own strange history and personalities and rules. I've heard complaints to the effect that it mostly just consists of Mieville throwing a lot of random ideas together and hurling them at the reader, and maybe that's true, but, you know, as far as I'm concerned that's not really a criticism. He can hurl his random ideas at me all day, and I will happily catch them, because they're always interesting and cool, and often a little brain-melting, in the good way.This book also just has a real sense of fun to it, more so than anything else of his I've read. Yes, it's violent and sometimes pretty dark, but it's also got a sense of humor that really sneaks up on you, along with some amusingly unexpected pop culture references, and you can tell Mieville is greatly enjoying playing around with urban fantasy tropes, especially the near-ubiquitous supernatural investigations branch of the police force. It's possible to argue over whether or not this one ranks among Mieville's best. But, honestly, that's not a debate I'm interested in having. Suffice to say that I enjoyed it.
clif_hiker on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Goes into my abandoned category. I read ~200 pages and could not see any point or direction to the story. Mieville was spending too much time being clever with language and not enough time developing characters and plot.
thessaly on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book immensely. Sometimes I think China is a little too enamoured of his characters and hammers the point home a little too often. But it's still a great story and worth sticking through to the end. I really liked the relationship between Billy and Dane, too.
Tyllwin on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Reminded me a great deal of a harsher and less playful version of Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere, with a touch of Torchwood. Billy, the museum curator is pulled into a unseen London filled with cults and magicians at war with each other. Plenty of action, and interesting characters, but the ending had a sort of unsatisfying feel to it, that didn't seem to come organically from what had preceded it. Worth a read, but can't hold a candle to The City and the City.
suetu on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I've been intimidated by China Mieville for years. I keep buying his books, but I don't read them. In part, it's because I'm not a big fan of one of his primary genres, science fiction. Of course, trying to pigeonhole a writer like Mieville is futile, as his novels are a jumble of sci-fi, fantasy, mystery, humor, and God knows what else. No, mostly I'm intimidated by his intelligence and literacy. I've met the man several times. He's lovely. But you can tell right away: Dude is wicked smart. I'm no light-weight, but when it comes to Mieville I've just wimped out. Well, I'm a wimp no more! I've read Kraken, and guess what? I LOVED it! In fact, it made my top ten list for 2010. This is one of those times when you just want to kick yourself for not getting around to something earlier. Happily, Mr. Mieville's backlisted titles are sitting on my shelf waiting for me. It helped that this latest novel was essentially written for me. Who else but the world's foremost collector of "trashy underwater fiction" would gravitate to a novel about squid worshippers? But I'm getting ahead of myself... The protagonist of this novel is biologist Billy Harrow who, as the novel is opening, is leading a tour though the museum where he works. The highlight and finale of the tour is the preserved architeuthis dux, the giant squid. When Billy and his tour enter the room where it's kept, the immense creature and its 25-foot tank are, impossibly, nowhere in evidence. So begins a bizarre tale. Billy is as flummoxed as the average reader. Early on in the novel he is told, "How could you possibly understand what is going on? Even if you wanted to. Which, as I say, dot dot dot." Not all of the dialog is quite so enigmatic, but a good deal of it is as funny. At least if you have an appreciation for British humor. I honestly don't know what else to say about this novel. The plot is impossible to summarize. It's been incredibly polarizing among readers. Elements of Kraken were reminiscent of authors like Neil Gaiman and Jonathan Barnes--high praise in my book. There's a limit to how much weird I can take, and Kraken is weird, but it was fantastic, too! I suspect that this is one of those "love it" or "hate it" novels. Based on that assessment alone, it's worth giving a try. Like me, you just might surprise yourself by falling into the "love it" camp.
wid_get on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
He's done it again! I am completely blown away. I honestly don't know what to say. I was lost for about a hundred pages, but I know that he always makes hanging in there worth it - and when I was able to let go and drop myself into this premise of a disappearing giant squid and an evil under-lord who resides in a back tattoo... So many authors assume their readers do not have the mental capacity to follow them and as a result dumb down their own brilliant minds. Mieville either trusts you will understand or just doesn't care (I haven't decided which and I've read every piece of his fiction work and about half the non) and you join him on a ride through dark cities and unionized familiars. Yet again, he challenges his readers to stretch preconceived ideas of what we can see and are comfortable with and what resides just beyond the streets on the map, and I so love him for it.
krau0098 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I got an advanced reading copy of this book through the Amazon Vine program. I have previously read Mieville's King Rat (loved it), UnLunDun (liked it), and The City and The City (tough read, but interesting). I have mixed feelings about this book. Some of it is quite funny and creative, but a lot of it is just annoying.You follow a number of different characters throughout this book. The main character is Billy, who is a curator at the Darwin Center. He runs tours of the facility in addition to other duties and the main draw on his tour is a giant squid that has been preserved in a large tank. Only on his current tour, something is wrong, the squid is missing. How does a giant squid just "go missing" from a giant tank? Well two police officers that specialize in a rather abnormal branch of the police force suspect it may all be the fault of that silly religious squid group. They pull Billy into a crazy underground world in London that's full of magic, mayhem, and numerous religious cults. Billy will find that it may be up to him to stop the apocalypse itself.I liked the first couple chapters of this book and enjoyed the ending. The concept behind this novel is quirky and interesting and definitely creative. All of the characters are completely off the wall. You have Tattoo, the gangster-like character that exists only as a tattoo on a catatonic man's back. Collingsworth, a slight female police officer who has a bad case of tourette's. And a billion other incredibly crazy characters. The overall concept behind this story is very thoughtful. Basically Mieville is exploring the concept of people making things happen because that is what they believe to be true. There are also a ton of things I did not like about this novel. It is a difficult and time-consuming read. The chapters are erratic in length and the viewpoint switches between numerous characters. There are about a million plot lines with as many characters going on at once. Then there is the Brit-speak, this is especially bad in the beginning of the novel but gets better as it goes on.Mieville also just throws so many random facts at the reader that after a while (between all the Brit-speak and random junk) my eyes would just glaze over and my thoughts start to wander. Next thing I would be yawning and cursing this stupid book because it never really sticks to the story or gets to the point in any but the most meandering of ways. This was a book I constantly had to push myself through, I had to concentrate to get it to hold my interest. Which is really a pity because between all the extraneous junk, there is an interesting and darkly humorous story in here.The other bothersome thing is a similarity to other works already out there. The setting reminded me of Neverwhere by Gaiman or The Haunting of Alaizabel Crane by Chris Wooding (I know different time period). The deal with all the gods reminded some of Gaiman's American Gods. The crazy wackiness with which random events and different deities popped up reminded me of Simon Green's Nightside series. And in my opinion all the aforementioned works are much more well done. Anyone who compares Mieville's writing style to Gaiman is on crack, Gaiman writes an absolutely wonderful story and Mieville, while creative and innovative, tends to not focus on the story itself. The setting between Neverwhere and this book are somewhat similar though.So should you read it? If you liked The City and The City this book is written in the same somewhat fractured and strange style, so you may enjoy it. Just know that this book will require a lot of patience to get through. You will have to struggle through Brit Speak and weed out all the random excess of data Mieville throws at you. It is creative and darkly funny but a tough read. Personally it just wasn't my thing and put me off picking up any of Mieville's future works.
reannon on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
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.
GordonPowell on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Reminded me of Gaiman's Neverwhere, but I didn't like the story as much as Gaiman's. Great images, amazing metaphor, a whirlwind of tantalizing details, but I needed more story.
esswedl on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book is mostly a confused hodge-podge of things happening without too much agency. The ideas are clever, to be sure, a slight step up from Gaiman (the comparison is strong in the sense of fey and the hidden city) but nowhere near as good as Stephenson (who's treaded the same language-magic ground much more heavily). I rather enjoyed the dénouement, where (to not be too spoilery) it turns out things didn't happen and there is some good agency; after the hodge-podge, it was nice to have some clever little bows tied up.
Knicke on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I feel like this book owes a lot to Gaiman's Neverwhere and American Gods, but Mieville is an enjoyable writer in his own right. Best bits of this book were the descriptions of striking familiars, the Tatoo (what an awesome villain!), and the descriptions of the other villains, Goss and Subby. Mieville is able to create a strong feeling of dread with only a vague description of awfulness, and has written a world that is chockfull of STUFF with plenty of spaces for the readers own imagination to take over. Sort of long in the endgame, but all books like this seem to suffer from the same fate. Good, creepy fun.
jasonpettus on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [cclapcenter.com]. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally.)Well, you can at least definitely say this about the insanely popular political activist and New Weird author China Mieville, that he never does anything half-assed; now combine this with his long-stated goal of eventually writing at least one book in every literary genre that exists, and you can see why his immensely entertaining latest, Kraken, is not just a comedic conspiracy thriller about bizarre religious sects secretly running London, but is literally the greatest and most convoluted comedic conspiracy thriller about bizarre religious sects secretly running London that has ever been written. And that's what makes this novel such a light-hearted delight throughout its entire 500-plus pages, a hard mood to maintain for that long, because it's pretty much Mieville's ode to every urban fantasy tale that's ever been written, using a central beginning incident (a giant dead squid, pickled in formaldehyde, suddenly disappears in the wink of an eye one day at the city's Natural History Museum) to then bring just a ludicrous amount of magic-wielding secret societies and millennium-old villains out of the woodwork -- from murderous tattoos to union-striking animal familiars, people who can fold physical objects like furniture into origami shapes, Trekkie necromancers who build working phasers, and literally dozens more -- as they all debate and fight over which of them would actually steal the squid and why, as they chase each other between a whole variety of brain-explodingly inventive locations around the city, including a basement church for squid worshippers that's like a steampunk nightmare, a run-down house which actually is filled to the brim with sea water (being the ocean's official embassy on land), and just so many other details that you'll find yourself shaking your head and rubbing your eyes every ten pages or so, just to help all the unchecked creativity sink in. A worthy companion to the revered "Illuminatus! Trilogy" (and I don't say that lightly), it might be Mieville's other books that win all the awards and industry respect, but it's rollicking rollercoaster rides like these that will make him a fan favorite for decades still to come.Out of 10: 9.0, or 10 for fans of urban fantasy comedies
PhaedraB on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I picked up this book totally unfamiliar with the author. He writes well (although comparing him to Gaiman is, I think, just silly; they're nothing alike except for, by a stretch, setting) with an impressive vocabulary, but the book... I enjoyed it enough to read to the end, but early on I almost cast it aside as just plain silly. Not sure if I'll bother seeking out any more of his work. And that's the squidly truth.
-Eva- on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In a nutshell, what Perdido Street Station is to society and politics, Kraken is to faith and religion. Miéville proffers to the reader a plethora of thoughts, philosophies, cults, ideas, prophesies, idols, premonitions, exegesis, fanaticism, and (naturally) war, all wrapped in a fantastic tale of Billy, a rumored prophet (possibly virgin-born), and his pious bodyguard, Dane, out to save the God Kraken from its enemies and to prevent the ending of the world in the process.The world-building is spectacular as usual, but, as is also usual, prepare for a "treacle-read" - there is no rushing through the lush, erudite, and sumptuous language of a proper Miéville tale. The payoff is worth every effort, though, for to be transported to God Kraken's grotesque London by the imaginative mind of this author and be presented with his myriads of side-stories is an always intriguing, sometimes breathtaking, and occasionally an absolutely hilarious ride. (Vardy and Collingswood planning a double Armageddon is a riot!)
arjacobson on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Kraken by China Miéville (New York: Del Rey, 2010. 509 pp) This review originally posted at wherepenmeetspaper.blogspot.com . Visit for more reviews! China Miéville is the author of several notable novels, including King Rat, Perdido Street Station, The Scar, Iron Council, and Un Lun Dun. He describes his own work as ¿weird fiction.¿ He teaches creative writing at Warwick University, and is active in the Socialist Workers Party in his home country of England.Lost in a BookGetting lost in a novel can be rare. I still remember as a child reading one of the first books I chose to read on my own, and I wish I remembered what book it was. The characters seemed to burst off the page, and I became an avid reader from that point on. In Kraken, China Miéville manages to make a story burst off the page in a strong story of urban magical realism, though I got lost in his story, I also seemed to get lost in where the author was trying to go at times. In this story, a Kraken (giant squid) is stolen, and an amazing Dan Brown-esque adventure ensues.A Squid is StolenBilly Harrow, our protagonist, is the curator of The Darwin Center, part of London¿s Natural History museum. While on his normal tour schedule of the mollusk exhibit, he is disturbed to find that the prize of the exhibit, a preserved giant squid is stolen.¿The centre of the room was empty. All the jars looked over the scene of a crime. The nine-metre tank, the thousands of gallons of brine-Formalin, the dead giant squid itself were gone¿ (10).A Cult EmergesAn urban fantasy unveils as Kraken continues, where a magical underbelly emerges alongside modern technology. With the disappearance of this specimen, a mysterious group is strangely vexed that the giant squid is missing. This group worships the giant squid as god, and reveres Billy Harrow as its acolyte, as he¿s tended to it for some years now.¿His squid had been a relic in a reliquary. `This is kraken year zero...this is Anno Teuthis. We¿re in the end times. What d¿you think¿s been going on? You think it¿s just bloody chance that when you bring god up and treat it as you do, the world suddenly starts ending? Why do you think we kept coming to see? Why do you think we had someone on the inside?...We had to know. We had to watch. We had to protect it too, find out what was going on. We knew something was going to happen. You realise the reason you had a kraken to work on is because in roaring it rose and on the surface died?¿¿ (98).Because Billy had touched the body of god in the mind of the mysterious group, kept it safe, and preserved it against time itself, he ushered in the Anno Teuthis, a phrase meaning ¿the end of the world.¿ Not only is there a religious cult that worships the giant squid, but Billy also encounters weird ghosts from the television series Star Trek, a Sect-Related Crime Unit from the Metropolitan Police, and other strange phenomena like Waiti, a spirit from ancient Egypt who leads a group of magicians.A Magical Urban Fantasy All of these strange happenings in the plot make for a page-turning read. But, after a while, I felt a little lost. Page after page, a new fantastical incident occurs, and it¿s easy to get lost. Billy floats around in a world that is completely strange, involved in some sort of Kantian, duty-bound magical system. But, Billy rolls with the punches as his investigation gets kraken (pun certainly intended). His unassuming nature keeps him incredibly endearing as he fights the crime lord Tattoo and his demonic undead henchmen, Gross and Stubby.A Literary-Induced DreamI was given this novel as a gift by my friend Eric, the same one who recommended I read The Island of the Day Before by Umberto Eco. This novel wasn¿t what I expected. At all. In short, Kraken could be defined as humorous madness, a literary-induced dream, and quite a different read for my normal fare. I think being completely lost in a new literary world is a rare occurrence
Katong on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Whipped through this on my iPad (purchased from Kobo - the only ones selling internationally). Very inventive, compelling and lots of fun but something about the pacing was vaguely irritating at the same time. Still I like the idea of competing apocalypses...Loved Collingswood the witch policewoman and loved the villians. Esp ultimate one of course, revealed very late in the piece...
metamariposa on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Brilliant and bizarre. I put the book down for a year in between the first half and last half, but once I got back into it and could appreciate what Mieville was trying to do, I didn't stop wondering what happened. A great meditation on the textuality of religion, the religion of textuality, and the truth.