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. 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.
BONUS: This edition contains an excerpt from China Miéville’s Embassytown.
British fantasist Mie ville mashes up cop drama, cults, popular culture, magic, and gods in a Lovecraftian New Weird caper sure to delight fans of Perdido Street Station and The City the City. When a nine-meter-long dead squid is stolen, tank and all, from a London museum, curator Billy Harrow finds himself swept up in a world he didn't know existed: one of worshippers of the giant squid, animated golems, talking tattoos, and animal familiars on strike. Forced on the lam with a renegade kraken cultist and stalked by cops and crazies, Billy finds his quest to recover the squid sidelined by questions as to what force may now be unleashed on an unsuspecting world. Even Mie ville's eloquent prose can't conceal the meandering, bewildering plot, but his fans will happily swap linearity for this dizzying whirl of outrageous details and fantastic characters.
The Story Proper is a Bit of a Wait
This review was first published on Kurt's Frontier.
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.
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
Convoluted & meandering miasma.
The premise of the book may have had potential but was presented in such a convoluted & disjointed manner that the struggle to read the book ultimately wasn't worth the effort. About halfway through I realized that I just didn't care anymore & would rather move onto a book that was enjoyable as well as interesting.