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The Kraken Wakes by John Wyndham

The Kraken Wakes (1953)

by John Wyndham

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,371378,370 (3.65)74
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    divinenanny: Almost the same premis, but expanded and modernised.
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» See also 74 mentions

English (34)  Danish (2)  German (1)  All languages (37)
Showing 1-5 of 34 (next | show all)
I always love John Wyndham books, something about the matter of fact, somewhat old fashioned voice to the protagonists. They are a bit dated and you could say sexist, but there is usually a strong female character proving the 1950s male characters wrong. In The Kraken Wakes we have a mysterious alien invasion and it shows how ill-equipped we are to deal with a war with a creature so different to us. It works well as a parable about climate change and sea level change, as well as exploring how quickly society can break down, and how ineffective government can be in a time of crisis. Reading this in late 2018 I couldn't help thinking of Brexit parallels too. ( )
  AlisonSakai | Jan 13, 2019 |
Horrifying and well told story of the terrifying consequences when an unknown threat takes control of the oceans, beginning with sinking ships before moving on to raids on seaside areas and then melting the ice caps. Particularly poignant given the current threat of global warming ( )
  AccyP | Dec 20, 2018 |
In 1953 John Wyndham's tale of alien invasion, following in the footsteps of H.G. Wells, was published in England as "The Kraken Wakes". That same year an American version was published in America as a Ballantine paperback original (35c on the cover) and that was what was in my hand as I read, "Out of the Deeps". There are no Krakens as we might think of them in either book. According to wikipedia I was warned there are differences between the two books. This was Wyndham's second novel, following upon the breakout "Day of the Triffids."

After finishing the American paperback I then listened to an audiobook of the British version, The Kraken Wakes. I never think it entirely fair to review an audiobook vs a print book since so much can depend on the delivery of a narrator, plus or minus. So I tried to focus on the story itself to decide overall strengths and weaknesses of the different versions of the story. As it happens I like both versions of the story, and I thought the narrator very good, and I think I'd give a slight nod to the British version as the better of the two. The main story is told in 3 parts, named Phase One, Phase Two and Phase Three. The British version begins quite differently - there is an extended preface that the American novel lacks, and I liked it. It also describes the choice of the title, coming from a poem by Tennyson.

Below the thunders of the upper deep;
Far, far beneath in the abysmal sea,
His ancient, dreamless, uninvaded sleep
The Kraken sleepeth: faintest sunlights flee
About his shadowy sides: above him swell
Huge sponges of millennial growth and height;
And far away into the sickly light,
From many a wondrous grot and secret cell
Unnumbered and enormous polypi
Winnow with giant arms the slumbering green.
There hath he lain for ages and will lie
Battening upon huge sea-worms in his sleep,
Until the latter fire shall heat the deep;
Then once by man and angels to be seen,
In roaring he shall rise and on the surface die.

I think the British preface is a very nice introduction to what we read. It lets us know right off that the narrator is looking back on the past and how the world has changed and how he and his wife, the two of them an integral part of the story, lived through it.

The British novel is a much longer and elaborate story. I noted in a great number of places that descriptive bits and extended conversations had been cut out for the American version, as well as changes to phrasing here and there. As I listened I noted some of the added detail in the British version was quite good and probably should or could have been left in, and in other places sections were chopped out or completely rewritten, sometimes for the better in the American version as the dialogue gets excessively wordy at times. There is overall quite a lot of material in the British edition that does not appear in the American. The American version of the story comes across as a much tighter story and supplies an ending with added material which was a plus. In sum, the American version was quite satisfactory and then listening to the British version I was able to pick up extra details and backstory.

So what is the story about - it is about an alien invasion that was not recognized for a number of years. When the monsters do show up things get a little wild and entertaining. We never actually see the invaders as far as I could tell. By the end much of humanity is gone and the world has been vastly changed by rising sea levels. The invading enemy has suffered as well but would seem to be victorious. Who were they and where did they come from and why? These questions were asked early on. We never find out. The story leaves us with a sense that humanity might eventually survive due to an invention by the Japanese that seems to destroy the aliens. But who knows - the world as it once was is gone. I liked the American ending of the novel much better.

The story suffers from weaving the Russians and the Cold War into things far too much, even for a story published in 1953. I was also bothered by an excess of denial (especially in the original Brit version but both versions suffer from it) of what was going on - this was after all prime-time in the UFO sighting years. Once or twice, fine, but on and on year after year, I just didn't buy it. Still, this was fairly good reading of an oldie and I'll give it a 3 star OK. ( )
  RBeffa | Feb 26, 2018 |
Aliens from Jupiter invade the deep sea in the 1950s, we nuke them, they kidnap thousands then melt the ice caps. Much jolly japery about the Russkies. Interestingly prescient account of the horrors of rapid sea level rise. ( )
  adzebill | Apr 29, 2017 |
Typical Wyndham, which is a Good Thing. This one gets off to a slow start, building gradually over several years, before the world realizes that the situation is dire. Published in 1953, the Cold War is heavily present through most of the book, but almost everything that happens could just as well take place in the present. Outside of the use of radio as the primary method of disseminating news, most of the technology and attitudes are familiar. Which is pretty scary. There are strong, unavoidable parallels to the current situation with climate change, and the general attitude of "We don't know what to do, so let's pretend it isn't happening." We see governments acting as governments do, military acting as military does, regular people acting as regular people do, and media following the orders of government rather more than one would expect today. The hero is the usual competent, stoic type, but with an unexpected interlude of PTSD. Then there's his wife, the ever-resourceful Phyllis. She provides most of the personality in the book (although that isn't necessarily saying a lot). As much as I liked the pair of them, I wanted to take a pen and cross out the word "darling" every time they used it. Especially when it was used multiple times in a single conversation. While The Kraken Wakes is not going to replace The Day of the Triffids in my affections, I did like it very much. ( )
  SylviaC | Oct 25, 2016 |
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» Add other authors (6 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Wyndham, Johnprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bacon, C.W.Cover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Buddingh', C.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jennings, AlexNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kannosto, MattiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lord, PeterCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Salwowski, MarkCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Willock, HarryCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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The nearest iceberg looked firmly grounded.
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It all began with a series of fireballs falling into the oceans. When the Admiralty began to investigate, they found that their equipment and personnel disappeared deep underwater.

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