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The Kraken Wakes by John Wyndham
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The Kraken Wakes (original 1953; edition 1970)

by John Wyndham

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1,346358,296 (3.65)74
Member:othersam
Title:The Kraken Wakes
Authors:John Wyndham
Info:Penguin Books Ltd (1970), Paperback
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The Kraken Wakes by John Wyndham (1953)

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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 |
Trilogy: The Day of the Triffids, The Kraken Wakes, The Crysalids.

the Kraken Wakes has nothing to do with a Kraken. It is an alien invasion story. Human never see the enemy. It is a story about specific sea-based threat, the ecological implication, the discovery of ways to disable the threat. The enemy is unseen, it is a battle based on symptoms, like medical battles.
  drbrendan | Jul 2, 2016 |
Every time I review a John Wyndham I can not resist defending him against the “Cosy Catastrophe” label foisted upon him by [a: Brian Aldiss|33297|Brian W. Aldiss|https://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1333457329p2/33297.jpg]. The allegation is that Wyndham tends to write books where the middle class white protagonist is not much inconvenienced by the catastrophe affecting the general populace. He just holes up somewhere nice, smoking his cigars until it is all over. I have always felt this is unfair as his central characters get into plenty of scrapes in the books I read.

Having said that, the first half of The Kraken Wakes really does seem to justify this denunciation. It starts off very cosy and shuffles along amiably until all hell breaks loose in the novel's second half. The basic storyline is that some mysterious fireballs from outer space fall into deep oceans and soon ships start disappearing in the middle of their voyage. The word "alien" is not used in this book but yeah, bloody aliens are at it again. On the whole The Kraken Wakes reminds me a little bit of Wells’ [b: The War of the Worlds|497179|The Time Machine/The War of the Worlds|H.G. Wells|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1357744876s/497179.jpg|1156369] in that some aliens show up, start decimating mankind with their weird death machines, then bugger off. I would say that on the whole Wells’ book is superior but the second half of this book gives Wells a run for his money.

The Kraken Wakes is split into three “phases” (excluding the prologue), in the first phase the fireballs appear and ships start disappearing, in the second phase the aliens begin their attack on coastal towns, and the third phase is the apocalypse. The book is quite nicely structured with the occasional jumps in the timeline to up the intrigue factor. There is an obvious tonal shift from the first half of the book to the second. Initially the first person narrative is written in rather jovial vernacular language. A lot of time is spent on investigating the underwater mystery through news reports and expositions from the novel’s main boffin, Professor Bocker. The two main characters Mike and Phyllis Watson are journalists through whose eyes we see the events of the novel. They are a lovely couple, always ready with their cute bantering and terms of endearment, some of their lovey dovey dialogue made me a little nauseous. In the meantime the scientists and the military spend half the book barking up the wrong tree.

I was getting a little tired of the cosy jocularity until the middle of Phase 2 when the aliens proceed with their land incursions. The book suddenly becomes quite thrilling with the advent of the invading “sea tanks” which are made from organic matter rather than metal; an early example of biotechnological machines. The war with the aliens takes up the rest of Phase 2 with humanity giving a pretty good account of ourselves though the war continues. In Phase 3 the aliens engineer a major global disaster and civilization has broken down. This is the most thrilling part of the book, as despair sets in and the cosy atmosphere is suddenly gone. The situation looks grim for mankind and even our middle class protagonists are in danger. The ending of the war again reminds me of [b: The War of the Worlds|497179|The Time Machine/The War of the Worlds|H.G. Wells|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1357744876s/497179.jpg|1156369] as it is almost a “deus ex machina”, even though it makes sense there is no build up to it and it feels like Wyndham just simply pulled the solution out of his posterior. Though I like the more epic feel of the story as the war with the aliens goes on for several years rather than just over a wild weekend, and life on Earth is never the same again afterwards.

By the end of the book my faith in John Wyndham is entirely restored. I feel like the lighthearted tone of the earlier part of the book is a misstep for the story Wyndham wanted to tell, once the tone shifts into darker apocalyptic territory he is firing from all cylinders. So 3 stars for the first half of the book, and 5 stars for the second, that averages out to 3.5 but as this is not actually maths I’d say 4 stars is more appropriate! ( )
  apatt | Dec 26, 2015 |
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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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