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The kraken wakes by John Wyndham

The kraken wakes (original 1953; edition 1964)

by John Wyndham

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1,223326,520 (3.66)72
Title:The kraken wakes
Authors:John Wyndham
Info:Penguin (1964), Unknown Binding
Collections:Your library

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The Kraken Wakes by John Wyndham (1953)

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» See also 72 mentions

English (29)  Danish (2)  German (1)  All languages (32)
Showing 1-5 of 29 (next | show all)
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 |
I didn't exactly like this one. There were some really good parts but the majority of the novel was quite boring. Lots of deliberation surrounding what was causing it all (with an unnecessary focus on Russians) and continued focus on how every thing was affecting economies and politics. It was a tedious read for me. ( )
  ebethiepaige | Oct 20, 2015 |
I didn't exactly like this one. There were some really good parts but the majority of the novel was quite boring. Lots of deliberation surrounding what was causing it all (with an unnecessary focus on Russians) and continued focus on how every thing was affecting economies and politics. It was a tedious read for me. ( )
  ebethiepaige | Oct 17, 2015 |
We considered the charts again in silence.
‘People,’ I told him, ‘are continually quoting to me things that the illustrious Holmes said to my namesake, but this time I’ll do the quoting: “When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” Which is to say that if it is no terrestrial nation that is doing this, then – ?’
‘That isn’t the kind of solution I like,’ he said.
‘It’s not the kind of solution anyone would like,’ I agreed.

Groups of red fireballs descend through the atmosphere, and when their trajectories are plotted it seems that they have all are likely to have landed in the deepest parts of the Ocean. Several years later strange evens start to happen at sea, and it takes a while for the two sets of phenomena to be linked.

The book starts with Mike Watson deciding to write a book about what has happened since the fireballs first appeared and then skips back to Mike and his wife Phyllis on their honeymoon cruise, seeing one of the earliest groups of fireballs land in the sea. Mike and Phyllis are radio journalists working for the EBC, and on their return to work they find that any stories related to the fireballs end up on their desks. They seem to have an unusually equal marriage for the early 1950s, indulging in lots of light-hearted banter and often working together, with Phyl's charm helping to get them information that they might not have got otherwise. They are present when the British navy attempts to send a manned bathysphere thousands of fathoms down at the place where a ship disappeared without trace, and after that ends disastrously things go from bad to worse, with the alien creatures in the deeps finding new ways to attack humanity over the next few years. Apparently the British and American versions of this book have different endings and I read the British version which ends on a hopeful note.

I hadn't read The Kraken Wakes since I was a teenager, but I always remembered it as being my favourite of John Wyndham's book, although I had forgotten all of the characters and almost all of the plot. But because I remembered so little I was able to enjoy it as if it was completely new to me. ( )
  isabelx | Sep 1, 2015 |
Consider this book a cross between Wyndham's most famous book, Day of the Triffids, and H G Wells' War of the worlds. Into an already edgy cold war climate come creatures which live in the deepest parts of our oceans and possess advanced technology. Weather it's our fault or theirs things escalate and only one species can survive.
There were two things I liked about this classic science fiction story. The first is Wyndham's playing with the media and the governmental spin put on the events being described in the book. He portray's his government and governments in general as completely useless when they are most needed. The other thing I liked was that Wyndham makes no attempt at any point to describe some monster from the deeps for us. He leaves everything up to our imaginations which, lets face it, can come up with all sorts of horrors to fill the gaps the author leaves. ( )
  ecumenicalcouncil | Jan 2, 2014 |
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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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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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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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Average: (3.66)
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