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Kraken by China Mieville

Kraken (original 2010; edition 2010)

by China Mieville

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2,2411192,862 (3.64)207
Authors:China Mieville
Info:Del Rey Books (2010), Hardcover, 509 pages
Collections:Your library

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Kraken: An Anatomy by China Miéville (2010)

Recently added byMaraBlaise, AltheaAnn, jen.e.moore, private library, Helenliz, MarcusB, walktapus, mhaar, Tarar, roninsb

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Showing 1-5 of 118 (next | show all)
4.5 stars, really.
This tale of a magical, modern-day London and a coming apocalypse is both clever and thoughtful. I loved it. However, while it delighted me, I can see that it probably has a limited audience. It's rife with pop culture references. Pop culture references in literature usually annoy me, however, in this book they had what I can only imagine is the usual intended effect: the feeling that "he's writing this just for ME!" Tintin and Star Trek, Peter Sotos and G.G. Allin, Ursula LeGuin and Michael Moorcock... if you've got no idea about any of that, you're going to miss a lot. I also fit into the sub-group of readers who are highly cynical of religion, but fascinated by the operations of belief systems. I love the idea of the interstitial, of hidden streets and occult knowledge. Maps. Arcane and ancient relics. Books. Magic. Science. Oceans. etc. ME!
He's aiming at a specific age group, and a particular cultural milieu to comment on, and it's on-target.
It's quite different from most of Mieville's other books, more like Un Lun Dun than anything. At times, it reminded me quite a lot of Neil Gaiman (think 'Neverwhere')- but a much nastier, more disturbing Gaiman; one who pulls no punches.

Addendum: It's taken me a bit to put my finger on this. Something Mieville does astoundingly well in this book is something I'm not sure I've ever really seen done well before. You know those nightmares/dreams where something OUGHT to be splendiforous and magnificent - but yet it's not? It's almost wonderful - but something isn't quite right, making it either banal, terrifying, or just wrong? The protagonist, Billy, has one of those dreams in the book, and the plot of the book follows that concept as well. It's effectively disturbing. I feel I'm left with the same feeling that one of those dreams gives me. ( )
  AltheaAnn | Feb 9, 2016 |
VERY confusing and difficult to follow, but it was really entertaining anyway. I maybe should have gotten the synopsis on Schmoop to follow along for help with identifying who was who and what was what. Mieville certainly has a vivid imagination. ( )
  KathyGilbert | Jan 29, 2016 |
Weird Fiction is definitely the best "label" for this book. This Urban Fantasy novel is set in contemporary London with the thief of a preserved giant squid from the British Museum of Natural History inaugurates the end of the world. The world-building, quirks of setting and characters, and the ideas about religion combine to make this a very dense and literary read. Humour can be found in the lengths to which the absurd and ridiculous are taken seriously.

Billy Harrow, the squid's preservationist, is quickly caught up in the Krakenists, an obscure cult that worships squids. Dane, an ex-Krakenist warrior, becomes his guardian and mentor. However, the Fundamentalist and Sect-Related Crime (FSRC) unit of the London Metropolitan Police are also on the case. Kath Collingswood, a female witch, takes center stage for the FSRC. Wati, an Egyptian spirit who can inhabit any statue, helps guide Billy and Dane. (Wati is also actively overseeing the strike of the Union of Magicked Assistants.) The Londonmancers, a sect of prognosticators who examine the guts of London, are consulted. Meanwhile, Marge, the girlfriend of Billy's best friend Leon, searches for the truth of what happened to Leon and Billy.

The theft seems to have been orchestrated between rival gangs in a desire cause (or prevent) Armageddon. The villains of the piece are typified by The Tattoo, a ferocious sentient tattoo, who leads Goss and Subby, ancient assassin partners, as well as The Chaos Nazis. Grisamentum, a dead magician who rivaled The Tattoo's power base, construct another side of the quest.

The result is a complex, darkly humourous tale that takes the ludicrous as reality. The non-linear plot is as confounding and rambling as it is intriguing. Definitely not for the faint of heart.

(Entry points are through language, styles, and themes; not plot or character.) ( )
  ktoonen | Jan 27, 2016 |
Billy Harrow is a curator at the National History Museum in London whose duties include leading the occasional tour of the inner workings of the museum's Darwin Centre. Tours which are ostensibly to show the public what goes on behind the scenes, but which everyone knows are really to allow people to gawp at the museum's prize exhibit: an 8.62m long almost perfectly preserved specimen of Architeuthis dux, the giant squid. The squid and its giant tank dominate the room in which they are held, until the day that Billy shepherds his group into the room to discover that the squid is no longer there ... Far too large to have been stolen by any conceivable method, its disappearance is a crime assigned to one of the more unorthodox branches of the Metropolitan police, the Fundamentalist and Sect-Related Crime Unit, or FSRC for short. For it turns out that there are more strange sects in London than Billy had ever thought possible, many of whom seem to have their own reasons for stealing the squid.

As apocalyptic predictions connected with the squid's theft proliferate, the different cults of London make desperate attempts to find it. As the person who first discovered its theft, as well as the key person responsible for its preservation, Billy is soon under suspicion of knowing more than he has admitted. Within days Billy is on the run, along with an excommunicated member of a cult that worships the giant squid, and aided and abetted by an unusual shop steward who is busy organising a strike of magical familiars. To avoid being captured by the fearsome Tattoo, and his henchmen Goss and Subby, who have been terrorising London on and off for centuries, Billy must find out who has really got the squid, and in doing so, avert the predicted apocalypse ....

This is a reread, brought on by us doing exactly the same tour in the Natural History Museum over Christmas that sparks off all the action in the book. Luckily the squid was very much present on our tour! It's not Miéville's best book, but it is good fun, although a little gruesome at times. Recommended for lovers of Neverwhere or Rivers of London . ( )
  SandDune | Jan 17, 2016 |
Let’s make one thing clear: China Miéville is way too ripped for his chosen profession. Being the new demigod of speculative/weird English fiction, he should by rights be some kind of hunch-backed, bespectacled, bowl-haircut paradigm of nerd. Instead he’s an Adonis, a Hercules, a shaven-headed Atlas – standing out among his many accolades is the coveted “best guns in literature” award; a title he seems unlikely to yield anytime soon.
Tomcat, Could They Beat-Up China Miéville? Blog

Well, that is certainly not germane to Kraken but China Miéville remains my favorite literary anomaly. He is without a doubt one of the most gifted authors working today, it is very fortunate for genre fans like myself that he has a predilection for the fantastical. I would not hesitate to recommend him to anybody who likes to read sf/f/h books. However, I would not recommend that they start with Kraken. This is not to say that it is bad, I doubt he can write a POS book, it is just that it is far from being his best novel and it is less accessible in spite of the deceptively straight forward synopsis (which you can read elsewhere, thanks).

The weirdness starts pretty much from page one and does not relent much from that point. The prose, the characters, and the dialogs are generally weirder than Crispin Glover under the influence of magic mushrooms. That said, existing fans of Miéville should not skip this book as it is a hoot, by now you should have built up a tolerance for his brand of weirdness. Once the reader is settled into the very odd scenario of this novel there are many delightful things to discover. My favorite is Extreme Origami which is the art of folding any damn thing you want, including people. After reading a few dark themed novels by him this book seems like China Miéville letting his hair down (ha! sorry China!). There is a lot of eccentric humor and pop cultural references in this book, Star Trek especially, including a talking Kirk doll, a tribble, and working phaser (occasionally set on stun). This is a London where magic mixes nicely with technology (including a combination of necromantics and unix).

Miéville is always a dab hand at creating interesting characters, though it must be said that I found the supporting characters much more interesting than the protagonist (hey, it works for J.K. Rowling). My favorite is the badass policewoman named Collingswood who reassures a woman who reported some missing persons by saying “Rest assured we're going to leave no stone unturned in our search for wossname and thingy.”

So, a total hoot for established fans of China Miéville, our hero does not normally write such light hearted materials but when he does it does it in style. If you are completely new to Miéville I highly recommend picking up [b:Perdido Street Station|68494|Perdido Street Station (New Crobuzon, #1)|China Miéville|http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51NSMZRX33L._SL75_.jpg|3221410] or [b:The Scar|68497|The Scar (New Crobuzon, #2)|China Miéville|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1320435192s/68497.jpg|731674], both are absolutely brilliant and easier to get into. If you start with Kraken you may find yourself on a slippery slope (depends on how well you adapt to weird shenanigans).

His latest book (as of today) [b:Embassytown|9265453|Embassytown|China Miéville|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1320470326s/9265453.jpg|14146240] is more highly acclaimed than Kraken, and I am looking forward to reading it soon.
( )
  apatt | Dec 26, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 118 (next | show all)
Kraken utilises Miéville’s common setting of London, albeit a strange London. This otherness beside the familiar is a strand in his work evident from King Rat and Un Lun Dun through to THE CITY AND YTIC EHT.

This one started out as if it may have been written with a film or TV adaptation in mind - one with a potentially light-hearted take - but soon veers off down strange Miévillean byways which may be unfilmable. For these are the end times and cultists worshipping all manner of weird gods abound.

It begins with a kind of locked room mystery as a giant squid, Architeuthis, has been stolen - formalin, tank and all - from its stance in the Darwin Centre, a natural history museum where Billy Harrow is a curator. He helped to prepare the squid for show and is thought to hold the knowledge that might allow all those interested in its recovery to find it. The police fundamentalist and cult squad, the FSRC, is called in to help investigate the disappearance which becomes more involved when Billy discovers a body pickled (in too small a jar) in the museum’s basement. And these are merely the first strangenesses to be encountered in this book. We also have the consciousness of a man embedded within a tattoo, a tattoo which moves and speaks. Then there is the double act of Goss and Subby - two shapeshifting baddies from out of time (they shift other people’s shapes) - and weird sects, cults and mancers of all sorts.

Never short of incident and brimming with plot the novel is probably a bit too convoluted, with too many characters for its own good, and its one-damn-strange-thing-after-another-ness can verge on overkill. But this is an unashamed fantasy, a form to which I am antipathetic when it is taken to extremes; and Miéville is not one for restraint.

While Kraken sometimes skirts along the edge of comedy it never fully embraces it. There are too many killings and acts of violence for comedy to sit comfortably. I might have liked the novel better if it had. Its main fault is that it never manages to settle on which sort of book it is meant to be, straddling various narrative stools such as police procedural, one man against the odds, woman in search of the truth about her vanished lover, etc.
added by jackdeighton | editA Son Of The Rock, Jack Deighton (Jan 29, 2011)
Miéville has done what all great science-fiction has done—and great so-called literary fiction, when it gets around to it—provide a nuanced, highly imagined critique of the zeitgeist, dressed up in a crackerjack story.
""... "Kraken" is, no mistake, a literary work. The hint is in the subtitle, "An Anatomy," because Miéville is exploring the gap between the prosaic squid and the mythic Kraken, between the mundane ground of everyday life and the sacred. What precisely turns a fish into a god? What is the anatomy of a legend? And how do gods manifest themselves in our world?
...Miéville's best work since "Perdido Street Station."

» Add other authors (2 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Miéville, Chinaprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Higurashi, MasamichiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Valdez, Elisa LazoCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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“The green waves break from my sides
As I roll up, forced by my season”

    —Hugh Cook, “The Kraken Wakes”
To Mark Bould
First words
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.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Welcome to London
and an underground of cults,
cops, baddies and ... squid.

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Being chased by cults, a maniac, and the sorcerers of the Fundamentalist and Sect-Related Crime Unit, cephalopod specialist Billy Harrow inadvertently learns that he holds the key to finding a missing squid--a squid that just happens to be an embryonic god whose powers, properly harnessed, can destroy all that is, was, and ever shall be.… (more)

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