Friday, July 8, 2011
A Kraken. The Fundamentalist and Sect Related Crime Unit. Cults. Magic. Londonmancers. A Tattoo. Union of Magicked Assistants. Shabti. Familiars. Ink. Angels of Memory. Eschatological Terror. A Phaser. Apocalypses. Chaos Nazis. The Sea. Katachronophlogistan.
China Mieville’s Kraken, the 2011 Locus Fantasy Award Winner, is an urban fantasy populated with ingenious characters. In my opinion, they are the reason to read the book. Kraken is partly a mystery, and the ending is intellectually satisfying. Because this is only the second book that I have read by Mieville—I read The City and the City—I was not sure if this book was representative of his style. He uses the “f” word more than any book I have read in recent memory, but at the same time his vocabulary is robust. This is an intelligent, action-filled, well-written book.
Briefly, a kraken is unexplainably stolen from the British Museum of Natural History. The theft is discovered by Billy Harrow, who had originally been responsible for preserving the kraken. Who stole the kraken and how? Why did they do it? How does the theft tie in with an apocalypse by fire? As the story progresses, Billy goes from a quasi-victim to a heroic figure. Also prominent in the plot are Kath Collingswood, a sort of urban-witch detective, and Marge, the girlfriend of Billy’s best friend Leon. The plot is filled with various cults and magical characters.
Kraken is the type of book that makes me grow as a blogger as I try to describe my experience as a reader. The book is on the side of dark, yet not depressing or frightening. Rather than finding the book blatantly funny, my brain tended to register this is really cool and quirky. While I wasn’t emotionally attached to the characters, I was intellectually invested in them. I did have brief moments when I had had enough of all the strangeness and wanted to get on with the plot. This morning, after finishing the book late last night, I still am amazed by how clever the book is.