Sunday, May 16, 2010

Kraken by China Mieville

Summary (partial summary -- courtesy of Goodreads): With this outrageous new novel, China MiĆ©ville has written one of the strangest, funniest, and flat-out scariest books you will read this—or any other—year. The London that comes to life in Kraken is a weird metropolis awash in secret currents of myth and magic, where criminals, police, cultists, and wizards are locked in a war to bring about—or prevent—the End of All Things.
             In the Darwin Centre at London’s Natural History Museum, Billy Harrow, a cephalopod specialist, is conducting a tour whose climax is meant to be the Centre’s prize specimen of a rare Architeuthis duxbetter known as the Giant Squid. But Billy’s tour takes an unexpected turn when the squid suddenly and impossibly vanishes into thin air.
             As Billy soon discovers, this is the precipitating act in a struggle to the death between mysterious but powerful forces in a London whose existence he has been blissfully ignorant of until now, a city whose denizens—human and otherwise—are adept in magic and murder.
All of them—and others—are in pursuit of Billy, who inadvertently holds the key to the missing squid, an embryonic god whose powers, properly harnessed, can destroy all that is, was, and ever shall be.

Ok -- I don't always like to take summaries from another source, but for this book, I thought it might be best.  For me to attempt to summarize what's going on in this story would be .... confusing.  No doubt I'd miss something, or not explain it well enough...  and there's so much here, so much wonderful rich detail, that I know I wouldn't be able to do justice to this book by trying to tell you what it's about.

So what did I think about this book?   This author is one my all-time favorites.  The worlds he creates in his stories are awful and wonderful, terrifying and beguiling, horrible and beautiful.  I know that might not make any sense.   I don't often encounter other readers who love his books like I do.  And they're not easy reads.  This book isn't an easy read (at least, I don't think it's an easy read.  Doubtless, there's someone out there who'd argue with me about this, but they're not the one writing this post, are they?).   When I pick up one of Mieville's books, I tell myself:  don't think too much --- just relax back into the story and let it wash over and through you.    This book was no different.   There's a lot going on here, and it can be tricky to keep everything straight.    There's a lot of tension, and scary moments, but there's also some sly humor to balance things out when it gets too dark.  I know the description above says this book is strange, funny, and scary --- it's all those things and more.  It's dark and uncomfortable, but I can't stay away from it.   Does that make sense?  Maybe only to my mind.

I have met people who loved Un Lun Dun (a book group I'm in read that book), but I tell them:  even if you love that story, you might not love anything else by this author.   Just because I love The Scar and Perdido Street Station and Iron Council didn't mean I was going to love The City and the City (although yes, I did love that book, as well).   I find this author extremely compelling just because what he writes is strange and uncomfortable, and like nothing I've ever read.  

Let's leave with a little sentence that made me smile.....  "The world lurched again.  Reeled, as in the was punched sense, rather than the dancing."   p. 391       

And where did I get this book?   I treated myself to a copy from The Book Depository UK

And, this book met the guidelines for the Chunkster Challenge by being 450+ pages of adult literature.  This weighs in at 481.


Amanda Makepeace said...

I'm looking forward to reading this if I can get my hands on copy. :D

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