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"I may not know how to fly but I know how to read and that's almost the same thing."-- Gregory Maguire, Out of Oz

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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Kraken by China Mieville


Would it be cheesy to say I thought this mystery was spellbinding? What if I mean it literally?

The book starts off with a heavy science fiction feel. The main character, Billy, is a curator at a museum, where he preserves dead creatures in formalin. Including, Archie aka The Kraken, a giant squid, unharmed by fishermen and death, perfectly preserved. Then the story tries to claim an air of satire, with characters that swear regardless of reason and talk in nonsense. I can see why so many people who reviewed the book negatively called it ridiculous, but they were paying too close attention. The more I accepted the nonsense-circular-dialogue, it became much easier to read in between the lines and understand what the characters weren't saying. Like an optical illusion, the less you look the more you see.

The book quickly squashes the notion of science fiction, inviting strange cults, magicians, Gods, angels, and an assortment of other creature-thing-people-hybrids, into the heart of London, and into a war for or against the Apocalypse. This is a who-done-it where everyone has a motive and gets the chance to point the finger at someone else. If I had to compare the book, (which I usually hate doing, but I'll do it) it would be a hybrid of Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code and Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere.

The humor and magic is enchanting; the violence overly gory to remind the reader this is not a fairytale. This is the End... We just don't know whose end. The mystery was well played. The plot twists and character revelations were unexpected and try as I might, I could not guess the end. Nothing spoils a book like predictability.

And the characters were just plain weird. Seriously. Some of the most un-magical, un-extraordinary people you will ever meet. Billy Science Geek. Marge the Artist. Dane -- Well, okay I guess Dane was pretty interesting guy... But seriously? The leader of the familiars, Wati, had this big back story on how rebellious he was in life. And in the end, he served everyone else. I don't know if China Mieville struggled to finish that thought or if I just missed the train.

But all in all, I enjoyed it. I enjoyed where CM took care to be vague and enjoyed the details even more. I loved the constant shout-outs to Star Trek, the idea that the world is full of religions and magic, and that modern technology combined with the right "knacker" means anything is possible.

Oh, yeah, I want that iPod.

Rating: 5/5
Original review posted:
Aug 31, 12

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