Kraken by China Miéville
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I had my ups and downs with this title, but in the end it's mostly all ups. The language was the biggest thorn, though in my other frames of mind, I also really enjoyed it at the same time.
What this book is not, is a quick and light read meant to delight and float through your mind like a cloud of ink.
It deserves to be savoured and gloated over, perhaps even stopping a bit to roll the cadences of copspeak off your tongue to feel its beat. I had to do it, too, before I realized that it sounded just fine. It's the reading of it that seemed jarring, almost as if it was a mirror to the jarring concepts that butted heads all throughout the maze of the story.
I was reminded, very pleasantly, of Perdido Street Station, which I also had an almost identical problem with. The worldbuilding on both of these are so damn rich and weird and well thought-out. The feel of the societies is ripe and bursting with flavor. Of course, Perdido was fantasy stationed in an alien landscape that just happened to be modern-human flavored, while this one just happened to be dark-fantasy mythospunk plopped right into the heart of modern London. The two aren't all that different. English=Alien. I watch Doctor Who. I know what I'm talking about.
Seriously, both novels weave a complex tapestry of groups and individuals with brightly colored lives that I could never forget, carrying burdens and gifts that made up for a hell of a lot of plot stretching and twists that made perfect sense in the end. The problem is in the getting there.
I had to be patient. Repeatedly.
I had to tell myself to have faith in the Kraken, but what I really wanted was to pick up the bottle.
I jest... or do I?
We got a major turf war of gods and their believers ravaging London. The prophets all agreed that the universe would end in fire, and end very soon. We've got a bumbling test-tube nerd who preserves specimens turning out to be the big hero, and we've got a security guard sacrificing his live to ink.
Was I pretty much amazed by the inclusion of so many fascinating characters? Oh hell yes. I'll never look at my fountain pen the same again, and I'm still thinking of the stitches in the mouth of a certain tattoo. And who needs lsd if you've got a dram of mollusk ink? And these are just a few of the many interesting tidbits that show up throughout the novel. It's littered with orphaned ideas and pretty turns. I mean, really, Buddhist-Jesus monks pulling a West Side Story? Talking Kirks, statues, and the patron of all fair-wage picketers, *Oh Wadi, Wadi,*.
And cold fire. What a fantastic SF twist THAT one turned out to be.
Truly, it was a satisfying wrap up. So many threads came back together to pack one hell of a punch, just like Perdido Street Station.
If I ever read this a second time, I'm going to do it slowly, savoring each turn and hint and phrase very carefully. I'm certain I'll get a lot more out of it. In the meantime, though, I can't honestly give it a full five stars. It was slow to develop, and some of Billy's blindness was a bit annoying, but it was all a matter of falling down the rabbit hole, anyway, so I decided to take the ride with him. Marge, on the other hand, was a breath of sanity throughout the text that proved to be the best steadying factor for me. Dane was a solid and thorough plot-mover, and he grew on me, too. Collinsworth? Oh, well, she's unique. :)
I did really enjoy this novel. It wasn't so much a Lovecraftian tribute as it was a Mythos tribute. Practically everything that the mythos built was pretty original. We got pieces of chaos nazis, a bit of Read Or Die, but everything else was pure extrapolation and imagination, as far as I could tell. I liked the Londonomancers and the Krakenites. Honestly, the Mythospunk was probably the very best part of the novel.
Not perfect, but there's so much to enjoy that I was very willing to see it through and I'm very glad I did.
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