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Beth Meacham, David Brin


Kraken - China Mieville
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 Perdido Street Station, 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) Embassytown is more highly acclaimed than Kraken, and I am looking forward to reading it soon.