Book Review: Kraken

Cthulhu Month continues with this review of China Miéville’s nod to Lovecraft’s universe. Told in his unique style, although one won’t see R’yleh rising or hear the chanting of the Deep Ones off of Innsmouth, Lovecraft’s influence is plainly felt.


By China Miéville

Del Rey Hard Cover/509 pages


ISBN: 9780345497499

Release Date: June 2010

The end of the world is coming. Again. But Billy Harrow, a museum curator, is blissfully unaware that the trouble is brewing in the city of London. While conducting a tour of the Darwin Center, his first clue that something is terribly wrong comes when he finds his treasured giant-squid, an enormous specimen which he preserved himself, is missing–glass container and all.

Investigating its disappearance, Billy becomes entangled in the affairs of hidden London: a cult of squid-worshippers, sentient golems that can travel between statues, animal familiars, a talking tattoo, and a liquid madman. Soon, he finds his missing squid is the center of a world-ending prophecy, and  it is up to him and an excommunicated squid cultist, Dane, to stop the apocalypse.

Miéville’s novel is part mystery, part Lovecraftian fantasy, and part the sort of weirdness readers have come to associate with China Miéville. Fans of the Bas-Lag novels are sure to enjoy this latest creation. It’s wonderfully complex and abstract, with plot threads expertly woven to maintain pacing and keep the reader engaged. Like most of the author’s work, there is also a good deal of literary experimentation, with unexpected turns and perspectives which may take a reader by surprise.

One thing which the Miéville faithful may find in Kraken is a more playful tone. Although still influenced by Miéville’s left-leaning ideology, Kraken  is almost whimsical at times, incorporating light-hearted punwork (squid-pro-quo?) and amusing characters, such as a group of men who have hands where their heads should be, and are known as Knuckleheads.

Ambitious world-building illuminates an unknown London tucked alongside the modern metropolis. This is Miéville letting his imagination loose and giving us a delightfully entertaining, if intellectually challenging, read in the process. The strange and beautiful view Miéville has of the world should never leave readers feeling the work is tiresome, even at over 500 pages.

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