four-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
48-Sept-Oct-2010
user_rating: 
0

A-KrakenBest-selling British author China Miéville has won numerous awards for his New Weird fantasy fiction, including three Arthur C. Clarke Awards, two British Fantasy Awards, and four Locus Awards. Recently reviewed: The City & The City ( 4 of 5 Stars Sept/Oct 2009), Un Lun Dun ( 3.5 of 5 Stars May/Jun 2007), and Iron Council ( 4 of 5 Stars Selection Jan/Feb 2005).

The Story: Billy Harrow, a curator at the Darwin Centre in London’s Natural History Museum, is conducting a routine tour when he discovers that the Centre’s valuable specimen of Architeuthis dux--giant squid--has mysteriously vanished, tank and all. While investigating the disappearance, Billy plunges into a treacherous, mystical underworld just beneath London’s surface, inhabited by a ruthless cult of squid-worshippers, demonic assassins, wizards, soothsayers, disembodied spirits, and a shadowy law enforcement agency, the Fundamentalist and Sect-Related Crime Unit (FSRC), which specializes in paranormal cases. He soon finds himself an unwitting pawn in an epic holy war--and the only person who may be able to save the world.
Del Rey. 528 pages. $26. ISBN: 9780345497499

Entertainment Weekly 4 of 5 Stars
"With his tale of a giant-squid corpse, Miéville, never predictable, lobs a grenade into the urban-fantasy genre, remaking it into wild comedy. ... Miéville tears through the story with an almost manic energy, bulldozing past the few places where the plot falters. (It’s saying something about his imagination that the gigantic tentacled creature is one of the least odd things in Kraken.)" Tina Jordan

Independent (UK) 4 of 5 Stars
"All the pieces are in place and we can almost hear the comfortable plot mechanics crank with familiar strain until, with the inviting image of an open hand reaching from a wrapped parcel, we are suddenly pulled into a much wilder sort of book. ... Simultaneously reverent and brimming with punky attitude, Kraken proves Miéville is ever forging new ground, even when walking the same grey pavements as his readers." Nick Garrard

Onion A.V. Club 4 of 5 Stars
"It’s another mess--of slippery subgenres, dizzying ideas, and horrific supernatural beings. Only here, he wields that spastic chaos with a nervy, thrilling discipline. And now that he has a handle on the anarchy, Kraken is hands-down the most fun book he’s written in years." Jason Heller

SF Reviews.net 4 of 5 Stars
"Irreverent, funny, full of frenzied action, and unclassifiable except as pure Miéville, Kraken is a feast for its wily creator’s fans while giving his detractors a whole new catalog of reasons to clutch their pearls. ... In Kraken, Miéville’s brought his A-game." Thomas M. Wagner

Daily Mail (UK) 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Sounds crazy? Well, yes, it is crazy, this world teeming with gods, ghosts and spirits, and although Miéville conjures them up with fizzing verbal extravagance, a basic problem remains--it’s all just far too daft to convince." Harry Richie

Guardian (UK) 3.5 of 5 Stars
"For readers who are drawn to fantasy precisely for [its emotional resonance and mythic qualities], Kraken may seem like a handsome but empty cadaver missing its emotional heart. But for Miéville’s dedicated and growing readership, Kraken succeeds in reforming the urban fantasy around a tougher, funnier and more intellectually demanding core." Damien G. Walter

io9.com 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Indeed, though the twist ending is as inventive as anything Miéville has written, it feels random and unwarranted. ... Just don’t go into it expecting a payoff at the end. With Kraken, the pleasure is all in the ride around the London of Miéville’s imagination." Annalee Newitz

Critical Summary

Hailed as "a truly delirious ride" by SF Reviews.net, Miéville’s latest novel resists all attempts at categorization. By turns an urban fantasy, a rousing whodunit, a study of religious mania, and an impish parody of all three, Kraken is cheeky fun and a testament to Miéville’s spectacular storytelling skills. While this light, playful tone marks a departure for the normally somber writer, loyal readers will recognize the heady ideas, the deliciously weird characters, and the riotous plot lines to which they’ve become accustomed. Critics cited a few disappointments, including some stilted characters, heavy-handed pop culture references, and an unsatisfying conclusion. Nonetheless, "Kraken is full-strength, grade-A geekitude," declares the Onion A.V. Club, echoing most critics’ reactions, "and as such, it’s brilliant."