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Fantasy Friday – Kraken


Kraken by China Mieville


Review by Bowden P. (Trey)


I picked this up on a whim. I’m glad I did because it has the three W’s (weird, wonder filled and whimsical) in spades. I’ve read Mieville before and found his books full of neat ideas (this is no excpetion) but hard to finish. Sometimes because they lose the thread, other times because of unsympathetic characters. Not this time. Kraken wasn’t hard to finish and entertained me through to the end.

Kraken is about the impossible theft of a giant squid. The immersion of Billy Harrow, a museum curator, in the occult underworld of London, which is weird with its angels of memory, familiars union, gun farmers, angels of memory, monster herds, a crime lord that’s a tattoo, a pair of unaging thugs by the name of Goss and Subby, bizarre cults and cult focused police squad (The Fundamentalist and Sect-Related Crime Unit) trying to keep a lid on all of this. And oh yes, a kraken worshipping church.

My attempted summary does not do it justice, but in my defense, Kraken is bursting with ideas that could be the basis for other books in the hands of other authors. Here, they’re set dressing and the chorus.  I was particularly taken with the familiar’s union and how pop culture influenced magic (particularly how a certain series influenced a magician that a key part of the plot hangs on).

It reads like it started as a fever dream by Neil Gaiman, that was then polished and carefully edited to make it make more sense. And while it has similarities to Gaiman’s work, it has a flavor all its own. Goss and Subby resemble the Old Firm from Neverwhere, but they’re different. They are much more on screen with their violence, intimidation and torture.

Is it worth it? Yes. I give it ½

Likes: Pop culture influenced magic – why can’t other urban fantasy novels do this? Occasional meta-awareness influenced by that (the nicknames of the occult police academy); the sense of dynamic shifting aliveness of the occult underworld; How the occult underworld shades into the criminal underworld; The weirdness of it all.

Dislikes: The threat from left field – its logical and makes sense, but it doesn’t get much development.

Suggested for: Urban fantasy fans, especially those that enjoy something other than elves, werewolves and vampires (they may exist there, but they are far from center stage); Mieville fans; those that enjoyed American Gods and Neverwhere.




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One Response to “Fantasy Friday – Kraken”

  1. Heather says:

    Sounds interesting. Would love to give it a try as I love Urban Fantasy of all types.

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