Monday, June 4, 2012
Who Took My Squid?
Kraken, by China Mieville, is the story of a dead giant squid that's gone missing, that's disappeared entirely, tank and preserving fluid and all, from its home at the British Museum of Natural History. A police division dedicated to the investigation of religious cults (and secretly to supernatural phenomenon) interviews museum staff including Billy Harrow, the original curator of the giant squid. But the police aren't the only ones after the squid. There's also a kraken worshipping cult which believes that giant squid are kraken babies, and is furious at the animal's disappearance. And there's a powerful London crime lord who happens to be trapped in animated tattoo on another man's skin. When, against the advice of the police, Billy discusses the crime with his friends, he is drawn into a bizarre adventure that redefines his understanding of London and of reality itself.
After reading and reviewing Mieville's new book Railsea last month, I became intrigued British author China Mieville's other work and started ripping through his books. I had been familiar with his name and had often seen his books mentioned in the running for various awards. But when I'd check out the cover flaps of his novels, I just couldn't bring myself to read them. They seemed headachey, full of heavy Science Fiction Concepts with Philosophical Implications. Not that there's anything wrong with that. I love books like that. But I have to be in the mood. And lately, I haven't been.
I was wrong about Mieville's work. Mieville does love Concepts, but his novels and stories turn out to be quite readable and entertaining. And the most entertaining of them is Kraken: An Anatomy. It has more in common with Neil Gaiman's adult fiction (American Gods, Anansi's Boys, Neverwhere) and with Lev Grossman's The Magicians and The Magician King than it does with Mieville's other work. The fantastical world that both vastly and secretly populates London in Kraken is more fun to explore than Hogwarts, and Mieville's characters are droll, sarcastic, and often hilarious. Check it out.