Kraken - China Mieville

Kraken - China MiƩville

Perdido Street Station remains one of the best books I've ever read. The Scar was similarly fantastic (in all senses of the word) and Iron Council was very good. Which should serve to illustrate just how profoundly disappointed I was by Kraken.


It's the first non-Bas Lag book I've read of Mieville's, and by rights it should be terrific. A preserved giant squid goes missing from the Natural History Museum, and curator Billy Harrow discovers that its disappearance has something to do with a bizarre squid cult lurking in London's shadows. On the hunt for the specimen, he discovers a sub-London of warring sects and petty magics, a fantastical London that lurks in the shadows of the everyday one, where everyone is after the squid. Word on the street is that it's a god, and it will end the world.


Let's get something clear: Mieville is a good writer. The characterisation in Kraken is careful and well-done; its prose is taut and crisp; it's packed full of ideas and wit and cleverness.


The only problem is, it's sensationally dull.


I don't want to suggest that this dullness is in any way a mistake, because I don't think it is. Mieville drags us on an interminable treasure-hunt through his magical London, pulling us into bizarre and complicated feuds, throwing information at us with no kind of context or emotional affect. The subtitle of Kraken is "An Anatomy", and that's exactly what Mieville's doing here: anatomising the occult, the fantastic, the faithful, the things that are strange and sacred to us as readers, exactly as Billy anatomises the squid-god. Both render the strange familiar, and both take something away from it by doing so.


Which is clever. Mieville is nothing if not clever with his fantasy. But it doesn't change the fact that I had to struggle to read every page of this blasted book. It's dull, it's joyless, it's disappointing.