Sunday, 15 May 2011

"Kraken" by China Mieville

Year of Publication: 2010
Number of Pages: 481 pages
Genre: Urban fantasy,

Summary: Billy Harrow is a curator at the Natural History Museum in London, England. His pet project is an extremely rare, intact and perfectly preserved giant squid. One day the squid, impossibly, disappears.
Billy finds himself plunged into the dangerous world of London's occult underworld. A world of warring cults, bizarre sorcery, elemental powers, magical gangsters, supernatural assassins, and secretive police task-forces. Billy soon discovers that they are all searching for the giant squid (or "kraken" as they call it). He soon learns that there are cults who worship the giant squid as a god, and believe that Billy is it's prophet.
They also believe that the stolen squid will bring about the end of the world.

Opinions: This book, from award winning British author China Mieville, blends fantasy, contemporary urban grit and dark humour into a startling apocalyptic whole. The idea of London hiding a secret magical underworld has been dealt with before (for example in Neverwhere (1996) by Neil Gaiman and the Harry Potter series (1997 - 2007) by J.K. Rowling) and the idea of mysterious squid cults has precedents in the works of H.P. Lovecraft. However, this is a wholly original work.
Mieville is a talented writer, with an inventive way with language, and there is barely a page that is not full of action, jokes, semi-scientific occult jargon and popular culture references. There is a certain playfulness at work and Mieville evidently attacks his material with gusto.
The characters, which include the disembodied magical union organiser Wati and the comic-horrible assassins Gross and Subby, are well drawn and memorable. Also the stylish prose and the ideas don't get in the way of the story.
This is an endlessly entertaining urban fantasy novel, and is well worth checking out. The novel has a strong sense of time and place and conjures an enticing feel of a magical world, just beneath the surface of our reality.

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