A preserved giant squid is stolen from London's Natural History museum and curator Billy Harrow is at the top of everyone's list for answers. But who stole the Kraken and why? Was it the Londonmancers? Or minions of the Tattoo? Or the Church of the God Kraken? Or someone else all together? That's what Billy Harrow and Dane Parnell, a renegade from the Church, aim to find out. But can they recover the Kraken before it's used to trigger Armageddon?
China Mieville appears to have the Midas touch at times. In Kraken, he takes the conspiracy thriller and infuses it with so much new weirdness that green goo is oozing from between the pages. Where do I start? Do I talk about the Londonmancers, shamanic magicians who dwell in and shape London's streets? Or Wati, the sentient statue-thing that's unionizing London's familiars? Or the gunfarmers? Or the chaos nazis? Mieville throws so much at you in this one that it's hard to pick out one outlandish concept as the favorite.
I see people comparing this to Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere or American Gods, the works of Tim Powers, or even Mieville's own Un Lun Dun, but the book that it reminds me the most of is The Domino Men by Jonathan Barnes. There are conspiracies galore, gods created by belief, and the psychotic duo of Goss and Subby, who remind me both of Croupe and Vandemaar of Neverwhere fame and of The Domino Men.
The characters are an interesting bunch. Billy Harrow's in the Arthur Dent mode of protagonists. Parnell drives the story forward, as do the impressive array of interesting Londoners. In fact, Billy's probably the least interesting character within the book. But really, when one of the characters is a talking tattoo, he's got competition.
Easter eggs about within Kraken's piscine pages. There are multiple Star Trek references, including a magic-powered phaser and a Tribble, a Lolcats reference, Dr. Who, Michael Moorcock, the list goes on and on. And Mieville both mentions the criminally unknown Hugh Cook (of the delightful The Walrus and the Warwolf
) in the forward and includes one of his poems, The Kraken Wakes, within the pages.
Any complaints? Only that there was a little too much going on at times. Kraken was a good read but it was never a "drop everything and neglect your personal hygene" kind of gripping. I found myself procrastinating a few times rather than go back to it. Once the story passes the 33% mark, it really takes off.
If squid based conspiracies are your bag, this book is for you. Otherwise, this book should appeal to Mieville fans, conspiracy fans, and fans of Neil Gaiman and Jonathan Barnes. Now get reading before I send the gunfarmers after you!