China Miéville: Kraken

Number two in my package of books from amazon.co.uk. As I mentioned before, I love some but not all of Miéville’s books, and this one looked enough like it was right up my alley that I was sufficiently excited to order it from England before the US release date. And… it was pretty good.

My opinion of it sort of went through a U shape. It starts out as kind of a romp. A preserved giant squid has disappeared from a London museum and all sorts of crazy supernatural cults are getting involved. But somewhere around the 25% mark I stopped looking forward so much to picking it up again. For one thing, it just felt kind of overstuffed. There are like six major players, and I kept wishing there were more like four. Although I usually like big messes of books, and I’ve enjoyed Miéville’s unfettered creativity in his other works, here I felt more suffocated by the number of groups involved, not to mention the n-squared issue of keeping track of how they were all interacting with each other.

My other issue is that all of the secret underground supernatural stuff, despite a lot of it being pretty original (e..g, one major villain is a sentient face tatooed on someone else’s back), wore on me after a while. Maybe I’ve just read too much of it, but I spent a lot of the novel feeling like I was reading Miéville’s Neil Gaiman impression that he was tossing off between real books.

But with about a quarter of the book to go, the pace really picks up, there are some awesome set pieces, and most importantly, all of these pieces of the plot actually fit together in a satisfying way. So overall I’d say I enjoyed it — in particular some of that overstuffedness makes more sense in retrospect after seeing where it all leads to — but it wasn’t quite the awesome experience that I know it’s possible to get when I pick up a China Miéville book. I’d put it below Perdido Street Station, The Scar, and The City & the City, but above Iron Council, which I didn’t even finish.

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