Kraken by China Meiville book review

Posted on Dec 3, 2015


The Storyline

Kraken by China Mieville Picture courtesy of

Kraken by China Mieville
Picture courtesy of

Something strange has occurred at the British Museum of Natural History with a forty-foot specimen of a giant squid in formalin disappearing overnight without no-one seeing a thing. Also, a murder victim is found folded into a glass bottle much to the shock and horror of the investigators tasked to the case.

A lot of strange groups are interested in getting the squid back for differing reasons, including a naive staff member called Billy Harrow, a secret London police unit called the FSRC (Fundamentalist and Sect-Related Crimes Unit) of the Metropolitan Police Service and various supernatural and dead criminal types. The huge squid is a deity to the Church of Kraken Almighty who seem to have ulterior motives where Billy Harrow is concerned. Did they steal their god, are they trying to destroy it or could it have been stolen by a rival cult or criminal group and why would anyone want to steal a giant dead squid?

The only thing that everyone seems certain on is that the kraken seems to be tied to a prophecy pertaining to the end of the world and it is a race against time to find the Kraken and stop everything from being destroyed…

The Review

Since around July I have been reading Kraken by China Miéville and have been struggling with it since then but as of two days ago I have finally finished it much to my relief. I rarely put a book away unfinished and have only done so a handful of times but I would not let this one defeat me and was determined to complete it.

I had heard many people lauding it and his work which should have set alarm bells off for me but I was drawn to the cover and the blurb on the back cover and I was eager to read it for it sounded my kind of mad fantasy.

But to be honest I found him too political, almost talking down to the reader and the build-up was too slow and too confusing in his writing style which seemed dreamlike in the wording and conversations between characters; unreal-like in the way they interacted with each other. I also felt the main protagonist, Billy Harrow, was a little too accepting of this new world he found himself in and everything he came across when in reality if you actually discovered what he did you would be in shock for weeks and perhaps a little frightened too but our Billy got over it all very quickly and took control of many situations as well as knowing a lot about the his new environment and what existed in it like he had been born and bred with it all. I did not feel him that believable and did not care whether he lived or died.

The two characters that I did love and found disturbing were Goss and Subby, hired sadistic assassins for the criminal underworld who were a few hundred years old and beyond redemption. They were richly written and well rounded and strangely quite believable in their own way. For me they are the two main characters that will stand out in the book whilst another called Cathy Collingswood, a police officer for a secret unit specialising in cults, magic, monsters and other such mysteries and things. She too was well rounded and unusual and took no crap from her boss who was no real character at all but window dressing.

Also, I felt I should have known more about the background of the book through a prequel or two in his descriptions and yet I think it’s a standalone novel.

He is an academic which explains his style of writing which I found quite heavy; lots of weird words and others rarely used except by academics and university students and so on.

But as I have touched on it does have its moments of brilliance but as you got to them it became bogged down by heavyweight stuff in religion and politics. I have nothing against that but not everyone can understand it in the way some write it and I think sometimes you have to write in an easier way for some to understand or to take an interest. I was in the latter section and just grew bored of it. I was relieved when I finished it and had hoped for a much stronger ending which all came in a full-on rush of madness and brilliant mayhem.

First and last I’ll read of his although it would make an interesting arthouse film or in animation form maybe? Now that I would watch and probably love it. I just could not get on with the book. Maybe he should write a Doctor Who episode? Now that would be intriguing…

Posted in: Books, Entertainment