Top critical review
103 of 124 people found this helpful
The Congregation of the God Kraken, more AND less...
on May 31, 2010
In Kraken, London is a strange place, a city with characters and entities having strange powers, a place of bizarre creatures, and a mystery or two.
Museum curator Billy Harrow goes from having a normal, simple life, giving tours and preparing specimens, to a creepy, haunted one in the midst of a frenzied search for a stolen specimen of a giant squid from his museum. There is a Congregation of the God Kraken, you see. God was just stolen. Who stole it is a mystery, but there is no mystery that, whoever took it, others now see its value, and want to recover it. Billy is thought to know more than he lets on, so he also becomes a target of this search.
There's a deep complexity to this story, and to author China Mieville's writing:
"He had been a point of awareness, a soul-spot, a sentient submerged node, and had drifted over an ocean floor that he had seen in monochrome, lightless as it would have been, and that had pitched suddenly into a crevasse, a Mariana Trench of water like clothed shadow." This was a bit of Billy's dreaming... inspired by the kraken?
There are mysterious and unique characters here. Tattoo, Wati, Jason, Subby and Goss... And the real folk, Dane and Collingswood and Marge (as well as Billy), each have their own learning curve and adventures.
But this was a story that seemed... excessive. The detail dampened my enthusiasm for the tale. It became a chore to continue to read. And when the twists and turns came to their conclusion, I was left with a sense of relief, not of knowing how things turned out, but that it was over. Ouch. Mieville seems to have been caught up in developing the minutiae of actions, conversations, and interactions. The detail drove the story, instead of the story driving the detail.
The Star Trek connection, including a working phaser, was a stretch. And the inability of "normal" folk to have any clue that all this magic is happening around them all the time was also strange. After all, London's newspapers are so competitive that you think any weirdness would hit the front page. Everybody would be looking out for eccentric characters, wouldn't they?
I noted the sage comments of the Teuthex, or high priest of the kraken worshippers, concerning religion:
"'I'm asking you all to have faith. Don't be afraid. 'How could it have gone wrong?' people have asked me. 'Why aren't the gods doing anything?' Remember two things. The gods don't owe us anything. That's not why we worship. We worship because they're gods. This is their universe, not ours. What they choose they choose and it's not ours to know why."
I didn't like the book. That's different than saying it was bad, or incomplete, or poorly written. It just wasn't my cup of squid ink.