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Kraken Hardcover – June 29, 2010

3.4 out of 5 stars 221 customer reviews

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Amazon.com Review

"The Soft Intelligence": 5 Underrated Literary Cephalopods by China Miéville

It was Jacques-Yves Cousteau and Philippe Diolé who named cephalopods 'the soft intelligence', in the subtitle to their 1973 book Octopus and Squid. At first, the adjective seems vaguely simpering, as if these ambassadors of alterity are in fact safe, unthreatening, cuddly. But immediately comes a strangeness. If they are a, no, the soft intelligence, what are we? Hard intelligence? Soft unintelligence? Why are they soft intelligence singular? Is each but an iteration of some tentacular totality? What strange sentience. An opaque collective.

There are rules to this exercise. No invented species nor chimerical monsters--though this doesn't preclude gigantism nor a little taxonomic vagueness. Thus the 'huge, brown, glistening bulk' of William Hope Hodgson's 'mighty devil-fish' in The Boats of the 'Glen Carrig' would be permissible: haploteuthis ferox, that hitherto unknown squid that assailed the English coast in H.G. Wells's The Sea Raiders is not: still less would be Cthulhu, despite his admirably tentacular visage. And as the effort here is to overturn a few rocks less jostled to see what coils beneath, much celebrated ceph-lit has been left alone. Captain Nemo's nemesis is not here. Benchley's Beast is absent, as is Lautréamont's octopus spirit from Maldoror. The astounding ruminations on the octopus-as-bad-ontology in Victor Hugo's otherwise 'prodigiously boring book' (Sebald) Toilers of the Sea, remain indispensable--but elsewhere.

See China Miéville's full list of underrated literary cephalopods at Omnivoracious, Amazon.com's books blog

From Publishers Weekly

British fantasist Miéville mashes up cop drama, cults, popular culture, magic, and gods in a Lovecraftian New Weird caper sure to delight fans of Perdido Street Station and The City & the City. When a nine-meter-long dead squid is stolen, tank and all, from a London museum, curator Billy Harrow finds himself swept up in a world he didn't know existed: one of worshippers of the giant squid, animated golems, talking tattoos, and animal familiars on strike. Forced on the lam with a renegade kraken cultist and stalked by cops and crazies, Billy finds his quest to recover the squid sidelined by questions as to what force may now be unleashed on an unsuspecting world. Even Miéville's eloquent prose can't conceal the meandering, bewildering plot, but his fans will happily swap linearity for this dizzying whirl of outrageous details and fantastic characters.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Del Rey; Book Club edition (June 29, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 034549749X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345497499
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (221 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #703,773 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Wulfstan TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 25, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
A fascinating new novel by China Miéville, author of Perdido Street Station, which won the 2001 Arthur C. Clarke Award the 2001 British Fantasy Award, and was nominated for the Hugo, Nebula, World Fantasy, Locus and British Science Fiction awards. (He also wrote "King Rat", but not the "King Rat" that is set in a WWII POW Camp. )

The publishers would like you to think that it's similar to Neil Gaiman, and sure, two of the villains in this story are reminiscent of "the Old Firm"(but nastier, if that's possible). But I see more Tim Powers and James Blaylock, with more than a touch of H.P. Lovecraft (or maybe it's just all those tentacles....).

It's technically Urban Fantasy, set in more or less modern day London. But it also has more than a little horror. And, oddly enough- it has some rather humorous bits too. Both scary and funny at times. The authors obvious love for and deep knowledge of London gives the book added depth.

Our protagonist is swept along by events and people (and things) he hadn't any concept of in his prior life as a museum curator. He is forced out of his humdrum existence by the impossible theft of a giant squid pickled in a huge tank of formalin, a kraken that he himself had a hand in preserving.

Enlivened by some interesting and original characters, including a few new deities and religions, it's entirely a different kettle of cuttlefish than your usual urban fantasy. It's also not a book you want to read yourself to sleep with. (The tentacles!!!!! Eeeeeeeeeeee!)

It's different. It's dark. It's scary. It's different. It's humorous. It's well written. It's worth reading. It's... did I say different?
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
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.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
China Mieville writes like nobody else. Exceedingly erudite (he has a PhD) he throws many words you've never heard of into this fantastic brew taking place in his London- and London to him is a huge living thing, a great breathing, crouching beast. Windows rattle and bricks speak and of course there's plenty of swirling fog to top everything off. His writing is quirky, he uses highly inventive similes such as "Bits of rubbish shifted in gusts, crawled on the pavement like bottom feeders." London is alive if not well.

Mieville carries you with him with great skill. You're there. You shudder. You shiver. You laugh. He takes you into the bowels of London. He wraps you the reader in a supernatural cocoon where all the ends are tied up and you can't escape. Where bizarre events and supernatural goings- on appear quite normal. You are plunged into a surrealistic world of strange cults, pagan apocalypses and god-like reptiles."Kraken" is concentrated New Weird which takes a bit of time to get used to.

The action starts when Billy Harrow, the unassuming curator of mollusks in the Darwin Center is leading a group of visitors on a tour when he discovers the Center's star attraction, an eight meter long giant squid preserved in a huge tank of formalin, has disappeared tank and all. It is unthinkable, it is impossible but there is a great gaping space where the squid used to be.

Billy embarks on a mission to solve the mystery and he is plunged into a surrealistic world of twisted and peculiar events, and crosses the path of strange cults, all fighting each other to conquer with their own particular apocalypse.

Somehow the disappearance of the giant squid has set in motion a series of horrible events, an Armageddon which will destroy the world.
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