Monday, 6 June 2011

Book Review: Kraken - China Mieville

Mieville's latest Embassytown is out now in hardback, but as I haven't yet read it, I thought I'd review his last book, Kraken, out now in paperback.

Kraken starts in the back rooms of the Natural History Museum in London. Young archivist, and cephlapod expert Billy Harrow has been put in charge of preserving the museum's latest acquisition, a giant squid. Only it's gone missing. Thrusting Billy deep into London's cult underground.

With various cults, gods, talking statues, apocalypse worshippers and other assorted craziness, Mieville's underside of London is akin to Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere.
Billy is not entirely believable as a naive scientist, he occasionally becomes slightly annoying, and some of the side plots and characters could probably be done without. Having said this, I'm a Mieville fan, especially of his Bas-Lag books (Perdido Street Station, The Scar & Iron Council), and I quite enjoyed this romp through an alternative London, the darkness that many writers have explored. You can't have a city of officially 7 million and not have scary stuff bubbling away underneath.
Mieville is a tremendous writer, The City & The City was my starting point, and I thought that was brilliant if a little mind-boggling. His only book for younger readers, UnLunDun also looks at another London beneath the real one. Presumably it's a theory he'll return to at some point.
If you like fantasy writing, mixed with a little realism, crime spliced through with conspiracy theories, then I suggest you give Kraken (and the rest of Mieville's stuff) a go.

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