skygiants: Honey from Ouran with his hands to his HORRIFIED CHEEKS (ZOMG!)
[personal profile] skygiants
I still have no idea what I thought about China Mieville's Kraken, except that, man, I am REALLY IMPRESSED he managed to maintain five hundred pages of this book with a straight face. (I mean, the straight face is necessary to the joke. I think. Probably.)

So Kraken kicks off with the mysterious disappearance of a PRESERVED GIANT SQUID from the London Natural History Museum! Cue wailing and gnashing of teeth from our multitudes of idiosyncratic main characters:

POLICE DEPARTMENT IN CHARGE OF SOLVING CULT-RELATED CRIMES: This is a cult-related crime!
SQUID-WORSHIPPING CULT: Oh nooooooooes someone else is out there with our god, the giant squid!
BILLY, OUR BLAND PROTAGONIST: I dunno guys, I'm just a postgrad preservationist with a talent for squid.
(SQUID-WORSHIPPING CULT: Or are you . . . THE SQUID MESSIAH?!?! Quick, drink some squid ink to show us the waaaaaay!
BILLY, OUR BLAND PROTAGONIST: I don't wanna. :( :( :()
MARGE, OUR BLAND PROTAGONIST'S BLAND FRIEND'S AWESOME GIRLFRIEND: So I don't really care about all this squid stuff and it seems like I'm pretty tangential to the book . . . OR AM I?
WATI, UNDEAD ANCIENT EGYPTIAN STATUE UNION ORGANIZER: I also don't care so much about the squid, I have got my hands full organizing a STRIKE in MAGICAL LONDON. Workers! Unite!
CROUP AND VANDEMAR THOSE TWO REALLY EVIL DUDES WHO EXIST TO BE EVIL: Rampage! Kill! Rampage! Kill!

The plot is basically that stealing the squid is going to trigger an apocalypse of FIERY DOOM, and everyone's like "you would think the cults would be okay with that," and the cults are like "but it's the WRONG APOCALYPSE! And it's GONE WRONG!" and then everyone runs around in a flailing panic being chased by increasingly more surreal inhabitants of magical London, and occasionally checking in with all the future-diviners to be like "did we avert FIERY DOOM APOCALYPSE yet?" and the future-diviners are like "nope" and then they run around in a flailing panic some more.

Our bland protagonist has a bland bromance with a warrior of the SQUID CULT and remains sort of uninteresting. Wati hangs around being ten times awesomer than either of them (UP THE UNION!) and Marge steals the show by refusing to be kicked out of the story and doing her own awesome thing on the sidelines, although the book still fails the Bechdel test. Surreal events continue to take place at an increasingly rapid clip, until you're like "oh, of course the angry skull-in-a-jar angel defender of the Natural History Museum just kicked the ass of a whole bunch of goons with giant fists instead of heads, WHY NOT." China Mieville demonstrates how in tune he is with the culture of the internets by having a character make LOLcats jokes about the stolen squid, which just makes me wonder how very confused even a geek reader will be by seeing a policewoman joke "noooooo they be stealin mah squid!" in ten years' time. (Authors: using very specific and incredibly nerd pop cultural references DOES date your book! TAKE NOTE.) At one point a lady exorcist rabbi pops up at someone's front door with a GIANT SHOFAR, which for me was literally the most hilarious thing to happen all book.

And the book gets increasingly baroque about the metaphysical significance of all these squid-related events, and delves deeply into squid-cult theology, and you are just like "China Mieville, SERIOUSLY, how are you staying straight-faced?" Because the whole thing is clearly all a giant joke on the reader . . . or maybe by the end it isn't. I DON'T KNOW. As I said, I am very confused about this book.

Date: 2012-03-13 04:12 pm (UTC)
mme_hardy: White rose (Default)
From: [personal profile] mme_hardy
This is a review of AWESOME.

Date: 2012-03-13 04:16 pm (UTC)
bookblather: A picture of Yomiko Readman looking at books with the text "bookgasm." (Default)
From: [personal profile] bookblather
You had me at squid-worshipping cult. And also "THE WRONG APOCALYPSE." And also Wati and Reg Shoe should hang out.

Date: 2012-03-13 05:22 pm (UTC)
jinian: (birdsquee)
From: [personal profile] jinian
*dies laughing at icon-Benedick*

Date: 2012-03-13 06:26 pm (UTC)
bookblather: A picture of Yomiko Readman looking at books with the text "bookgasm." (Default)
From: [personal profile] bookblather
This is true! And considering the universal appeal, there are very few fiery squid-related apocalypi out there. China Mieville is just filling a niche.

HE COULD BE A MENTOR. It could be a cross-dimensional mentoring program. Granny Weatherwax was probably McGonagall's mentor.

Date: 2012-03-14 05:38 am (UTC)
bookblather: A picture of Yomiko Readman looking at books with the text "bookgasm." (Default)
From: [personal profile] bookblather
OH MAN.

Nanny wouldn't even have had time to sell tickets.

Date: 2012-03-13 06:01 pm (UTC)
thewickedlady: (Default)
From: [personal profile] thewickedlady
*cracks up*

"but it's the WRONG APOCALYPSE! And it's GONE WRONG!"

Oh, Becca.

Date: 2012-03-13 07:18 pm (UTC)
nextian: From below, a woman and a flock of birds. (Default)
From: [personal profile] nextian
I forgot about the giant shofar.

I couldn't decide if Kraken was self-parody or not either. I hope so! I hope he woke up one morning with amnesia, read all his books, was like, "Sometimes this China Mieville guy is a hack and I had better imitate him as best as possible but I am not letting this opportunity of taking all the piss pass me by." Then obviously his memories were restored in time for Embassytown. Or like, his best friend sent him this China Mieville Manuscript No Rly and he laughed so hard coffee came out his anarchist nose and he published it under his own name.

I love it. I'm not sure I'll ever reread it, but I'm delighted it exists.

Date: 2012-03-13 07:26 pm (UTC)
happydork: A graph-theoretic tree in the shape of a dog, with the caption "Tree (with bark)" (Default)
From: [personal profile] happydork
Or like, his best friend sent him this China Mieville Manuscript No Rly and he laughed so hard coffee came out his anarchist nose and he published it under his own name.

:D:D:D I WANT THIS TO BE TRUE SO HARD :D:D:D
happydork: A graph-theoretic tree in the shape of a dog, with the caption "Tree (with bark)" (Default)
From: [personal profile] happydork
Oh, our bland protagonist! I enjoyed him because he didn't feel like your typical white-male-British-sci-fi-writer's "HELLO I AM THE EVERYMAN I AM JUST LIKE YOU BECAUSE YOU ARE ALSO WHITE AND MALE AND BRITISH AND EDUCATED IN THE SAME WAY YES GOOD" -- it was more like Mieville was assuming that the reader had at least met someone like our bland protagonist, rather than that the reader would necessarily identify with our bland protagonist themselves. (The assumption may not be true, but it's a rather broader assumption than I'm used to.)

Oh, oh, Wati! Oh, oh, Marge! I loved the book, but I would have loved it even more if it had been Marge and Wati's fabulous adventures.

Authors: using very specific and incredibly nerd pop cultural references DOES date your book!

I thought that was probably deliberate! There's a lot of stuff in it that read to me as not just a love-letter to London, but a love-letter to a very particular moment in London's vast and sprawling existence -- I'm looking forward to coming back to this book in a few years time and getting even more pleasure out of it for the definite space-and-time element of the setting.



Spoilers for The City & The City and Un Lun Dun

I kind of feel like China Mieville has one ending at a time that he really enjoys, and he futzes around with it until he gets it just the way he likes it. With TC&TC, ULD and Kraken, the ending is something like: "I told you repeatedly how to break the rules by following them; it's not my fault you didn't listen. BTW, LOLINURFACE."

Date: 2012-03-14 02:43 am (UTC)
lacewood: (Default)
From: [personal profile] lacewood
This sounds like a ridiculous hoot, clearly I need to get around to actually reading this! XD I mean, it's not like I don't ALREADY have a weakness for magic London...

Date: 2012-03-23 01:27 am (UTC)
paperback: (Becca what have we done)
From: [personal profile] paperback
...BECCA WE HAVE BEEN READING THIS AT THE SAME TIME.

Date: 2012-04-26 04:48 am (UTC)
pseudo_tsuga: ([A:TLA] excellent)
From: [personal profile] pseudo_tsuga
I don't know about you, but this should be made into the manga. It is the exact type of crack suited for the form! It even has tentacles.

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