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KRAKEN by China Miéville


by China Miéville

Pub Date: June 29th, 2010
ISBN: 978-0-345-49749-9
Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

New, hefty urban fantasy with a London setting—sort of—from Miéville (The City & The City, 2009, etc.).

At the Darwin Centre in London's Natural History Museum, curator Billy Harrow shepherds a tour group toward the center's prize specimen, a giant squid that Billy himself helped prepare. Alas—squid, tank, preservative and all, have vanished! Whodunit? How? To Billy’s disbelief, investigating police officer Kath Collingswood professes to fight sorcery with sorcery. But, as Billy will quickly learn but more slowly accept, the teleportation of the huge squid is but an opening gambit in a struggle to the death between shadowy magical gangs lurking in an unseen London whose denizens, human and otherwise, are adept in techniques unknown to science and unsuspected by orthodox Londoners. This colorful, swirling, often arresting, equally often ploddingly didactic backdrop involves the squid-worshipping Congregation of God Kraken and renegade squiddy Dane Parnell—he tries to shield Billy from Goss and Subby, terrifying, sadistic wizards sent by the Tattoo, a maniacal, disembodied gangster now inked into the flesh of a hapless victim by Grisamentum, London’s greatest dead wizard. Meanwhile, the city’s magical familiars—cats, beetles, you-name-it—led by ancient Egyptian tomb-spirit Wati, are striking for better pay and benefits. Somebody or something, ho-hum, intends to destroy the world. But less than a hundred pages in, the lack of a plot becomes a serious drag, and Miéville doesn’t seem to grasp that absurd does not mean funny.

Likely reaction: raised eyebrows, head-scratching bewilderment.