Kraken – China Miéville

KrakenAt the long standing recommendation of a number of friends (and thanks to the very kind gift of book tokens) I picked up China Miéville‘s Kraken in the new year sales.

This weekend, with nothing but adverts and dross on the TV (and having finished Skyrim as best I can with its inherent plot glitches) I set time aside to dive into what I hoped would be a gripping ripping yarn from someone who is acclaimed as a master of the New Weird.

I was not disappointed.

Miéville crafts a well convoluted tale and clearly understands the various aspects of the world he writes about.

Kraken starts with a simple enough mystery but quickly descends into a dark and twisted hidden world that would make Moorcock proud.

I quickly drew parallels with Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere but Miéville’s hidden London, his Heresiopolis, is far more mature and less fantastical – and with a far more brutal bogeyman pair than Neverwhere’s Croup and Vandemar in the universally feared Goss and Subby.

Kraken also shares kinship with Charles Stross‘s Laundry Archives; with a similar intermingling of today’s gadgets with arcane wards and hexes.  It isn’t too far a stretch of the imagination to see Miéville’s F.R.S.C. working hand in hand with Stross’s Laundry.

Kraken is less overtly Lovecraftian than the Laundry Archives though, Cthulhu and his ilk being just another set of beliefs – a drop in the ocean that Miéville’s London arises from.

I found it hard to put the book down, especially towards the spiralling end where Miéville pulls the strands of his tale back and weaves them into an incredibly gratifying ending.

One thing I particularly enjoyed was the occultural references that he placed within the novel.


China Miéville’s explanation of the “knacks” and magical techniques used by some of the characters – as well as his portrayal of online occult subculture – is superb.

The story also ties this fantastic alternate London into the politics and zeitgeist of today’s society – it will be interesting to see how well the story ages.

English: China Miéville just after winning the...

Image via Wikipedia

So impressed am I with Kraken that I am sure I will enjoy the rest of Miéville’s work, although I don’t agree with his politics or his views on Tolkien.

That being said, I’ve never let an author’s political viewpoint stop me enjoying their work; Miéville’s dedication to his political belief’s is admirable and adds a good flavour to Kraken – even if he does tie chaos magicians and Nazis together.  Chaos magicians could be said to be more closely associated to the Cult Collectors in Kraken than anti-semitic hatemongers.