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Kraken, China Miéville

An excellent surprise!

Rough plot: Billy Harrow, a curator at London’s Natural History Museum, discovers one morning that the museum’s top attraction — a giant squid — has disappeared. But how exactly can a forty-foot-long specimen (and its tank full of formalin) “vanish” overnight without anyone noticing? And why are so many people suddenly sporting kraken-shaped medallions?

A good story with great characters (if you like your policemen badass and armed with supernatural powers, then Constable Collingswood is the lady for you) and great humor — these are reasons enough for you to read it. But there is more!

First, Miéville visibly had fun dropping tons of hidden references in the text — absolutely not essential to follow the story, but great fun to identify. Just as an example, while a character hunts for informers in a bar, the jukebox plays “Hippychick”, by Soho. Another (magical, and slightly cheesy) character later admits being fond of the first few seconds of the song — which were sampled from “How Soon is Now?”, by The Smiths. The reader may then wonder if it has anything to do with the fact that The Smiths’ song was re-used by Charmed, the TV series… Once again, you don’t need to understand the references to enjoy the story, but it’s an additional pleasure to hunt them.

The second reason why you should rush to buy your copy of Kraken is the quality of its villains. Very early on, one gets introduced to the character of The Tattoo, who is already pretty cool. But it’s Goss and Subby that steal the light. It’s been ages since I saw bad guys THAT mean. They may be immortal, seem to haunt London periodically (reference to It?), but more importantly:

  1. They never kill twice in the same way, and
  2. They speak (almost) utter nonsense.

Hence some genius scenes, where you laugh at what they say, cringe at what they do… and eagerly wait to learn how they are going to gore their victim this time. Great horrible fun.

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