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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Still a great sci-fi classic
John Wyndham thought about rising sea levels long before the rest of us. This sci-fi work remains a small masterpiece. It explores the key issues when society breaks down in the face of unimagined and uncontrolled disasters. The characters of hero and heroine reflect the British writing style of the era, with stiff upper-lipped hero and perceptive heroine who manage...
Published on 13 Nov 2011 by Tricia Brook

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Kraken Wakes
I chose this after reading The Day of the Triffids but I was a bit disappointed. I did not find it held my interest to the same extent and was much less believable.
Published 13 months ago by M. G. Thompson


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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Still a great sci-fi classic, 13 Nov 2011
By 
Tricia Brook (Canberra, ACT Australia) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Kraken Wakes (Paperback)
John Wyndham thought about rising sea levels long before the rest of us. This sci-fi work remains a small masterpiece. It explores the key issues when society breaks down in the face of unimagined and uncontrolled disasters. The characters of hero and heroine reflect the British writing style of the era, with stiff upper-lipped hero and perceptive heroine who manage their emotions discreetly and without public breast-beating or overt navel-gazing. A great yarn with aliens from outer-space, vast rises in ocean levels, ocean-going traffic no longer possible, and near total failure of civilization to cope! Very well worth reading in light of the rising sea levels that are happening now.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A cracking slice of deep-sea unease., 23 April 2004
This review is from: The Kraken Wakes (Paperback)
Although "The Kraken Wakes" never got the same acclaim as Wyndham's (justly) famous "The Day of the Triffids", it isn't just a pale `Triffids' rip-off either. Yes, the book's ending is a bit of a damp squib and, yes, the narrator's wife Phyllis might strike modern readers as a patronising stereotype, but then again ... "The Kraken Wakes" may be just about the best alien invasion story since H. G. Wells' "The War of the Worlds". Wyndham is one of the few British S.F. writers who could match Wells for invention and logical construction. He doesn't go in for histrionics - the introduction of the sub-aquatic aliens is very low-key and the screw oftension tightens slowly but inexorably as the book progresses. "The Kraken Wakes" cleverly combines a Wellsian war between very different species with a Ballard-style environmental disaster. Gradually, control of the high seas passes to the invaders. Strange objects rise out of the waves and kidnap human samples. Finally, the polar ice melts, the oceans rise and the world suffers catastrophic floods. We never get to see Wyndham's "Xenobath" aliens up-close - they remain tantalisingly ill-defined and all the more alarming as they gradually encroach on the deep seas and luckless ships. In amongst the sometimes lame characterisation, there are passages of real nail-biting tension and some very funny swipes at Cold War rivalries. Okay, so maybe the "Triffids" it ain't, but "The Kraken Wakes" is still one of Wyndham's best stories and a very rewarding book in its own right.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Slow, spectacular and terrifying end-of-the-world sci-fi, 23 April 2009
This review is from: The Kraken Wakes (Paperback)
Superb sci-fi novel in the same strain as Welles's War of the Worlds, Abe's Inter Ice Age 4 and Wyndham's own Day of the Triffids.

The Kraken Wakes is more political and, with its journalist main characters (they can hardly be called protagonists - the protagonists are the 'bathies', the things that live in the Deeps) and its constant updates on what all the papers and radio stations are saying, is a satire on the media, and the media's reaction to crises - and also how a single event can can be interpretted and, more importantly, presented in countless, differing lights.

In the continual public rejection of what Bocker, the genius scientist who always correctly predicts what the bathies are going to do next and says it like it is, it's a particular satire on our tendency to ignore and deny crises. In 'Phase 3' (the book is divided into three 'phases') this bears a striking parallel with modern day climate change, as ice caps melt and sea levels rise, threatening to drown the world.

In its drowned world section The Kraken Wakes blows Ballard's Drowned World out of the water.

There's something at the end which smacks slightly of selling out, but even this is nearly acceptable, though it does go against the book's presiding current of doom and inevitable loss.

I wonder why this book never became as famous as the Triffids or why it has never been adapted for film or television. Its world-spanning description of the slow, spectacular and terifying extermination of the human race by an unknown alien force is fantastic dramatic fare.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You heard it here first !, 3 Feb 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: The Kraken Wakes (Paperback)
Ever wondered what global warming will be like ? Or more importantly, what your neighbours might be like when global warming comes ? This is the extra terrestial side of Wyndham, keen to remind us of our own frailties, and of the idea that we might only be masters of all we survey by default. In some authors hands, this could oh so easily turn into a didactic horrorstory fit only to use as a nightcap. Instead, Wyndham's lightness of touch and satirical turn of mind turn this into almost a jape in places. Knowing when to switch off the lightness and bring us back to the harsh realities is another of Wyndham's real skills. Patient well written, well plotted and well researched, this is another of the books that deserves far greater recognition, and a seat alongside Arthur C Clarke and Isaac Asimov as one of the great writers of future fiction.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Two superb BBC Radio Dramas, 31 Jan 2001
By A Customer
The two stories presented in this AudioBook are in the form of BBC full-cast radio dramas, as opposed to pure narration. Having read the books, and not having listened to an Audio Book previously, I was sceptical about the format before receiving this as an Amazon.co.uk gift. Weeks passed before I finally got around to listening to the tape in the car. I need not have worried.
The first tape is a dramatised version of The Kraken Wakes. The production of the drama is first class, clearly spoken, with some great background music which is not intrusive. Sound effects are used throughout the production bringing life to the drama. Drawing on one of Wyndham's favourite themes, the end of the world as we know it, the book tells the story of the arrival of mysterious objects falling from the sky and landing in the sea. The consequences of this lead to environmental change on a massive scale, causing disruption to normal life across the world.
The second tape is Choky. One of Wyndham's shorter works, it tells the story of a young boy, Matthew, with extraordinary powers. Brought up to date from the "fifties style" of the book, the story is beautifully built and well played out. Matthew is played superbly by Sasha Dhawan.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Prophesy posing as sci-fi, 2 Nov 2008
This review is from: The Kraken Wakes (Paperback)
The questions which preoccupied John Wyndham - alien intelligence, the justification of war, world political relations and economic infrastructure, social norms, prejudice, the impracticality of religion, an inability to think 'outside the box' - appear in all his writing. Clearly, Wyndham thought these questions too important, too widely applicable, to be confined to one book, and the potency of his work lies in his systematic and extensive engagement with these ideas. Wyndham therefore has more in common with the prophetic dystopias of Orwell and Huxley than with the science fiction genre.

Wyndham's different narrators afford him the opportunity of exploring the same ideas from a fresh perspective each time. These people tend to be 'everyman', allowing us a convenient access point to the concepts he so wanted us to grasp. The 'everyman' in 'The Kraken Wakes' is Mike Watson and his wife Phyllis, both journalists. Through them we not only have an eye-witness account of events, but also a frustration with the novel's forward-thinking polymath, Dr Alastair Bocker, whose prodigious intelligence and insight find themselves at odds with others' habits of thought. Readers familiar with Wyndham will notice the similarity between the characters of Bocker, Gordon Zellaby (in 'The Midwich Cuckoos') and Uncle Axel (in 'The Chrysalids').

Since the narrator is a journalist, the writing style is straightforward and devoid of literary pretension. Wyndham's concern is to tell the story rather than get bogged down with florid character description. He was a master of understatement, and the characters' distress is often only revealed retrospectively through small comments and incidents: for example, Mike's disturbing dreams and the reason for Phyllis' bricklaying. (This in itself tells us something about the way people were expected to behave in the 1950s.) The horror of the situation is consistently down-played, so that when unpleasant events are described they are all the more horrific in the context: the carnival atmosphere of the expedition to Escondida makes the sudden arrival of the 'sea-tanks', and the deaths caused by their millibrachiate excretions, utterly vile. Wyndham drove home the point, time and again, that people do not take things seriously until directly affected by them.

Wyndham was also a master of narrative structure: what makes 'The Kraken Wakes' such a compelling read is the way he paces the gradual change in public opinion from initial disbelief to eventual resignation. The reader's curiosity is stimulated at the outset by a description of icebergs in the English Channel.

Wyndham provides no resolution to this story, as intimated at the beginning, for a variety of reasons which are faultless in their logic. He cannot be criticised on these grounds unless readers fail to grasp the very ideas he tried to convey (or expect science fiction only to be disappointed). The premise of his work might be fantastic, but his attention to the reality of the situation at all times precluded fantastic endings.

What makes Wyndham prophetic is the fact that many of his ideas, marginal in the 1950s, are the pressing concerns of our age: for instance, his understanding of solar energy, demonstrated in his last novel 'Chocky', is re-iterated in Thom Hartmann's 'The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight'.

Wyndham's stature as a writer would be greatly diminished were it not for his genuine and passionate engagement with ideas. He chose science fiction through which to explore them, not because he was interested in the genre per se, but because he was ahead of his time.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars More relevant today than its ever been, 19 Jun 2010
By 
Alan Head (Hampshire, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Kraken Wakes (Paperback)
Skip over the middle class '50s sensibilities of holiday cottages and dinner parties with important chaps in the military and this book is more relevant today than it has ever been. Its a tale of nature fighting back and humans having no understanding of how to fight it or of how it will affect their daily lives until its too late. With Gulf oil spills, volcanic ash clouds and global warming on the agenda Wyndham's attention to the detail of how this ongoing disaster affects the lives of his characters will resonate with modern readers. This would make an intelligent disaster movie in the style of "The Day the Earth Caught Fire"
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Don't worry. It isn't going to be alright..., 21 Jun 2005
By 
Charles Brewer (Westcott, Surrey United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Kraken Wakes (Paperback)
Wyndham's books have, for me, two contradictory, but oddly, not conflicting aspects. First, there is the disorientation which I tend to attribute to the post-Imperial, post-Austerity Britain of the 1950s. The role and the rule had pretty much gone - though there would have been enough in the news and on the radio about firefights and terrorist atrocities in various places whiuch were the remnants of the Empire. Second, however, there is the 'not fully informed' feel that must have gone with an age where technology was everywhere, but not working at full speed.
Whereas nowadays, we have film of natural disasters half way round the world within a couple of hours, in the 50s the output of a telegraph machine would be as much as we would get from remote spots for some days or weeks. It wasn't like the early 1800s where news took months, and it's not like now when it's colse to instantaneous. It was something in between, snippets and bits of garbled stuff.
That's why I find this the best of Wyndham's books. Information is mostly spotty, and uncertain. It's quite likely nothing is happening, just a few maritime losses here and there. Then there's a bit more information and we are introduced into a kind of semi-informed world, then we are at the end, and there is still no information. The book brilliantly combines the feeling of impotence of a world over which control has been lost (the post-Imperial weariness) and the lack of coherence to the threat, about which we never really learn very much, except that it is threatening, and it is malevolent.
In some ways, it might have made the ultimate Hitchcock film. Instead of a climax where everything works out, we just have a dissipation of tension without any loss of incipient disaster.
We end the book quietly knowing that everything is not going to work out fine.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Vintage British sci-fi., 31 Jan 2004
By 
S. Hapgood "www.sjhstrangetales.com" - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Kraken Wakes (Paperback)
Before reading this I took on board what all the other reviewers on this page had written about it, and by and large their criticisms are valid, but I also think this is an engrossing sci-fi which throws up some interesting ideas. The criticisms first: yes it can seem like a poor shadow of "The Day Of The Triffids", and suffers by comparison because it lacks the sense of immediacy you find in the Triffids, of the characters lost and bewildered in their nightmarish new world. And yes the character of Phyllis, the missus to Mike Watson, the narrator, is unspeakably irritating. I suppose we should be grateful that we've got a female lead in a 1950s sci-fi who has a career and a mind of her own, and doesn't just go around screaming at everything, (like that dreadful woman in the 1950s version of "The War Of The Worlds, who makes the film virtually unwatcheable for me!), or sitting at home in a frilly pinny waiting for hubby to come back from saving the world. But no, Phyllis IS irritating! Her endless arch and ironic comments (which are usually miserably unfunny), her constant cynicism, and above all the fact that at times she really does seem more like a bloke, make her an unsympathetic character. It's as if by trying to valiently break the stereotyped image of women in the sci-fi's of his time that Wyndham went too far the other way. Having said all that though, I'm very grateful that at least he tried! Phyllis at least doesn't go running tearfully to Her Man and screaming for his help whenever anything happens, and when she and Mike have to get to Cornwall in the last part of the book she comes across as an all-round good egg. The other main criticism of the book I feel is that it takes a long time to draw you in and get going. For a large part of it all we seem to get is ships sinking all over the world, which can get a tad monotonous after a while, particularly as all this is related to us via news reports mainly, or dull military-speak, which has a distancing effect.
BUT ... when it does get going this is a very absorbing read. The underwater creatures plan to complete their world domination by melting the polar caps and flooding us all out. A scenario that should be familiar to anyone who's taken in all the scare stories about global warming in recent years. When this happens the story is a true compelling page-turner, although to be honest I don't actually think, even in those circumstances, that society would break down as horrifically as he envisages here. I think we'd find a way to cope, even in our new "waterworld", particularly with the leisurely amount of warning that they get here. At the very end though Wyndham does offer his characters a sliver of hope.
In many ways this is very much a period piece. We get all the Cold War paranoia of the Russians, and we wouldn't be so heavily reliant on shipping for our everyday needs as the characters in the book are, and plus of course the devestation in London wouldn't be as acute as we now have the Thames flood barrier. But some of the themes in this are just as pertinent to the here and now. Most particularly political and media manipulation of what's going on. Some things just never will change I guess.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars What lies below the thunders of the upper deep?, 8 Jan 2005
By 
Sally-Anne "mynameissally" (Leicestershire, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Kraken Wakes (Paperback)
John Wyndham's "The Kraken Wakes" is divided into three 'phases':
• Phase one sees the arrival of lights - crafts of some sort - speeding through the skies and disappearing into areas of deep ocean. Some are shot down but most get through. Something in the deep repels all attempts to investigate. Bombs are dropped and the mystery visitors retaliate.
• In phase two, the retaliation that might at first have seemed like self-defence, escalates to undisguised aggression, with unprovoked attacks on land as well as sinking so many ships that water traffic is confined to shallow seas and coast lines.
• In the final phase, it becomes clear that the enemy in the deep does not intend to tolerate our continued existence. Climate change and inundation are the weapons used in their efforts to destroy us.
There's also a brief introduction titled "Rationale", where the narrator, Mike Watson, informs his wife, Phyllis that he's going to write an account of all that's happened and they discuss how and why he should go about the task and what the limits will be. As Phyllis is telling him how he should write it, they each suggest a verse to introduce the account. Phyllis thinks it should be an old nursery rhyme but Mike prefers Tennyson's verse about The Kraken. Mike gets his own way on this occasion.
The kraken is quite an appropriate monster to represent the bathies. The kraken was thought of as an enormous squid or octopus, feared by the seafarers of Norway. It was probably the giant squid, architeuthis, that had originally put the wind up them - then got exaggerated out of all proportion. There's another verse they might have considered. A verse from Samuel Taylor Coleridge's "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" could generate a fitting sense of the stench and slime of the alien horror in the deep:
"The very deep did rot: O Christ!
"That ever this should be!
"Yea, slimy things did crawl with legs
"Upon the slimy sea."
That's the sort of thing that might have driven our early, aquatic ancestors to forsake the sea and try to clamber up the nearest tree.
A few months ago this book was read, half an hour per night, on BBC digital radio 7. I enjoyed listening to it so much that I looked for the audiobook, but couldn't track it down so ordered the book instead. It's a thoroughly enjoyable read. The story is gripping but the style is calm and the pace even and unfrenzied. The characters already had my affection because of the BBC reading. It's hard to judge whether I would have felt quite so positive about Mike, Phyllis and Bocker if the reader hadn't used what seemed exactly the right voice and presentation - the one I imagine the author would have chosen for this story and these characters. In any case, as I read the book, I heard and visualised the people and situations as the storyteller had given them to me so I enjoyed reading as much as hearing it. I recommend this book and if you get the chance, listen to the BBC's reading as well. I hope it'll be out in audoibook before too long.
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The Kraken Wakes
The Kraken Wakes by John Wyndham (Paperback - 28 Jun 1973)
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