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15 of 16 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

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars You can get lost in the future.
An enjoyable read very much in the style of John Wyndham. I very much like the style of his 1950s sci fi books which are never over the top. It is a good story though not brilliant in my eyes but at times the story dig drag a bit and did not always keep me wanting to read more.
The one big minus with this book (the kindle version, can only presume the written book...
Published 8 months ago by Johnny Kidd


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15 of 16 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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A slow-burn Alien Invasion, 14 Dec. 2014
By 
Susman "Susman" (London Mills IL) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Kraken Wakes (Paperback)
---------------------There are some spoilers-----------------

The eponymous kraken is a sea monster from Scandinavian folklore.

The Kraken Wakes is an apocalyptic speculative fiction novel by John Wyndham, first published in 1953. It is very much the product of its time. The narrative is the backdrop mise-en-scène of the Cold War society. The outlook of the characters are often quite paternalistic, especially when any women are concerned, and some may find that attitude grating. A book reflecting the attitudes and conventions of the time it was written in. The main protagonists in this case are a husband and wife Mike and Phyllis, who are reporters.

Unlike the Trffids, the nature of the disaster comes on in phases and takes place over a period of about ten years, each phase becoming more and more detrimental to humanity. In parallel the Cold War begins to heat up as mistrust between the East and West believing that what is happening is an escalation in tensions, rather than it being caused by an unseen third party. It's an extra-terrestrial invasion. The first things that are seen are "red dots," of fiery shooting star landing in the deepest parts of the world's oceans, which are actually alien craft. It's ventured that they might come from gas giant planet and like living in high pressure environments and hence their need deep-water home, the book then gives over to a series of attacks by the aliens, they never called krakens in the book, climaxing in the scene that starts at beginning of the novel where rising sea water and icebergs in the Channel have entirely changed the weather and landscape of Britain isles, and where by the characters are trying to escape.

While some readers may find it frustrating - I like the idea that the aliens were never explained, or really shown, as everything about them is theoretical, except what they actually do, and there are lots of potential reasons for that. Some have said this novel is not one of the authors best - each to their own, however, for me this book is still worthy of a good 5 stars - after all how many alien invasion narratives, films and the rest show the invasion landing on terra firma with instant detriment to mankind. Dare I say the slow-burn nature of The Kraken Awakes, and the way you know there is trouble out there - but you cannot get to it, or see it makes this book so very interesting.
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17 of 19 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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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A cracking slice of deep-sea unease., 23 April 2004
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 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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Classic fiction, 29 Nov. 2012
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This review is from: The Kraken Wakes (Kindle Edition)
Its been about 40 years since I first read this, way back when I was a teenager and the setting is quite 'dated'. lots of British stiff upper lip bits spread throughout the story But its still a great piece of fiction and the story of Alien Invasion has stood the test of time. The storyline is still fresh and interesting. I enjoyed the way the book spanned several years but the ending almost felt as though the author just needed to finish the story and was not sure how to end it. Still it was well worth a read and I will probably pick it up again sometime in the future when I need something that does not need to much concentration.
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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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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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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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4.0 out of 5 stars An alien invasion catastrophe story that has strong modern echoes thanks to rising sea levels, 12 April 2015
By 
Mark Pack (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Kraken Wakes (Paperback)
62 years seems a safe enough margin to leave things before being sure that a book really is worth reading... so I've finally read John Wyndham's The Kraken Wakes. My only regret is that I waited so long.

Similar in many ways to his earlier The Day of the Triffids, The Kraken Wakes also involves another lifeform causing catastrophe for humanity, with by the end society struggling to survive and rebuild.

However, rather like Karel Capek's excellent War with the Newts (S.F. MASTERWORKS), this story concentrates more on how countries react in the face of a novel threat, using this as a hook for some biting commentary on the state of the country, and the global economic and diplomatic systems at the time of writing.

Less acerbic is Wyndham's attitude towards gender stereotypes and although the heroes of the story are a married couple in which the wife too is a skilled professional with a career, she is also the one prone to flirting, hysterics, manipulation and deceit whilst her husband is stolid, reliable and uncomplaining.

The book's other main flaw is its slow, uniform pace (save for two big jumps in time). In places the slow pace nicely ratchets up the mystery and tension, yet in others when you know what is coming next in broad outline, the inching towards it can be frustratingly slow, especially as the repartee between the characters switches between the very clever and the rather mundane.

Yet in the book's favour is its effective description of a world sucumbing in stages to catastrophe, with a mysterious alien enemy about whom not very much is ever learnt and with some brilliant set piece scenes, such as the description of a flooded London. Indeed, in this respect time has been kind to the book, for the flooding happens thanks to one of the alien tactics being to melt the polar ice caps, something that climate change has now made a very current concern.

So not a perfect book but still a great read.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Unpicking Wyndham's recurring Obsessions - Second in a Great Quartet, 11 Mar. 2014
By 
Christopher H (Keilor, Australia) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Kraken Wakes (Paperback)
"The Kraken Wakes" can be read on its own. The earth's oceans are invaded by aquatic aliens who adapt the planet to their own environmental needs, raising sea levels and dropping the temperature, while harvesting humans like cattle. Technology seems ineffectual in dealing with unseen creatures that resist atomic weapons. How will humanity fight back?

But this is also Wyndham's second novel in a quartet of landmark SciFi books that - if seemingly unrelated - dovetail to chart a fascinating structure of evolving ideas. Taking all four as a group (The Day of the Triffids of 1951, The Kraken Wakes of 1953, The Chrysalids of 1955, The Midwich Cuckoos of 1957) the author examines certain themes.

The Triffids, the Kraken and the Chrysalids books all involve the collapse of overall human civilisation, and a social regression to life centered on small isolated low-tech communities.

With the Triffids and Chrysalids the problems are entirely earth-bound, with life forms having mutated due to the impact of advanced scientific work (the dangerous Triffid plants are engineered plants; and weird world of the Chrysalids is the result of radiation). Atomic incidents feature in both (in the Triffids, atomic weapons in orbit explode, blinding people; in the Chrysalids, the world has apparently endured a global atomic war).

The Kraken and the Cuckoos are both tales of extraterrestrial invasion, with humanity facing the potential of being rendered extinct by alien life.

The Triffids and the Kraken both feature creatures that feed on human beings. Each plays on the idea of an unseen predator: the Triffids' victims have been rendered blind, whereas the aliens in the Kraken are hidden beneath the sea, and they destroy all probes sent to study them. The lights in the sky that trigger the disaster in the Triffids, are revisited in the airborne lights above the sea in the Kraken.

Telepathy features in both the Chrysalids and Cuckoos. Where the Chrysalids is written from the standpoint of children with telepathic powers, who are feared by hostile villagers around them; the Cuckoos is written from the standpoint position of frightened villagers who are threatened by children/aliens with telepathic powers.

Even the sticky membranes used by aliens to ensnare humans in the Kraken, are revisited in similar sticky membranes used by the Zealanders to ensnare the villagers in the Chrysalids.

Some readers view The Kraken Wakes as not as accomplished as the other novels in the quartet, but it cannot be detached from them. When gathered together and treated as a sequence, the imaginative richness of individual novels deepens, and one can see what an achievement the quartet represents: this is the very best of post-war British SciFi, and deserves inclusion in every serious library.
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The Kraken Wakes
The Kraken Wakes by John Wyndham (Paperback - 7 Aug. 2008)
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