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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A drop in standards, 12 July 2010
This review is from: Kraken (Hardcover)
First off, it should be known that my biggest fear is the sea; specifically its dark depths and the creatures that lurk within. Like with many people I presume, because I fear this so vehemently, I am at the same time incredibly drawn to it and seek it wherever I can in fiction. Take the scene in James Cameron's The Abyss that sees Ed Harris' character make his slow descent into an abyssal, pitch black canyon on the floor of the ocean. I can watch the scene with ease, but at the same time it scares me magnificently, and compels me beyond belief.

The point to be taken is: I love sea monsters. Miéville's The Scar - an infinitely better book than this one - concerns in large part a gigantic sea monster from another universe called an Avanc; the inclusion and dealing of which I loved (one excellent aspect is Miéville's choice to never describe the creature in any detail; allowing my imagination to run wild with it - making the fear potential increase enormously). So when I saw that Miéville's latest work was to be titled Kraken, I immediately built up high hopes.

All in all though, I'm sad to say that I was let down. I love Miéville (and I haven't even read Perdido Street Station or The City & The City yet), but his latest effort falls considerably short of his abilities in my opinion. New Weird in style Miéville certainly is, but this all too weird for my tastes. From animal servants picketing for their rights to an omniscient invisible flying cartoon pig, this grasps completely in the wrong direction for an altogether ludicrous kind of strange. Add to this a plot full of questions to which we are given all too easy and entirely unsatisfying answers and it doesn't amount to much.

Unused is the full potential of dealing with a sea monster as utterly terrifying and infamous as the giant squid. I'm sure it isn't Miéville's intent to scare here, but I figured I would succumb anyway, due to my phobia, but nothing succeeded in scaring me to any degree, save perhaps the idea of living out Billy's Kraken dreams.

The whole thing just comes off as one big bad joke; or rather a continual and unrelenting series of bad jokes, punctuated with pointless oddness and unnecessary absurdity. The fact that it could be seen as humour does not excuse the strangeness in my opinion.

There is by no means nothing to salvage. There are points, mostly when Miéville is describing the Gods that exist and the cult religions that follow them, that he hits on some gorgeously Lovecraftian ideas and musings, like with an extract of a `holy' text that Billy (the protagonist) reads:

"We cannot see the universe. We are in the darkness of a trench, a deep cut, dark water heavier than earth, presences lit by our own blood, little biolumes, heroic and pathetic Promethei too afraid or weak to steal fire but still able to glow. Gods are among us and they care nothing and are nothing like us. This is how we are brave: we worship them anyway."

The huge potential of passages like this is never developed further, and all my dreams of being crippled and engulfed by fear are lost with this failing. Kraken is by no means a disaster; it's just not up to Miéville's usual high standard, nor as good an execution as I feel the subject matter deserved. 5/10 (2.5 stars)
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