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VINE VOICEon 14 December 2014
---------------------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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on 13 November 2011
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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on 23 April 2009
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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on 2 November 2008
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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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 12 April 2015
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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VINE VOICEon 1 October 2015
.

--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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on 13 June 2015
I read this book when I was at school and remembered it when there was a question on a quiz show. It came really quickly as usual and I was soon tucked up and reading it - I couldn't put it down. A really great read from my childhood that I still enjoyed
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on 13 January 2013
I read this book when it came out originally and enjoyed it then. It is rare for me to read a book more than once and The Day of the Triffids was an exception, I read that 5 times. However as decades had passed since its original publication I felt I would like to read it again. I'm glad I did. the story, if anything, seemed more enjoyable (well I was pre- teen when I first read it). I wondered if it would seem dated but not a bit of it. The story is original and thoroughly absorbing. I did have to put it down as other constraints of everyday living got in the way, but I was soon able to pick it up again and finish it in a second session.
I enjoyed the traditional Sci Fi novels, not so much the fantasy that it seems to evolved into, and this is a classic Sc Fi but would appeal to any reader who likes a good thriller. Yes it does include'alien invaders' but really no more so than the triffids so it has a broad appeal. definitely not dated in its telling.
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on 7 November 2014
A novel from 1953, The Kraken Wakes is a SciFi story taking place at the dawn of The Cold War.
Mysterious things are happening over the deepest parts of the World's Oceans. The West thinks the Soviets are up to something and vice-versa. Mike and Phyllis Watson are radio documentary makers ( The story is written in the days before TV had taken its dominant place in broadcasting the news) and during a cruise, on their Honeymoon, they witness red orbs descending into the Ocean.
As first hand eyewitnesses to these events they becoming regarded as 'experts' in the slowly unfolding events at sea. Sent out on various assignments they witness key stages of the 'War' between man and what ever lies beneath the deep ocean.
A story of humanity's distrust of itself leading to it's real enemies taking the upper hand in a fight to dominate the Earth.
A modern reader may shake their head in disbelief as Governments happily use Atomic weapons across the Oceans, but in the early 50s "The Bomb" was widely exploded above ground around the globe, so this is a story of its time.
A really well written, intriguing and intelligent book, The Kraken Wakes, is now something of a period piece. The World it describes is now slightly unfamiliar to us; no computers, satellites or mobile phones, but it's a great read all the same and very unlike modern movie Sci-Fi, in that we never see the enemy face to face or even know why they are attacking us.
A good old fashioned yarn
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on 21 June 2005
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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