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Tentacular, spectacular

There’s a ‘weird’ charm to China Mieville’s writings. Like an untimely burp reminiscent of a hearty meal, his flavoursome pennings stomp the mind at moments unexpected in Kraken.

books Updated: Sep 04, 2010 00:06 IST
Rajiv Arora

Kraken
China Mieville
Macmillan
R461 pp 481

There’s a ‘weird’ charm to China Mieville’s writings. Like an untimely burp reminiscent of a hearty meal, his flavoursome pennings stomp the mind at moments unexpected.

It’s partly due to the beauty of Mieville’s shape-shifting monsters and partly because you realise that he has read his Herman Melville (an ancestor), read through his H.P. Lovecraft and enough of Charles Dickens to be able to subvert the latter’s London to build his fantastical world — his London.

But above all, it is because of the reassurance Mieville provides that New Weird fiction in the 21st century is alive and well in his hands. In Kraken, Mieville comes firing all guns with his ‘architeuthis’ saga. London’s Darwin Centre’s prized possession, the giant squid, has gone missing.

A section of the police that specialises in dealing with clairvoyant threats has its task cut out. The creature’s caretaker, Billy Harrow, finds himself at the centre of one of the most unimaginable trails: that of restoring the Kraken.

On his way to prevent the cataclysmic repercussions of the squidnapping from coming true, Harrow crosses paths with fantastical believers, detractors, enemies and defenders of the various cults that control netherworld London, which brightens up the otherwise dark world.

What makes this book a stonking read is its lingo — that of a diehard Londoner who owes his foibles to the street culture. Take a crack at Kraken to get a taste of the lesser-explored alleys of SF. But for those who like their good guys good and bad ones bad, a suggestion: stick to your fairytales.