Kraken by China Miéville
China Miéville and I have an understanding. I promise to accept that he’ll let the story meander all over the place, like a spinning top on a marble tabletop, and in return he promises that, whether or not eventually he gets to the point, it’ll all be worth the trip. The man doesn’t always know how to end a book, but he’s so good at weaving a story that feels like it could veer off in literally any direction at any moment that you don’t mind, even when the narrative sputters to an end and you’re slightly bewildered at what just happened. This is most true in the otherwise masterful The Scar, but holds for his other work as well.
Kraken is the first time he’s come close to letting me down. Nominally a whodunit, Miéville sets Kraken in modern London and the dialog practically drips with Englishness. He obviously set out to write an absurd farce and definitely succeeds with the absurd part, populating his story with a dead (and generally absent) giant squid, a foul-mouthed spell-slinging constable, Penn-and-Teller-esque mass murderers, and a collection of cults worshipping anything you can think of and a good many things you can’t. Throw in a work stoppage by the familiars’ union, a sentient tattoo, an honest-to-God fully functional phaser, and an oh who cares its just a whole lot of fun. Having gone into the read without realizing that Miéville was just going to let it all hang out and see exactly how crazy he could get, I found the experience slightly frustrating. On reflection, however, I find myself wanting to ride again just to experience the weird.
If you’re expecting a linear story then you’ve obviously never read Miéville, but with Kraken you can’t even count on the modicum of coherence that you find in, say, Iron Council or Perdido Street Station. You’ll probably want throw the book across the room a time or two, but if you’re OK with that, then you’re going to enjoy the ride by the time it’s over.