There is usually one book that stands out above the rest in the course of a summer. I still remember David Copperfield in the sunny weeks between ninth and tenth grades, and Treasure Island in the summer leading up to eleventh grade. In recent years the Harry Potter series became an annual summer rite. This past season, Kraken by China Mieville captured the hot spot – a memorable romp of wickedly wild other-worldly mayhem. It doesn’t fall into an easy genre, and to be honest I picked it up in the bookstore not knowing anything about it.
More often than not, I have an idea of what book I want to read next – based on the news or reviews, or even the simple suggestions of online alchemy. Not so this time – I picked up Kraken based on the title and my fascination with Architeuthis dux – the giant squid. There was no indication whether this was a comedy or a tragedy, reality or fantasy, fun or scary – so it was a bit like boarding Space Mountain for the first time without having heard anything about what it would be like. Thankfully that was part of the thrill.
So many preconceived notions are brought to the books we read, based on the title, the cover, the author, the synopsis – how many of us simply pick up a book and read it for the sheer thrill and joy of reading – regardless of content? Yes, it’s a crapshoot, and a rather Russian-Roulette-like danger of disappointment lurks beneath every cover, but in this instance it turned out for the best. Kraken is the kind of wonderfully weird corkscrew of a book that benefits from a cloak of mystery.
Being that I had no background knowledge of it, I also didn’t know whether what I was reading was actually happening, which only added to the heightened sense of suspended belief. Mieville manages to fry the mind in this giddy brain-fuck of a book – going so far as to seemingly bend time, erase and eradicate both history and memory, and kick up so much pseudo-scientific dust that you can do nothing but marvel at what has been conjured before your eyes.
The author has also crafted two of the most terrifying manifestations of pure evil in Goss & Stubby. They will hunt and haunt you long after their story ends. If you’re feeling adventurous, and want one more magical go-round before the summer ends, put Kraken on your reading list.
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