& Cthulhu R'lyeh
This was my pick for Eleven-Books Club, since we had to pick a book we hadn't read & the only Miéville I'd read was his impressive Bas-Lag stuff. This book...was a solid middle of the road novel. Oh, I tore through it & I really enjoyed it, so don't let my bad attitude turn you off. It just was...well, "enjoyable," instead of amazing. It was a novel, not a piece of face-melting literature. Okay, so I had my expectations a little high, I'll admit it-- but in my defense, the name on the cover is "China Miéville" & the title of the book is "Kraken," so I think I'm entitled to having some lofty goals when I crack it open. I will say-- I think it probably makes a good genre intro for the book club. It might be a bit scattered & confusing, but I think it is full of hooks. Let me just say this as clearly as I can: did you like Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere? If you did, I highly recommend Kraken, since they are very much of the same tradition. An occult London, just below the skin of the banal world; John Constantine on the street corner smoking a cigarette. Hell, Goss & Subby-- the bogey men of the book-- are broken out of the same mold as Croup & Vandemar. Me? my favorite character is Dane Parnell, which I guess Jenny finds hilarious. Maybe it is from running a roleplaying campaign, but I just have a thing for characters who have a clear allegiance & a proactive agenda. & yeah, Mister Miéville, the Dungeons & Dragons nerd in me gets it when you call him a "paladin in hell." I know just what you mean.
Listen, there is quite a lot to like about this book; the language, the recognition of Cthulhu without falling into the snare of not shutting up about Lovecraft (the nine-hundred pound squid-faced gorilla in the room), the Church of the Kraken, all that jazz. Heck, the discussion of the fairy chess piece-- which is what they call non-standard & thought-experiment pieces-- of the Kraken was worth the price of admission, alone. & Londonmancers, Paristurges, Warsawtarchs, Berlinmagi...I guess the ones here would be...New Yorklocks? So I don't mean to complain; China Miéville has a way of...well, of Planescaping everything, of taking lots of big ideas & shoving them together & still having them make sense. Talking tattoos & the bungalow where the Ocean lives & magical paper airplanes & what have you. It even hits personal notes-- the formalin of the jars, the backstage access to the museum, all tugging the heartstrings of my undergraduate days. The book is an exercise in London's lingo & accents as much as in taking something silly-- like Star Trek-- & treating it with a totally straight face. My big complaint is-- well, it is scattered. It is the same problem Perdido Street Station has; so much of the book is spent chasing shadows & paper tigers (in one case, literally) & then the end...comes out of left field. I mean-- he lays the foundation. Clearly that guy is going to factor in, & that other guy has serious mental problems that will come back in a big way. It isn't hard to see that, but the particulars aren't obvious. I was talking about it today, saying I was waiting to the end to reserve judgement, in case it tied everything up brilliantly...& it doesn't. It ties everything up adequately. I'm not bothered, but I'm not floored, either, & I was sort of hoping to be floored, if I'm being honest.