The London Natural History museum houses a God, and Billy Harrow is its keeper. Of course, Billy has no idea about any of this until the day the God—a preserved giant squid—vanishes without a trace. Suddenly a London Billy never knew emerges as growing furor and concern swell around the inexplicable disappearance. Was it the Church of the Kraken? Was it Tattoo and his army of anatomically impossible goons? Did it have anything to do with the secret division of the London police devoted to cults and magic?
As the list of occurrences that Billy’s scientific mind knows are impossible in a world without magic (or “knack” as those in the know refer to it) grows longer, he is drawn deeper and deeper into the mystery surrounding the first thing that all the prophets and portents have been able to agree on since time immemorial: The ends, plural, are near. Very near, in fact; and something or someone is threatening to end things in a way that no one foresaw. And at the center of all this—pursued by ageless goons Goss and Subby, whose reputation for brutality and raw power is the stuff of legends—a hapless Billy is quickly learning that some very powerful people are very interested in what is inside his head.
Within Kraken, China Miéville manages to weave a story that seems to touch many genres without ever settling on one, and includes nods to many of the pop-culture sci-fi and fantasy memes that permeate our culture and inform our perspective on the subject of the fantastic. Despite this, or perhaps because of it, he manages to write a book that defies easy categorization and keeps even the most well-read appreciator of the fantastic on their toes. Add a dash of Jasper Fforde’s inspired punning and wordplay, Philip K. Dick’s taste for altered states, theology and conspiracy, and you begin to come close to what reading this book is like. While Miéville’s writing is evocative, it is by no means derivative—and it’s easy to say that these titans of non-traditional fiction are in very good company indeed.