Saturday, June 11, 2011

Would China Mieville really destroy the world?

That's the question I kept asking myself as I made my way through Kraken (If you missed my earlier post on the topic, here it is).On the one hand, the three previous Mieville novels I'd read were pretty grim; but on the other, Kraken started off funny and got even funnier as it went along. Really, would an author who gives his protagonist access to a working Star Trek phaser let that protagonist (not to mention everyone else on the planet) die a fiery death? Well, this is China Mieville we're talking about, so I just wasn't sure.

Now I have my answer, so the only remaining question is how much to tell you. I don't want to spoil the book for anyone, but some of you might feel like Lady K. She read Perdido Street Station at my recommendation and hated the ending so much that she was ready to swear off Mieville completely unless I told her Kraken was a safe read. So, Lady K, here's your answer: YES. By all means, check out this book.

When I blogged about the novel at the halfway point, I said it reminded me a lot of Neil Gaiman, especially Neverwhere and American Gods. I left Anansi Boys out of that post only because it seemed a little redundant to mention when I'd already name-checked American Gods. Now I feel like I have to include it, because Kraken ended up being more like Anansi Boys than American Gods. I say that for a number of reasons, but most of them involve spoilers, so all I'll tell you here is this: a) AB is funnier than AG, while still retaining plenty of horror; and b) Billy Harrow is a lot like Fat Charlie, both in personality and in character arc.

Hmm, I wonder if Gaiman has read much Mieville (I don't have to wonder the opposite, because it's just so clearly true). Maybe they even know each other. Wouldn't it be interesting to have dinner with the two of them together?

I know some hardcore Mieville fans look down on Kraken because it's more lightweight than his Bas-lag novels, so I guess that means I'm not a hardcore fan. But I'm okay with that because it means I got to enjoy a fun novel with real emotional weight, fantastic characters, terrifying villains, hundreds of geeky in-jokes, and "confirmation" of a personal theory I've always held about Star Trek's transporter technology. ;) So what if the ending didn't make me want to stick my head in the oven? Is that a bad thing?

P.S.: The picture at the top of this post doesn't really have anything to do with Kraken, but you didn't really want to see that boring old book cover again, did you? ;) I thought you'd appreciate a bit of stuntkid art instead.

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