China Mieville; ‘The Kraken’
A relatively light hearted affair from Mieville, with a plot centred around the unlikely theft of a bottled giant squid from the Natural History Museum in London. The curator of the exhibition, Billy, falls into a London underworld of cultists and people with ‘the knack’, an engineering term here repurposed to mean, frankly, magicians, although everyone has a different knack, much like superpowers, but there are healthy doses of Golems and Familiars bringing us back into the British supernatural fantasy strain rather than the American comic book style.
Mieville’s prodigious intellect as always shines through in the prose, and his writing is like London itself, sometimes cockney sparrer, sometime baroquely ornamental and architectural (not to mention architeuthical!) which sometimes can trip an unwary reader up, but that’s Mieville, and anyone who has read ‘Perdido Street Station’, ‘Iron Council’, or any of his other works will be familiar with this.
An excellent mystery, fantastic characters, and an ability to describe London that acts much like one of his character’s ‘knack’; he has the power to push his hands into London and mould and shape the familiar and workaday into the strange and stunning, into a city full of glittering darkness and magic, but still ultimately made of hard and unyielding grey concrete.