Continuing the cephalopod blogging …

by Henry on July 11, 2010

Now that it’s out, I want to strongly recommend China Miéville’s _Kraken_ ( “Powells”:http://www.powells.com/partner/29956/biblio/9780345497499?p_wg, “Amazon”:http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/034549749X?ie=UTF8&tag=henryfarrell-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=034549749X ). By complete coincidence, I started Michael Chabon’s _Maps and Legends_ last night. It notes in its introductory essay that:

bq. Many of the finest “genre writers” working today, such as the English writer China Miéville, derive their power and their entertainment value from a fruitful self-consciousness about the conventions of their chosen genre, a heightened awareness of its history, of the cycle of innovation, exhaustion, and replenishment. When it comes to conventions, their central impulse is not to flout or to follow them but, flouting or following, to play.

This is a nice description, (a few years before the fact), of _Kraken._ Miéville’s previous book, _The City and the City,_ was very tightly controlled. Its metaphors mostly pointed in the same direction. _Kraken_ in contrast, is full of plotlines and images that _aren’t_ intended so much to cohere, as to play with each other, with the hope (but not the certainty) that they will get on well together. This has its problems. The book’s plot is a little baggy in places. But it also means that _Kraken_ overflows with things counter, spare, original and strange; odd and original monsters, horrible villains and quite peculiar magics. The book, at its heart, seems to me to be about the creative potential of incongruous connections – how metaphors, when they are concretized, may have entirely unexpected implications. If I don’t say more about the actual story, it’s because I don’t want to ruin the surprises. The bit (which readers of this post may recognize in retrospect) when Miéville starts to unfold his alternative world before our eyes is quite wonderful – but I imagine it would be less wonderful if someone had told you about it before you read it. If you like Miéville for his imagination, you’ll like this book. I suspect that he had enormous fun writing it. I certainly had enormous fun reading it.