[As a courtesy to our guests, please keep comments to the book. Please take other conversations to a previous thread. – bev]
Henry Farrell, Host:
China Miéville is perhaps the most interesting and influential writer to emerge in science fiction, fantasy and horror (genres that he brings together under the title ‘weird fiction’) over the last fifteen years. His breakout book, Perdido Street Station blended fantasy, horror and science fictional elements, in its depiction of a corrupt and fantastical city, part London and part Buenos Aires, under threat from escaped ‘slakemoths.’ Its sequels, The Scar and Iron Council revisited this city and the world surrounding it. His recent book The City and the City, which brings together noir detective fiction and a very particular kind of fantasy, won the World Fantasy Award. The New York Times ran a good profile of Miéville a few weeks ago.
His newest book, Kraken isn’t as literarily ambitious as The City and the City was. What it is is hugely enjoyable. In some ways, it’s a return to the early New Crobuzon books, where the sheer exuberance of Miéville’s imagination, and delight in creating new monsters rubbed up against the general grimness of his imagined politics – but this time with most of the grimness leached out. There is politics there – but it is for the most part in the background. This is a book that reads as though it was enormous fun to write. It certainly is enormous fun to read. To cite just one among many scenes, the moment where two of the most thoroughly unpleasant villains that I’ve ever seen in the genre) emerge for the first time is dazzling – but to reveal exactly how they emerged would be to spoil the surprise.
This is a more general problem for people (like me) who want to talk about the book to people who haven’t read it. Miéville pulls surprise after surprise out of the book, like a conjurer pulling coloured scarves, then ping pong balls, then bunny rabbits, and finally a couple of surprised and rather indignant elephants out of his sleeve. Telling you about the elephants in advance would ruin the trick. I can say that among many other things, the book discusses a kidnapped squid, a curator in search of same, unusual (and ultimately quite unpleasant) forms of origami, the labor relations between magically animated helpers and their creators, talking Captain Kirk figurines, visceral prophecies, and the historical importance of Charles Darwin. As well as many, many cults. To find out more, you’ll have to read it.
Some questions and topics for China to get the ball rolling: (more…)