This was going to be a singularly insightful post on Kraken, China Mieville’s new novel. There was a lot of hype surrounding this book, and normally I’m a fan of Mieville’s work. Perdido Street Station and The Scar were the best steampunk I’ve ever read, and Kraken promised to be just as exciting. I even paid the quarter our library charges to “rent” out new books, that’s how excited I was.
After three days of pushing through the first half of the novel, I put it down to realize I had no idea what was going on. Literally no clue. There was something about a missing squid, I gathered, and about a Tattoo that had a life and mind of its own. But apart from that, I wasn’t sure. What was this bit about a talking statue? And what in God’s (or Kraken’s, I suppose) name was a Teuthex?
I put down the book, took out the bookmark, and placed it in my “to be returned” pile, where it is currently causing me a lot of guilt every time I look in its direction. Ha ha, the cover seems to say. China Mieville is too smart for you. You can’t even follow his narrative.
The cover, however, is probably being unfair. I admit that I have not been in the best place for reading lately; something about staring at and trying to produce words on a page for at least eight hours a day, five days a week, has a way of burning one out. I haven’t been able to read anything particularly taxing lately, or even anything at all — in desperation the other day, I borrowed a few romance novels from a friend in an attempt to get myself to read something, anything.
Some of the blame must fall on Mieville. One of the things I love about him is that he doesn’t explain every single aspect of his universes throughout the course of any given novel. He presents you with things like living tattoos that exist in his world, but leaves the reader to figure it out on his or her own rather than attempting to explain how these inexplicable things came to be. In a previous post, I compared likened his writing to a travel guide written by a native, rather than an outsider.
However, there is something to be said for making sure one is not simply bombarding the reader with new and strange things for the sake of it. Okay, Mieville, so there are people in this universe who have closed-circuit television cameras and radios embedded in their bodies; right, good, fine. Why? What is the purpose? And why have you thrown this at me immediately after I have made peace with the fact that there are tattoos that can speak and squids that are actually gods?
So. I have given up on Kraken. If you’ve read it and can tell me why I should give it another shot, please do so! Because right now, I can’t even feel happy about how much better my current read, White Teeth by Zadie Smith, is — I’m feeling too guilty about throwing over the Kraken.