August 25th, 2004

This IS me (by schwitters)Default

The Kraken Revisited

I'm reading The Kraken Wakes, because when I was 11 or 12 and devouring John Wyndham like there was no tomorrow (perhaps because in his books there frequently was no tomorrow, or tomorrow was very nasty indeed, so I felt I had to mop them all up before I went blind or radioactive) I choked on this one and couldn't finish it, and I wanted to work out why.

(My favourite Wyndham, for the record, is The Midwich Cuckoos. This is, I'm sure, because it felt closer to home than any of his other scenarios; it was very easy for 11-year-old me to equate the sleepy village of Midwich with the sleepy town of Wimborne Minster in which I was growing up. I also love The Chrysalids and Chocky.)

What are my findings? The story takes a long time to get going. There are mysterious events and spooky happenings, but I feel it takes too long for anything tangible to turn up. The language is pretty dry, and sometimes unnecessarily difficult; I had to ask Owen what 'morganatic' meant and I'd only heard of a 'clepsydra' because of klepsydra. Not that I mind extending my vocabulary, but neither word is at all relevant to the plot so I didn't feel suitably rewarded for finding out what they meant. There's also a fair amount of heavy-handed political satire as the West and the Soviet Union blame each other for everything.

These are the three factors I've pinpointed. All are present to a lesser degree in his other novels, though, and I'm still surprised that Kraken stuck in my craw. There are very few books I've started and never finished - and in a couple of bedtimes, at least this one can be crossed off the list.

As a footnote, my mysterious inability to finish the thing obviously continued to bother me throughout my teenage years. In my unfinished furry-comedy-scifi-children's-detective novel, Alcatraz Gatz - Space Detective (started when I was sixteen and lovingly migrated from Mac to Mac for a decade), there is an amphibian Chief of Police named Kraken Weekes. I was very pleased with this at the time; given that most of the other characters, planets and spacecraft took their names from Book II of the Aeneid, which I was studying for A level, it probably was the pick of the bunch.
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