I’m reading Kraken by China Mieville (speculative fiction, New Wierd, apocalyptic) this week. In Kraken a pickled giant squid specimen is stolen from London’s Natural History Museum. Warring underground factions of thugs, cultists, thieves and mages attempt to recover the missing squid. The various groups are trying to either trigger or prevent a London-destroying apocalypse. Billy Harrow (a scientist) and Dane (a doomsday squid-cultist) are trying to keep the pickled squid from being a pawn in this game. Kraken is stranger than a quick summary could possibly convey.
The novel is peppered with an odd amalgam of obscure literary and pop cultural references. Among them is the full text of Hugh Cook’s The Kraken Awakes, a poetic response to Tennyson’s The Kraken. I didn’t know Tennyson’s The Kraken, so I had to look it up:
The Kraken by Alfred Lord Tennyson
Below the thunders of the upper deep;
Far far beneath in the abysmal sea,
His ancient, dreamless, uninvaded sleep
The Kraken sleepeth: faintest sunlights flee
About his shadowy sides; above him swell
Huge sponges of millennial growth and height;
And far away into the sickly light,
From many a wondrous grot and secret cell
Unnumber’d and enormous polypi
Winnow with giant arms the slumbering green.
There hath he lain for ages, and will lie
Battening upon huge seaworms in his sleep,
Until the latter fire shall heat the deep;
Then once by man and angels to be seen,
In roaring he shall rise and on the surface die.
Australian Poet Hugh Cook‘s The Kraken Awakes is more raw, like Mieville’s story:
excerpt from The Kraken Wakes by Hugh Cook
The little silver fish
Scatter like shrapnel
As I plunge upward
From the black underworld.
The green waves break from my sides
As I roll up, forced by my season,
And before the tenth second
I can feel my own heat –
The wind can never cool as oceans do.
You can read the whole poem at Hugh Cook’s website.
Having read most of Kraken (79%), I can see how the two poems sparked aspects of Mieville’s book: the squid-triggered fiery apocalypse, the play on’secret cell’, the role of ‘man and angel’. The book is fascinating and dark (caution: if you don’t have a strong stomach for fictional violence, some of the murders in this book are grizzly and disturbing). I’m still not sure I love Mieville as an author but Kraken is definitely dense and fascinating reading.
For more Poetry Friday, visit our wonderful host, Tara, at A Teaching Life.