The Kraken Wakes
27 July 2013 6 Comments
Author: John Wyndham.
Summary: The novel describes escalating phases of what appears to be an invasion of Earth by never-seen aliens, as told through the eyes of Mike Watson, who works for the English Broadcasting Company with his wife and co-reporter Phyllis. A major role is also played by Professor Alastair Bocker – more clear-minded and far-sighted about the developing crisis than everybody else, but with the habit of telling brutally unvarnished and unwanted truths.
Rating: ★★★★☆ 4/5
Review: I haven’t met a Wyndham book i didn’t love, and this one was no exception. His narrative style is wonderful for me, constantly interesting and engaging while being easy to read. And read, and read.
I loved Phyllis by the end of page one. Why more people can’t write interesting, strong and well-rounded female characters i have no idea, but Phyllis is perfection. She makes her voice—more often than not to say something important and insightful—heard, uses both her heart and her brain, but won’t let either be ruled by the other.
Mike, the narrator and Phyllis’s husband/partner-in-crime, i enjoyed mostly for his love, appreciation and representation of Phyllis. He knows her strengths and weakness, and adapts to both as needed. He’s also the perfect middle-ground man to tell this story, almost always keeping a level head and not jumping to any conclusions regarding the creatures in the Deeps.
Regarding the creatures. They’re not called Kraken, that’s just a nifty line Wyndham pilfered, quite effectively, from a Tennyson poem. We also never actually see them. We get a glimpse of something, but it’s covered in some kind of armour and one is never captured or examined. Really, this book isn’t about the ‘kraken’; it’s about the humans. About human curiosity and inquisitiveness, as well as human denial and inertia, not forgetting human rashness and self-preservation.
This book explores, over many years, the human reaction and development when faced with a previously unknown and increasingly hostile intelligent life form. It’s not sensationalised; it’s plausible. It’s thoughtful and thorough. What we see in a realistic—and, 60 years later, still relevant—representation of the press, public and government during the time of a slowly developing crisis.
Wyndham perfectly blends a fantastical science-fiction aspect with an accurate portrayal of humanity. Half of the plot is a highly imaginative and implausible future, the other half is uncomfortably close to reality.
I have read several of Wyndham’s books, but the alien apocalyptic adventures told in The Day of the Triffids and The Kraken Wakes is definitely Wyndham at his best.
As an aside, i was not far from finishing this book yesterday when i went to the cinema to see Pacific Rim. And all i could see was a stolen and hashed up version of The Kraken Wakes.
Please note: This is not an endorsement for Pacific Rim. If you’re after crazy creatures from the depths of the sea trying to take over Earth, i recommend The Kraken Wakes!