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The Kraken Wakes by John Wyndham

01/09/2008. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts

Buy The Kraken Wakes in the USA - or Buy The Kraken Wakes in the UK

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pub: Penguin. 240 page paperback. Price: 7.99 (UK), $16.00 (CAN). ISBN: 978-141-03298-6.

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'The Kraken Wakes' is one of five of John Wyndham's book being re-issued by Penguin in September this year. Of all of these books, this is the one that I had to re-read. My memories of this book when I was young didn't leave me a very strong impression. Looking with adult eyes, if nothing else, might be able to work out why.

Essentially, there is a gigantic sea creature or more working its way under the oceans, targeting any ships above it. Eventually, it attacks human settlements near the sea extending its tentacles to draw people in. No country is spared and Russia sending ice down from the Arctic gives an effect somewhat like we're going to get from global warming. Considering that Wyndham wrote this book in 1953, then he was being quite prophetic in the effects of a raised sea level but also a sharp reminder as to our reliance on sea freight and how quickly it will drain resources if it is stopped.

The real problem is Wyndham's technique of bringing up the personal touch of seeing it through two characters' eyes. With a global menace of this magnitude they can't possibly be in the middle of everything. Indeed, they are there for only two events and see much of the rest through reports they receive that they are supposed to assess. Even back in the 50s, there would have been a necessity to have the lead characters in the middle of the action than on the sidelines. These days, I suspect a modern writer would have written this from a lot more different perspectives but considering the size of the book might have had problems with the page length.

Although I consider this the weakest of these five Wyndham book releases, its magnitude still makes for an interesting read with some themes that still have some resonances today.

GF Willmetts

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