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The Kraken Wakes by John Wyndham

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See here.  As I mentioned upthread, it seemed very similar to what the studio did to the 1956 version of 'Invasion of the Body Snatchers'.  Guess they thought people in the 50s wouldn't like pessimistic endings.

I hadn't looked at your article before...didn't want to read it before I'd finished the book. Thanks for reposting. :)

 

I have to take exception to her blasting of Phyllis though. 

Re-linking the article, for copyright's sake. http://www.tor.com/blogs/2009/10/the-way-the-world-ends-john-wyndhams-lemgthe-kraken-wakeslemg

 

From the article:  Wyndham always had very odd attitudes towards women. Phyllis, the narrator’s wife, wheedles, stockpiles, flirts, and has hysterics.

 

Um, you guys, it was the 50's.   Maybe I'm the only one around here that actually lived through them, but that is an accurate portrayal of the time.  In character.

And don't let "modern" women fool you......we still do the same thing, perhaps more subtly, but we do it.   Remember the old adage, 'you catch more flies with honey than vinegar'?  Right.  I rest my case.

 

I didn't feel Phyllis was patronized. 

 

From the article:   Phyllis does have a job and she’s good at it, but she’s good at it because she flirts and wheedles her way into interviews more scrupulous people wouldn’t get.

 

Bloody heck, has the author of the article ever seen the present day media in action???  Criminy!

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I hadn't looked at your article before...didn't want to read it before I'd finished the book. Thanks for reposting. :)

 

S'Okay  :smile:   It wasn't so much the article I was reposting as the comment beneath it about how Wyndham supposedly revised the ending  :smile:

 

 

Um, you guys, it was the 50's.   Maybe I'm the only one around here that actually lived through them, but that is an accurate portrayal of the time.  In character.

 

I didn't feel Phyllis was patronized. 

 

Yeah, judging something that was written 60 years ago by today's standards seems a little odd.  I've read a few of Jo Walton's reviews and articles and not noticed that sort of thing from her before, but she's so off the mark with those comments it almost felt like she was actively trying to find something to rant about.  People in the comments queued up to tell her otherwise, anyway.  I thought Phyllis was the real heart of the story, if you can consider it to have one :shrug:

 

 

Bloody heck, has the author of the article ever seen the present day media in action???  Criminy!

 

:lol:

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1. Were you engaged immediately with the story, or did it take you a while to get into it?
I was engrossed straight away. I've found with all of his books (or those that I've read anyway) that he immediately interests me. He's very good at writing about believable characters in unbelievable situations.
2. Did you have a favourite character? And a least favourite?
I didn't have a particular favourite .. the person I most admired was Bocker .. he stuck to his guns and had integrity. Also his theories turned out to be closer to the truth than anyone elses. I didn't have a least favourite.
3. Was there a particular part you enjoyed more than the rest?
Yes, definitely, the attack on Escondida was absolutely sensational .. gripping stuff and the highlight of the book. It was exactly what I'd been waiting to happen .. I couldn't read it fast enough :D
4. Were there any parts/ideas you struggled with?
Not really no.. that's what I like about vintage sci-fi .. it doesn't confound me so much and I'm not stretched too far out of my comfort zone. The only things I questioned were pretty trivial .. the first was when they were out in the boat and the first atomic bomb was launched .. they seemed to be too close to me to escape harm from the fallout and surely the tsunami that followed would have wiped them out? .. and the second was that after the loss of the two men who had been the first to be lowered in the bathyscope .. Phyllis and Mike were talking about writing a script, casting and filming .. I just wondered if that has ever been acceptable? Nowadays, when there's a disaster, they even take things off TV that are too close for comfort .. I know they make films/programmes when time has elapsed but it seemed too hasty. It's always the same .. I have more trouble with the mundane things than with the believability of krakens etc :blush2:
5. Was this the first book you've read by this author, and has it encouraged you to read more?
I've read The Day of the Triffids and The Midwich Cuckoos and now this one and enjoyed them all immensely. I definitely want to read his others.
6. The book opens with Rationale where Mike and Phyllis the book he is thinking of writing. Did you feel it took away the sense of peril to the two leads throughout the story, as you knew they had survived?
I always think that it's a risky strategy .. it does take some of the excitement away but I found that I was more concerned with the 'kraken' and my mind was taken up with trying to work out what its next move was and how it would affect everyone.

7. Also in Rationale, Phyllis suggests an opening for the proposed book, using an excerpt of poetry, but Mike has decided that he prefers The Kraken by Tennyson. Which did you prefer?
I liked Phyllis' couplet .. and it did seem more relevant but the Tennyson poem was more stirring. Given the serious nature of what they were about to reveal .. the Tennyson poem seemed fitting.
8. The "kraken" itself was relatively unknown throughout the book, and the effect of its actions on the human race took precedence. Did you find it believable as a villain, for want of a better word, or did you think it was less important and that the purpose of the story was more about how man would cope in a global crisis?
I did think the kraken was believeable as a villain but I had expected to actually 'see' it (hauling itself out from the deep and munching up villages :D) For most of the story I anticipated that, whatever was controlling the tanks and coelenterates, would be revealed, so I was surprised that it wasn't. I'm glad in a way as it didn't stretch credibility too far and I like the way that John doesn't always tie up ends but leaves the story on a hopeful note. The story of how the various governments etc responded to the crisis had an incredible ring of truth about it (I loved reading all the Russian responses .. they were all for siding with the 'kraken' if it would help them fight capitalism :D .. until it started messing with their shipping.) What was also chilling was the human response (and I believe he wrote a similar thing in Triffids) .. the way that vigilante groups formed etc .. it's something we've seen happen during times of crisis. Also, the whole parallel to our current concerns regarding global warming was pretty unnerving (though I don't think the kraken is behind our particular climate problems  :o :D)

 9. Overall, was reading the book an enjoyable experience?
Yes, I totally enjoyed it and the book almost read itself which was a relief as I've been struggling recently to get books to stick.
10. Would you recommend the book to others?
I would definitely recommend John's writing yes :)

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I've just read through all the other answers. It's weird, I don't find him particularly slow .. that is .. it's the sort of slow that I don't mind too much because I know .. at least I hope .. that I will be fed eventually :D I wasn't at all bored though. In a longer book I may have had problems.
 
I had conflicting ideas about the kraken's intelligence though because, on the one hand, it seemed to be always thinking and re-evaluating but on the other .. it didn't always take advantage of a favourable situation :D That flood water seemed to rise and rise and still it didn't make many forays inland. Perhaps it was starving them out though .. it was quite clever so possibly it knew to conserve energy. What I didn't quite understand was .. why was it taking the humans? .. was it feeding off them or experimenting with them or just exterminating them?
 
I'm pretty sure that the Triffids had a similar ending .. 

Didn't everyone decamp to the Isle of Wight because the Triffids couldn't cross salt water? .. put me in mind of grey squirrels :D anyway there was the same feeling that they were working towards an answer .. but hadn't got there yet 

 

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I've just read through all the other answers. It's weird, I don't find him particularly slow .. that is .. it's the sort of slow that I don't mind too much because I know .. at least I hope .. that I will be fed eventually :D I wasn't at all bored though. In a longer book I may have had problems.

 

I had conflicting ideas about the kraken's intelligence though because, on the one hand, it seemed to be always thinking and re-evaluating but on the other .. it didn't always take advantage of a favourable situation :D That flood water seemed to rise and rise and still it didn't make many forays inland. Perhaps it was starving them out though .. it was quite clever so possibly it knew to conserve energy. What I didn't quite understand was .. why was it taking the humans? .. was it feeding off them or experimenting with them or just exterminating them?

 

I'm pretty sure that the Triffids had a similar ending .. 

Didn't everyone decamp to the Isle of Wight because the Triffids couldn't cross salt water? .. put me in mind of grey squirrels :D anyway there was the same feeling that they were working towards an answer .. but hadn't got there yet 

 

 

I wonder as well the kraken's motive for taking the people in that horrible manner.  Fear mongering??  Dinner?  Either way, yuck.

 

I was trying to remember how Triffids ended...I think you may be right.

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1. Were you engaged immediately with the story, or did it take you a while to get into it?

 

I was pretty immediately engaged with it. I suspected I would like it because of the storyline, so I wasn't too surprised that I was hooked early on.
 
2. Did you have a favourite character? And a least favourite?

 

There weren't that many characters that were described in any level of detail. Even Mike and Phyllis weren't described objectively (which would be hard since it was written in the first person), so we only ever got their point of view but I did find them easy to follow and read. I liked Bocker for his knowledge and foresight and that he stuck to his guns and was pretty much proved right in the end.

 3. Was there a particular part you enjoyed more than the rest?

 

I really liked when the two scientists (?) were sent down into the Deeps in the bathysphere. That was pretty tense because I didn't know whether they would find something, or if they end up getting stuck at the bottom. What a horrific way to go!  I think I liked Phase 3 the best, when the land was submerged the gradual breakdown of society took place, though there wasn't much detail on that. I liked the gentle humour of the EBC vs BBC as well.
 
4. Were there any parts/ideas you struggled with?

 

I struggled a bit with timelines. Was there any indication of how much time elapsed from the first fireballs to the Sea Tanks and then the sea levels rising? I seem to remember that the time between the fireballs and the Sea Tanks was a few years, but that seems too long.

 

I found the story slowed down a bit just before Phase 3, so I was glad when it jumped to that point as that re-kindled my interest.

 5. Was this the first book you've read by this author, and has it encouraged you to read more?

 

I seem to remember reading The Day of The Triffids, but not enjoying it. However this was years ago, and after enjoying The Kraken Wakes so much I will definitely read it again and also try some of his others.

 6. The book opens with Rationale where Mike and Phyllis the book he is thinking of writing.  Did you feel it took away the sense of peril to the two leads throughout the story, as you knew they had survived?

 

No, it didn't bother me in the slightest. I suppose I was more interested in the global story rather than their individual ones.
 
7. Also in Rationale, Phyllis suggests an opening for the proposed book, using an excerpt of poetry, but Mike has decided that he prefers The Kraken by Tennyson.  Which did you prefer?

 

Re-reading that section, I prefer Phyllis' suggestion, purely because it's short and to the point. I've never been a big fan of poetry and most of it washes over me, so I found myself skimming the Tennyson poem.

 8. The "kraken" itself was relatively unknown throughout the book, and the effect of its actions on the human race took precedence.  Did you find it believable as a villain, for want of a better word, or did you
think it was less important and that the purpose of the story was more about how man would cope in a global crisis?

 

I would have liked to know more about the Kraken, but I was quite happy to read about the human element. Towards the end, the impression was given that they were some kind of jelly substance, as that's what floated to the surface when they were killed off. I would have enjoyed it if they had explored the remains of the Sea Tanks that had been destroyed (the impression I got was that they destroyed most of them, yet for some reason they never took any of them away to do tests, etc). Perhaps Bocker and a group of scientists could have given their views as to what they were?

 9. Overall, was reading the book an enjoyable experience?

 

Yes, it was very enjoyable. Though the pace slowed a bit in some areas, it still picked up again and always managed to hold my interest.

 10. Would you recommend the book to others?

 

Yes, not only SF fans as it's got enough of a human-element and interesting story to keep most people interested.

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Just have to add, was anyone else surprised at the mention of the death of Mike and Phyllis' baby? I think it was given one sentence, and another brief mention later on in the book....I'm just surprised that it was ever mentioned at all as it didn't have any impact to either of their characters.

 

Was there any significance, and if so, what was it?

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As always with the RC, I’m answering these questions without reading anyone else’s answers, so any similarities are just due to similar thoughts about and experiences of reading the book. :)

1. Were you engaged immediately with the story, or did it take you a while to get into it?
It didn’t take me any time at all to get into the story really – I very much like Wyndham’s writing – it’s an easy style to read. :)

2. Did you have a favourite character? And a least favourite?
There aren’t many characters to choose from really, are there?! I like Phyllis the best because she was such a strong character. I liked Mike too and I thought their relationship was great – she seemed to be the one with more about her – more get up and go, I suppose, but Mike was quite grounding and very supportive, and he didn’t seem to mind her ‘wearing the trousers’ – there’s was quite a modern relationship for the time the book was written, I think.  :) I liked that.

3. Was there a particular part you enjoyed more than the rest?
I think my favourite bits were the part where Phyllis and Mike went to the Island of Escondida and encountered the ‘sea tank’ – the tension was so well written - and the scenes in London towards the end of the book.

4. Were there any parts/ideas you struggled with?
No! :D

5. Was this the first book you've read by this author, and has it encouraged you to read more?
It’s not the first book of Wyndham’s - I read The Day of the Triffids in about 1981 when I was at school – and I re-read it in 2009 when I came across the book with the same colour. I read The Midwich Cuckoos a couple of years ago. I have two more (also with the Peter Lord covers) on my ‘to read’ pile. :)

Wyndham’s writing reminds me of H G Wells’ excellent War of the Worlds – I must read some more of Wells’ books!


6. The book opens with Rationale where Mike and Phyllis the book he is thinking of writing. Did you feel it took away the sense of peril to the two leads throughout the story, as you knew they had survived?
Not really – I still felt that sense of urgency throughout the book, even though I knew they’d survived. Somehow Wyndham managed to keep up the tension despite the reader knowing the outcome.

7. Also in Rationale, Phyllis suggests an opening for the proposed book, using an excerpt of poetry, but Mike has decided that he prefers The Kraken by Tennyson. Which did you prefer?
I actually Googled Emily Pettifell when I read Phyllis’ choice because I hadn’t come across her... or the rhyme... before. No surprise since it was obviously made up by Wyndham! :giggle: I quite liked the lines, actually, but I think the Tennyson was a more obvious choice, which is why Mike went for it.

8. The "kraken" itself was relatively unknown throughout the book, and the effect of its actions on the human race took precedence. Did you find it believable as a villain, for want of a better word, or did you think it was less important and that the purpose of the story was more about how man would cope in a global crisis?
I definitely felt it was more about man’s survival in such terrible circumstances. I would have perhaps liked to have known a little more about where the enemy came from and why they decided to invade Earth – was it greed, or had some global crisis affected their planet, requiring them to invade in an effort to survive? But it didn’t spoil my enjoyment of the book – just made me curious about them.

9. Overall, was reading the book an enjoyable experience?
Definitely. I’d been putting it off (as I am with the other two Wyndhams I have) because I don’t “do” sci-fi – but I don’t know why as I’ve thoroughly enjoyed all three that I’ve read now! :giggle2: I think Kay hit the nail on the head when she called it ‘Vintage Sci-fi’ - I like it because it’s set on our planet, so it makes it more believable to me.

10. Would you recommend the book to others?
I would to people who are established sci-fi fans… with the caveat that it is rather dated. However, if I had to recommend one Wydham to someone who hadn't read him before from those I’ve read I wouldn’t choose this – I’d probably go for The Day of the Trifids.

Regarding the dated aspect of it… the fact that it’s set in the 1950s made this book work. With today’s technology I’m not sure the naivety of the plot and characters would work.

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I was quite surprised just reading the rest of this thread now after typing up my answers to hear of the woman's reaction to Phyllis in her blog.  As I said above, I felt that she was quite a strong character for the 1950s!  Maybe the blogger is very young and doesn't realise what life was like for women in that era.  We may still not be entirely equal, but we're far more equal than we were then!

 

Just have to add, was anyone else surprised at the mention of the death of Mike and Phyllis' baby? I think it was given one sentence, and another brief mention later on in the book....I'm just surprised that it was ever mentioned at all as it didn't have any impact to either of their characters.

 

Was there any significance, and if so, what was it?

Hmm - it didn't cross my mind as I was reading that it hadn't been discussed much.  I guess it didn't really have much relevance to the story so I'm not sure what the point was, unless it was to illustrate that it made Mike and Phyllis more united as a unit of two?  If they had children then the story wouldn't have worked out as well because it is highly likely (though not a given) that Phyllis would have given up her career to stay at home.

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Ah, maybe that's it. I'm guessing it was a given that a married couple in the 1950's "must" have children, so maybe it was mentioned to let the reader know that they had tried. Otherwise maybe readers in the 1950's - when the book was released - would be commenting that the story was not realistic because they didn't try to have children. :dunno:

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I do know a couple of people who were childless through choice in the 1950s - what I was trying to say (badly) is that the only reason I could see that it was mentioned was that maybe it showed that they were strong enough to get through the death of a child without it weakening their relationship?  :dunno:    Other than that, I'm not sure why it was mentioned, really.   As has been said, it was only mentioned in passing after the initial mention of it. 

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Maybe the blogger is very young and doesn't realise what life was like for women in that era.

 

She's 49 :shrug:  Her rant seems so far off the mark to me that I think it was done to provoke reaction (which it did, if you read the comments) :unsure:  Even stranger, she's a big fan of 'vintage' SF, so I'm sure she must have encountered far, far worse examples of the sort of thing she's on about :shrug:

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She's 49 :shrug:  Her rant seems so far off the mark to me that I think it was done to provoke reaction (which it did, if you read the comments) :unsure:  Even stranger, she's a big fan of 'vintage' SF, so I'm sure she must have encountered far, far worse examples of the sort of thing she's on about :shrug:

It's very odd but perhaps that was her reaction to Phyllis  :shrug:.. I can't see why she thought that .. nothing in John's writing backs it up but often I find my opinions of characters differs enormously from other readers .. possibly there was a word or a gesture that set her off (she's at that unreasonable time of life :giggle: .. I empathise.) Mark my words there was something there that rankled (though Lord knows what it was) because she's not someone who would normally rant just in order to provoke a reaction :shrug:I do feel these were her honest opinions .. though, imho, she got the wrong end of the stick. 

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She's 49 :shrug:  Her rant seems so far off the mark to me that I think it was done to provoke reaction (which it did, if you read the comments) :unsure:  Even stranger, she's a big fan of 'vintage' SF, so I'm sure she must have encountered far, far worse examples of the sort of thing she's on about :shrug:

That is young - I'm not a million miles away myself!  :giggle2:   

 

I haven't actually read it - I will go and do so now.  :)

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"Wyndham’s treatment of Phyllis is repulsive and patronising, and much worse than average for 1953, or even 1853.

It would be just barely possible to read it as the narrator’s misogyny if one hadn’t read any other Wyndham, and I recommend this if possible."

 

Wow, it's like she read about a completely different Phyllis from the one I read about! 

 

I didn't find Wyndham's characterisation misogynistic for the time it was set at all.   In fact, I expect there are plenty of Phyllises around now - and I suspect I might be close to being one (although maybe less hysterical in my nature than she is)!  Maybe that's why I wasn't offended by the way she's presented.  :shrug:

 

ETA: And another thing!

 

"She comes from Wales but lives in Montreal where the food and books are more varied."

 

Does she really think that's funny?  She goes on about the contrived humour of The Kraken Wakes, and then posts something like that at the end of her blog.  Who is the one trying (and failing) to be funny now, eh?!  :roll:

Edited by Janet

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Well, it seems like this book has been a pretty good read for most people!

 

It didn't even occur to me that there was anything misogynistic in Wyndham's characterisation of Phyllis.  I guess that although I knew it was set decades ago, the period wasn't that important, and therefore I just felt that Phyllis was of the generation that could start to have their own careers, and where being childless could be a choice or because infertility treatments were much less advanced.  Either way, I never thought there was anything out of the ordinary in her being the one to get the men to open up and talk to her, I just felt that was her personality, not necessarily linked to being female.

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I really enjoyed Kraken a lot, and am very happy it was a choice to read......it made me get back to Wyndham again.  I've meant to read more of him for years.

 

I thought someone posted that not much was said about the couple themselves, can't find the post now.  /sigh/

Anyhow.  Their actions told a lot about them I thought.  Mike and Phyllis, first of all were very much in love, and had seen each other through the loss of a baby.  That they stuck together through that traumatic event says a lot right off the bat.  When he was having nightmares after the taking of those people that they witnessed, the first time the tanks were seen, he did his best to keep it from her, so as not to worry Phyllis.  I don't agree with that sort of secrecy, but it was done out of love.  His nightmares were about her.....and her possible death/taking. 

 

They were able to allow each other to have their own careers, and intertwined them beautifully....that takes a lot of 'getting along'. :)  Mike showed no jealousy when Phyllis worked her "magic" on various Navy and security guys to find out about the story.  He was able to be secure in her loyalty to him.  That is a good man. 

 

So, their love and loyalty for and to each other showed they were steady and sensible people that were able to deal with the horror of what was happening to the world they knew and grew up with. 

 

I just thought that Wyndham's characters remind me a great deal of the characters that Dick Francis created in his series of books.  Stiff upper lip, steady, sensible but vulnerable and able to roll with the punches. 

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I did get a bit fed up with them ending every sentence of dialogue with 'darling' though (slight exaggeration . . . maybe  :giggle2: ).

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Do you, darling?  You poor thing, darling!  I can't say I noticed that, darling. That's a very interesting observation, darling.  I will have to go back and have a look, darling.  :giggle2:

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Sorry I let the conversation tail off a bit towards the end of the month, but I think there's been a pretty good discussion up until then, and I think nearly everyone enjoyed the book, so I hope this has been a good reading circle for everyone.  

 

Thank you all for taking the time to read the book and come along and join in here. :smile2:

 

Of course, there's nothing to stop the conversation continuing, and if anyone else reads the book, feel free to leave your thoughts and answer the questions later on. :)

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I'm sorry I wasn't around much for this, seeing as I nominate it . . .

 

I do intend to have a full read through - when time permits - and make some comments.

 

If you did like this, though, and haven't already done so already, do try out The Day of the Triffids and The Midwich Cuckoos; two very good Wyndham novels.

 

For a Victorian slant on the Death by Aliens genre, try The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells.

 

Or for a more contemporary take, for readers of all ages, try the Tripods trilogy by John Christopher.

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