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The Kraken Wakes by John Wyndham

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It is assumed that you have read the book before reading posts in this thread, as the discussion might give away crucial points, and the continuous use of spoiler tags might hinder fluent reading of posts.
 
Welcome to the October 2013 Reading Circle. The theme for this month was WATER and the chosen book is:

 

THE KRAKEN WAKES by John Wyndham
 
Synopsis (from the back cover):

 

It started with fireballs raining down from the sky and crashing into the oceansdeeps. Then ships began sinking mysteriously and later sea tanks emerged from the deeps to claim people . . .
 
For journalists Mike and Phyllis Watson, what at first appears to be a curiosity becomes a global calamity. Helpless, they watch as humanity struggles to survive now that water - one of the compounds upon which life depends is turned against them. Finally, sea levels begin their inexorable rise . . .

 

 


Questions for discussion (please answer as many or as few as you wish):

 

1. Were you engaged immediately with the story, or did it take you a while to get into it?
 
2. Did you have a favourite character? And a least favourite?
 
3. Was there a particular part you enjoyed more than the rest?
 
4. Were there any parts/ideas you struggled with?
 
5. Was this the first book you've read by this author, and has it encouraged you to read more?
 
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?
 
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?
 
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?
 
9. Overall, was reading the book an enjoyable experience?
 
10. Would you recommend the book to others?

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

It was a bit odd, as the first thirty or so pages, I was completely engaged, but then the rest of the first half of the book seemed to go on forever, without much going on, and I found it dragged rather a lot. 
 
2. Did you have a favourite character? And a least favourite?
There are so few characters in the book, that it's hard to choose between them!  I think it's basically a choice between Mike or Phyllis, with a few other minor characters dotted around the place, although Tuny did make me laugh with her adamant, forthright nature. :D  I guess I would have to pick Phyllis as my favourite, as she stuck with her convictions but was still prepared to listen to other views and information as they became available. 
 
3. Was there a particular part you enjoyed more than the rest?
I did think the description of the attack on the village while they were in the hotel was particularly good, and loved the sense of peril and fear in that episode.
 
4. Were there any parts/ideas you struggled with?
As I mentioned earlier, the first half of the book was slow going for me, and it was only after the attack on the village that I really felt things started to pick up.
 
The other thing I found curious, and which I couldn't quite understand, was the running "joke" to the Sherlock Holmes connection because Mike's surname was Watson.  I didn't think it was particularly funny, and it struck me as odd that so many people would mention it.  Perhaps Sherlock Holmes was prevalent in pop culture at the time?  Will be interested to see if anyone else can shed light on this little quirk.
 
5. Was this the first book you've read by this author, and has it encouraged you to read more?
It was the first Wyndham book I've read, and I'm not sure I would read another, if I'm honest.  On the positive side, it was short, but on the negative, it still took a long time to get going, and if I hadn't had to finish it for the discussion here, I think I might have given up.  I also felt it was quite dated, and I wonder if his other books would feel the same.
 
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?
This is always a tricky one for me.  On the one hand, because it's being told in first person narrative, you always tend to assume that the narrator is going to survive, but if it had been written as a journal instead of a recollection, you could have still the suspense of knowing whether they'd survived.  On the other hand, you knew they were writing an account of their time after the events, so you did know they were going to make it through, and it did slightly take away from the danger in the attack. 
 
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 have to say, I did like the suggestion Phyllis came up with, but I sort of assume that the Tennyson poem was Wyndham's inspiration for the story in the first place, so it had to be that one, but I still think the juxtaposition of an excerpt from a nursery rhyme with a science fiction story was a bit more quirky.
 
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?
My personal feeling (as you can probably tell from the question I've written :giggle2:) is that the kraken was quite sketchy, and every time I thought we might find out more, I was left hanging.  That made me think that it really was just a vehicle for looking at the effects of a global crisis, and quite prescient at times, especially at the whole idea of rising sea levels, which is often a topic for those examining the effects of global climate change today.  I did feel rather let down by the lack of information about it - how did it live?  Did no one try to find any remains of those that were bombed?  What were the "tanks"?  Where the humans just for food?  Too many unanswered questions for me, I'm afraid.
 
9. Overall, was reading the book an enjoyable experience?
Despite all my moaning above, I did enjoy some parts of the book, so it wasn't a let down by any means, but it certainly won't be up there with my favourite reads of the year!
 
10. Would you recommend the book to others?
As always, it depends.  For science fiction fans, I would definitely say they should read it, and then I could discuss it more with them!  Seriously, I'm looking forward to seeing what everyone else here has to say, as I'm sure I'm going to be asking you more questions about some of the aspects when they come up in the discussion.
 

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

As I've mentioned elsewhere, this was a re-read for me, but it is over 30 years since the first time.  When I saw it was up for the RC I took it off the shelf out of curiosity.  The fact that it is still on my shelf, that I have kept it since I was 14 or 15 years old, shows how much it meant to me (for reasons I'll get to a bit further on).  So I took it off the shelf this time and read the first page or two, just to see how I'd feel about re-reading it now, and I just kept reading.  So I obviously engaged with it immediately.

 


2. Did you have a favourite character? And a least favourite?
 

Phyllis!  She's the brains in this operation, and very funny at times, too (I loved the way she'd say something, think "oh, that's good!" and go off to note it down).  I liked Bocker, too.  He didn't really care what people thought of him, said what he thought, and he was usually right.  I found that the characters kind of grew without any overt development.  It's not like they have any conversations that aren't about the crisis, and I don't think Wyndham described Phyllis or Mike once throughout the novel.  I don't even remember if he mentioned what colour their hair was, so how these characters managed to work is quite strange, and representative of a lot of vintage SF, I think :shrug:

 

I didn't have a least favourite.

 


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

Going back to why this book holds a special place for me, when I was 11 or 12, in middle school, our teacher was off for some reason, and the headmaster came to sit with us for one particular lesson.  Instead of teaching us, he decided to read from a book, and the scene he read I found so scary that I never forgot it.  I remember being completely hypnotised by it as he read.  Afterwards, I realised that I didn't know what the book was, but that scene always stuck in my mind.  It was only about 3 years later that I bought The Kraken Wakes.  I think the cover intrigued me.  Pretty soon I was reading that scene, so I rediscovered it more by luck than judgement.  The scene being the one in the town on Escondida, where Mike and Phyllis witness the attack of the sea-tanks.  I still found it pretty scary all these years later.  I'd say that the headmaster reading that scene was probably my first encounter with written science fiction, and therefore ranks alongside seeing Star Trek on tv in the early 70s and my folks taking me to see Star Wars on my 12th birthday as one of those moments that shaped my tastes.

 

Apart from that, this time I also really enjoyed 'Phase Three'.  Somehow it seemed to have a resonance with today's concerns about the polar icecaps and global warming, and I loved the images of England devolving into a bunch of islands as the water rose and the survivors fled for the high ground.  I didn't realise those images had stayed with me from this book, as I've used similar in a story of my own.

 


4. Were there any parts/ideas you struggled with?
 

No, not at all.  It's a fairly straightforward book, I think.  It's a little slow in places, but that I think is down to the choice Mike makes at the start of the book - we know we're reading his account and that he's a journalist, so much of the novel come across that way.  I never felt bored by it but I'm glad he kept it short and to the point.  It's noticeable that the book never strays from the main story.

 


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

It was my first of his on the first time I read it.  After that I went on to read more of his, like The Day of the Triffids, The Midwich Cuckoos, The Trouble With Lichen, Web etc.  I might actually go back and re-read some of those now, and pick up some of the ones I haven't read before, too.

 


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 think that's always a problem with a book that starts at the end, so to speak, or even those told in first person (assuming it's not in diary form or somesuch).  But the 'Rationale' grabbed me and made me want to know how they'd ended up in this situation, so it was good from that point of view, even though I knew they were going to survive.  I think it's more of a problem in thrillers and such, where there really needs to be that fear factor.

 


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 kind of like Phyllis's choice, as it underplays the horror that is to follow, but Mike made the right choice in the end, I think.

 


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?
 

The latter.  I honestly couldn't remember, on picking up the book again, whether or not there was ever any revelation about the 'kraken', their origin or their motives, but it's pretty clear for most of the novel that it is more of an examination of how we, as a species, would deal with such a crisis.  Wyndham's very fatalistic in that regard and, sadly, he's probably right.  I suppose his views have dated a fair bit (you can tell the novel was written in the midst of the Cold War) but I love his imagination.  I suppose, if I went into it wanting to know more about the 'kraken' I'd feel pretty cheated and annoyed at the end, but fortunately that was not the case.

 

I did find myself slightly amused by the ending, though - and not for those reasons, but for the forced hint at a good outcome.  It reminded me of the 1956 movie version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers where the studio didn't like the original, pessimistic ending, and so made the director go back and film framing scenes for the beginning and the end to tell everyone it was all going to be okay  :doh:  :D


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

Yes, very much so - although I'm glad he kept it short, as I mentioned.  A 400 page novel with the same sort of approach would have overstayed its welcome by some distance, I think.

 


10. Would you recommend the book to others?

 

Yes, definitely.  I don't think it's his best (I'd say The Midwich Cuckoos or The Day of the Triffids win that award) but it is the one of which I have the fondest memories, for the reasons mentioned above.

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The other thing I found curious, and which I couldn't quite understand, was the running "joke" to the Sherlock Holmes connection because Mike's surname was Watson.  I didn't think it was particularly funny, and it struck me as odd that so many people would mention it.  Perhaps Sherlock Holmes was prevalent in pop culture at the time?  Will be interested to see if anyone else can shed light on this little quirk.
 
I honestly don't know, but there were a couple of running jokes in the novel, both that one and the EBC/BBC one.  Neither were particularly funny, although I was quite amused when Mike started to cut people off as soon as Holmes was mentioned, cos he was sick and tired of it.  Maybe Wyndham himself recognised that it was getting old pretty quickly  :smile: 

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

 It took me a while to get into it; in fact I'm not sure I ever got that into it at all!  It wasn't that I didn't enjoy it exactly, but there wasn't anything in it that made me rush to get back to it - in fact, the last six pages or so stayed unread for about a week.

2. Did you have a favourite character? And a least favourite?

 Not really - I should probably have liked Phyllis or Mike, but as I was falling asleep on the first night I started reading the book, my mind made them start talking in the sort of clipped received pronunciation used in 1940s films, and I was unable to read any of the dialogue after that without hearing it that way, which rather put me off all the characters!  :D

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

 I enjoyed the descriptions of how people got ready to cope with the rising waters - stockpiling of food, moving to higher ground etc. and liked thinking about how that would happen - I guess the flooding was quite a slow-moving disaster, which made it easier to make plans for than if it had been a sudden, out-of-the-blue occurrence.

4. Were there any parts/ideas you struggled with?

 The slow-moving nature of the whole book.  I decided to see it as a literary example of the British "stiff upper lip" idea, which meant that I tried to see it as deliberately understated rather than slow, but as you can tell I wasn't entirely successful at that! :blush2:

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

I have read The Day of the Triffids, and thought I had read either The Chrysalids or The Midwich Cuckoos, but on reading their summaries I can't remember either, so maybe I never got round to reading either.  I still have both of them on the shelves, so I will read them as the storylines look interesting.  If The Kraken Wakes was the first Wyndham book I read I'm not sure I would have bought any more, though.

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?

 That's an interesting idea.  I have thought about whether that was what took away any tension in the writing for me, but I don't think so.  I think it was just that the writing style didn't engage me particularly.

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 preferred Phyllis's suggestion, but if Wyndham had decided he wanted to call the book The Kraken Wakes then he had to choose that!  I see from Wikipedia that in American it was published as Out of the Deeps, and I'm not sure whether that wasn't just as good a title 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?

 In theory I feel that an unknown terror should have been even more frightening than a known one, but as I have already said I just didn't feel engaged with it.  The story about how humankind would cope in a global crisis was definitely the more interesting part of the book to me, and I would actually rather have had more about that and less about the mystery bathies.

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

 Well, I didn't hate it, but saying I found it enjoyable would probably be an exaggeration.  It was a sort of neutral experience for me.  I don't regret reading the book, but I would be surprised if I ever reread it.

10. Would you recommend the book to others?

 

I wouldn't go out of my way to recommend it, no.  Unless perhaps to someone that I knew read a lot of classic fiction, which tends to be a bit more slow moving; they might find it a more enjoyable read that I did.

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I've scrolled through without reading the thread as I haven't read Kraken yet.  I've been in the middle of two books and just finished one, and am working on the other.....I promise Kraken is next! 

 

I'll be back! :readingtwo:

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I finished reading yesterday, getting my thoughts in order to post. I thought I had read this one but it turned out I hadn't. I read Triffids and Midwich Cuckoos years ago and enjoyed them, this was like a short novella but with similar themes to the other novels, fireballs in the sky etc. Will look a little into the history as it felt like this may have predated them? 

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As I've mentioned elsewhere, this was a re-read for me, but it is over 30 years since the first time.  When I saw it was up for the RC I took it off the shelf out of curiosity.  The fact that it is still on my shelf, that I have kept it since I was 14 or 15 years old, shows how much it meant to me (for reasons I'll get to a bit further on).  So I took it off the shelf this time and read the first page or two, just to see how I'd feel about re-reading it now, and I just kept reading.  So I obviously engaged with it immediately.

 

I'm impressed that you can still find a book you've had on the shelf that long and could still find it! In my house, it would take a lot of scratching of heads to figure out where it might have been. Seriously though, it's great that you could get straight back into it, and I think the opening Rationale was very good at whetting the appetite for what was to come.

 

I found that the characters kind of grew without any overt development.  It's not like they have any conversations that aren't about the crisis, and I don't think Wyndham described Phyllis or Mike once throughout the novel.  I don't even remember if he mentioned what colour their hair was, so how these characters managed to work is quite strange, and representative of a lot of vintage SF, I think :shrug:

 

That's an interesting point, and I thought the way Phyllis submitted to an almost despair and wanted to retreat back to Cornwall was really believable, and then the little revelation about why she'd been learning bricklaying showed us her character so much better than if she had been described, if you see what I mean.

 

Going back to why this book holds a special place for me, when I was 11 or 12, in middle school, our teacher was off for some reason, and the headmaster came to sit with us for one particular lesson.  Instead of teaching us, he decided to read from a book, and the scene he read I found so scary that I never forgot it.  I remember being completely hypnotised by it as he read.  Afterwards, I realised that I didn't know what the book was, but that scene always stuck in my mind.  It was only about 3 years later that I bought The Kraken Wakes.  I think the cover intrigued me.  Pretty soon I was reading that scene, so I rediscovered it more by luck than judgement.  The scene being the one in the town on Escondida, where Mike and Phyllis witness the attack of the sea-tanks.  I still found it pretty scary all these years later.  I'd say that the headmaster reading that scene was probably my first encounter with written science fiction, and therefore ranks alongside seeing Star Trek on tv in the early 70s and my folks taking me to see Star Wars on my 12th birthday as one of those moments that shaped my tastes.

 

What a fantastic story. I had two teachers who made me love reading - the first when I was in junior school (about 7-8 years old) who read Roald Dahl books to us, and my O level teacher who introduced me to George Bernard Shaw and Shakespeare.

 

Apart from that, this time I also really enjoyed 'Phase Three'.  Somehow it seemed to have a resonance with today's concerns about the polar icecaps and global warming, and I loved the images of England devolving into a bunch of islands as the water rose and the survivors fled for the high ground.  I didn't realise those images had stayed with me from this book, as I've used similar in a story of my own.

 

I think you're absolutely right, and this does seem show a sense of foresight in Wyndham to have contemplating rising sea levels - I'm not sure if this was being proposed by the scientific community at the time the book was written, but a very interesting storyline.

 

I honestly couldn't remember, on picking up the book again, whether or not there was ever any revelation about the 'kraken', their origin or their motives, but it's pretty clear for most of the novel that it is more of an examination of how we, as a species, would deal with such a crisis.  Wyndham's very fatalistic in that regard and, sadly, he's probably right.  I suppose his views have dated a fair bit (you can tell the novel was written in the midst of the Cold War) but I love his imagination.  I suppose, if I went into it wanting to know more about the 'kraken' I'd feel pretty cheated and annoyed at the end, but fortunately that was not the case.

 

I did find myself slightly amused by the ending, though - and not for those reasons, but for the forced hint at a good outcome.  It reminded me of the 1956 movie version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers where the studio didn't like the original, pessimistic ending, and so made the director go back and film framing scenes for the beginning and the end to tell everyone it was all going to be okay  :doh:  :D

 

I think that was possibly my problem - it seemed like all of a sudden, the monster was dead, and it was back to how humanity would survive and cope in the future, and I felt like I wanted more explanation about it, where it had come from, how it was living and surviving under the sea, and perhaps even the biology of it.

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Ok, so this comes after "Triiffids" which surprised me a little as I thought it might have been an early pen picture in which themes were later developed. I recognised similarities in the fireballs/meteor shower and cilia/whip stings of the two novels. 

 

I didn't find this as engaging as the other works I have read of Wyndham's (however I read most of his novels during my sci-fi teen phase, so may not have a true recollection of the novels, as opposed to the many tv/film adaptions in which the stories seem more concrete)

 

I don't know that I would have kept reading if the book had been longer. the initial premise kept me interested, but the middle section did feel slow as regards either plot or character. I did want to know how the main protagonists had survived and if the Kraken was beaten or perhaps Earthlings had learned to co-exist with it. The later sections where we see London being engulfed by water, were particularly well handled I thought. Wonder what happened to Venice?  :blush2:

 

I liked the use of the fiction within fiction ploy of using HG Wells "War of the Worlds" to make the plot ring more "true" and note on Wikepedia that this novel appeared in the same year as the 1953 movie of "Worlds" The themes and parallels with the Cold War era of both stories run alongside each other nicely but by including the device Wyndham enhanced his works sense of reality. I cannot recall,l but think that "War of the Worlds" also used first person narrivive?

 

I think the story really echoes the threat of climate change and it is interesting that we still don't seem to be listening (maybe we need more Bockers!) However the book is really of it's time. The attacks are reported and play out over a few years. I thought about this happening nowadays. Within minutes people would be posting "YouTube" videos of attacks. Our world media has become much more immediate and accessible by ordinary people. If we saw mobile phone footage today of fireballs and sea tanks, would we heed the warnings or assume there was a large scale hoax going on? 

 

I thought it was good that we never got a true explanation of the Kraken, the unseen threat was more chilling. There was no need for Wyndham to try and justify how and why the beings moved, fed or their overall intent. Sometimes it is better to have the sense of mystery, rather than coming up with some inelegant and worldly explaination (note to George Lucas: midichlorians I ask you?!!! :banghead: )

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Side note:

Oh I forgot to mention the fact that the cottage was in Constantine in Cornwall. During childhood holidays our family stayed near Helston and as we drove along the Helston road, we laughed that the signposts to Constantine always indicated 3 miles. The village became a bit of a myth to us (a la Brigadoon!) We would be travelling for miles and Constantine was only ever 3 miles away! Wyndham kept referring to the change in distance from London to the cottage and I wondered if he had been along that road too! Spooky. 

If anyone has been there recently I would love to know if this is still the case!

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In theory I feel that an unknown terror should have been even more frightening than a known one, but as I have already said I just didn't feel engaged with it.  The story about how humankind would cope in a global crisis was definitely the more interesting part of the book to me, and I would actually rather have had more about that and less about the mystery bathies.

 

That's an interesting point, Ooshie. Do you think he could have even completely excluded the kraken completely and just written about an extreme event causing the sea levels to rise, and the impact on human societies?

Edited by chesilbeach

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I finished reading yesterday, getting my thoughts in order to post. I thought I had read this one but it turned out I hadn't. I read Triffids and Midwich Cuckoos years ago and enjoyed them, this was like a short novella but with similar themes to the other novels, fireballs in the sky etc. Will look a little into the history as it felt like this may have predated them?

 

Those three of his books were published in the following order:

 

The Day of the Triffids (1951)

The Kraken Wakes (1953)

The Midwich Cuckoos (1957)

 

You can find a full list of his books at http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/w/john-wyndham/ :)

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I thought it was good that we never got a true explanation of the Kraken, the unseen threat was more chilling. There was no need for Wyndham to try and justify how and why the beings moved, fed or their overall intent. Sometimes it is better to have the sense of mystery, rather than coming up with some inelegant and worldly explaination (note to George Lucas: midichlorians I ask you?!!! :banghead: )

 

I guess we'll have to agree to disagree on this point! :lol: I think I was just expecting a book more about the monster rather than about the impact on humans, and while I don't mind some mystery left about the kraken, I just felt there was still not enough about it.  If it had been a book solely about rising sea levels or a global human crisis around a natural event, I think I might have enjoyed it more, and it sort of fell between two stools for me.

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That's an interesting point, Ooshie. Do you think he could have even completely excluded the kraken completely and just written about an extreme event causing the sea levels to rise, and the impact on human societies?

 

From my point of view, he definitely could - I would have liked either much more about the bathies, or nothing at all!

 

I wonder whether I would have minded so much if the book title hadn't alluded to some kind of monster awakening; I think that, like you, I was expecting much more about the monster, and for me (with hindsight) that was down to the title of the book.

Edited by Ooshie

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I'm impressed that you can still find a book you've had on the shelf that long and could still find it! In my house, it would take a lot of scratching of heads to figure out where it might have been. Seriously though, it's great that you could get straight back into it, and I think the opening Rationale was very good at whetting the appetite for what was to come.

 

Well I don't keep that many books, I simply don't have the space for them, so the ones I do keep tend to be the ones that are special for me in one way or another  :smile:

 

 

I think that was possibly my problem - it seemed like all of a sudden, the monster was dead, and it was back to how humanity would survive and cope in the future, and I felt like I wanted more explanation about it, where it had come from, how it was living and surviving under the sea, and perhaps even the biology of it.

 

I guess I'm with Betty on this one, in that I find the unknown more frightening, and not having those explanations didn't bother me so much.  Sometimes the explanations can be really disappointing, too, and maybe even quite daft, totally robbing the story of any impact.  Just how I feel, anyway.

 

There's an interesting review by Jo Walton here that I found yesterday.  She doesn't like the book all that much, and she's particularly scathing about Phyllis, which I found quite interesting, but - if you look at comment 10 after the review - you find this little nugget:

 

"Today, I just read the 1953 typescript for The Kraken Wakes.

 

Do not think it is /meant/ to have that magical ending.

 

The original ending has both a foreword and an afterword from the "International Renaissance Commission", saying that they are publishing this "account" from a found manuscript and that they do not know if the authors are dead or alive. 

 

Secondly, there is no ultrasonic weapon, and there is a suggestion that the Xenobaths have simply entered a dormant state or had trouble breeding in Earth's oceans, rather than have died out.

 

That's a brutal, short summary of it, but the "Oh hey the Japanese saved us" ending was added as an "alternate" ending, apparently for Ballantine books."

 

 

Obviously, I don't know how much truth there is in this (shouldn't believe everything we read on the internet after all!) but it does seem uncannily similar to the situation with 'Invasion of the Body Snatchers'.

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I cannot recall,l but think that "War of the Worlds" also used first person narrivive?

 

Yes, it did :smile:  I think that really contributed to the fear and urgency throughout it - something that The Kraken Wakes ultimately lacks, apart from the one awesome scene, but that The Day of the Triffids does have (imo).

 

ETA: Just to note that The War of the Worlds is currently free on Kindle, if anyone wanted to contrast and compare the books :smile:

 

 

(note to George Lucas: midichlorians I ask you?!!! :banghead: )

 

:lol:  Amongst all his sins, that was one of the lesser ones . . . unfortunately :doh:  :D  

 

I agree with why you mentioned that, completely.  I much prefer the mystery, although ultimately I suppose the Kraken were little more than a plot device Wyndham could use to explore what he was really thinking about.  Apart from the theories about them coming from, and needing, a high pressure environment, I don't think he told us much more about them, did he?  I can understand why that would frustrate and disappoint others :smile:

Edited by Karsa Orlong

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I wonder whether I would have minded so much if the book title hadn't alluded to some kind of monster awakening; I think that, like you, I was expecting much more about the monster, and for me (with hindsight) that was down to the title of the book.

I have sincerely just had a "faceplam" moment upon reading this!  :doh: Ever since I first saw the title of this book (and I am talking around 30+ years ago!) I assumed the "Wakes" was referring to the wakes in water, from a ship or creature... ripples. I didn't even read it as "Wakes" as awakening!

 

In some sense I guess, both readings of the word work in the context of this particular story. Life's an education as they say. I must confess to feeling rather red faced!!!  :blush2:

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Well, I finished last night, and I'll have to give it 4 out of 5 stars.  Yes, it's slow, but typical Wyndham, so I enjoyed it.  A lot.

 

Now to the questions. :)

 

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

I felt pulled in right away.  The gimmick of starting after the story is really over, but the real outcome being unknown was a good hook for me.  Plus the gentle bantering of the couple made me feel at home with the characters. 


2. Did you have a favourite character? And a least favourite?
 

Hmmmm, I liked Mike, but Phyllis was right behind him as really, it was she that held him up.  I also really liked the scientist, Bocker.  I can't think of a character I hated, or truly disliked.  The ones that were possibly unsavory were so because of circumstances and mostly "off screen".


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

Several actually.  Mostly the parts where Mike and Phyllis were going it alone especially the end...on the small boat trying to get out.  But when they were observing the ships in the beginning was a fav part as well.  The details of where and how London and environs flooding were excellent as well.


4. Were there any parts/ideas you struggled with?

 

I can't say there were. 
 
5. Was this the first book you've read by this author, and has it encouraged you to read more?

 

No, I read The Day of the Triffids more than 50 years ago, and many times since.  I've always wanted to read more of his writing, but somehow didn't.  Will do now though! :)
 
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, as I mentioned above, it was a hook for me.  Yes, we knew they survived, but didn't know in what circumstances or condition they survived, so that tension was still there. 
 
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?

 

Although I thought hers poignant, I much preferred the Tennyson.  Much more appropriate in my eyes.
 
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 think it was realistic, at least with the technology available at the time of writing.  Naturally I'd have liked knowing more, but the effects were really the important thing.  Very believable.  I felt Wyndham's take on the reactions of governments and the media were spot on....for the time.  I wonder, if nowadays, the media would be so tame.  I doubt it, frankly. 


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

 

Very much so.  I liked the main characters, their relationship with each other, and with their co-workers and other personnel was always well written and realistic. 
 
10. Would you recommend the book to others?

 

Yes, with the caveat that one must enjoy the slower paced and 'stiff upper lip' dealings with emergencies. :) 

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This is the third time I've sat down to write a reply (the previous two attempts I was tired and the words just weren't coming out right so I abandoned my scratchings in favour of an early night!).

 

(I'm answering the below before I read through other's responses, btw).

 

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

Yes, I was, because I like the way Wyndham develops his stories; drip feeding you information whilst slowly building the tension.  To me the strength of Wyndham's writing is in his ability to take a "What if?" idea and build on it.  In this case the "What if?" idea is what would happen if some alien life forms took over the deep water areas of the planet and started reshaping them for their own ends?  I like the way the book sets this up and explores it, especially the sequence with the two navy men in the sphere.


2. Did you have a favourite character? And a least favourite?

 

Not really, on either score, as for me there are no real stand out characters in this book one way or the other.  Of the main characters there is very little to distinguish Mike from Bill in The Day of the Triffids or Richard in The Midwich Cuckoos; Phyllis fairs a little better - being one of Wyndham's stronger female characters - and Bocker, who is probably the most interesting character, isn't really in it enough.  You can't really include them as a character, but I do like the Russian responses in the book; the Cold War posturing is great fun!
 
3. Was there a particular part you enjoyed more than the rest?
 

As I said above, I particularly like the "Royal Navy investigates" scene and I like a lot of the followup that goes along with that.  The standout sections though have to be the sea tank attack on Escondida and the slow drowning of London. 


4. Were there any parts/ideas you struggled with?
 

Not really, though the ending - once Mike and Phyllis leave London - is a bit anticlimactic (this is a problem in more than one Wyndham novel though, the story just running out of steam with no real resolution).


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

No, I think - when I first read it twenty odd years ago - it was the fourth Wyndham novel I'd read.  Since then I have gone on to read at least two more and some of his short stories.


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, as I've always thought this was more a book about the situation rather than the characters and how it is directly affecting them (hence the lack of a stand-out character above).   To my mind it is more about the alien threat to humanity than it is about the individuals.  Also, as the book is told first-person I think it is fair to assume that Mike survived even if Phyllis didn't.


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 think Phyllis's suggestion is more to the point, but I think I prefer the imagery in Mike's Tennyson quote.


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 think the "Bathies" work very well with the lack of a face, for want of a better term, actually adding to their menace rather than detracting from it.  As I said above, I think the novel is more about what happens in general rather than to characters, but I think enough information is given - though most of it is speculative from Bocker - for you to form a good idea of what they are about.


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

Yes, and I've probably read this book at least half a dozen times in the last twenty odd years!


10. Would you recommend the book to others?

 

I recommended it for the reading blog here! (twice!).

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I have sincerely just had a "faceplam" moment upon reading this!  :doh: Ever since I first saw the title of this book (and I am talking around 30+ years ago!) I assumed the "Wakes" was referring to the wakes in water, from a ship or creature... ripples. I didn't even read it as "Wakes" as awakening!

 

In some sense I guess, both readings of the word work in the context of this particular story. Life's an education as they say. I must confess to feeling rather red faced!!!  :blush2:

 

You are quite right!  I was the opposite, and never thought of the word in a watery context!  :D

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Raven wrote:

Not really, though the ending - once Mike and Phyllis leave London - is a bit anticlimactic (this is a problem in more than one Wyndham novel though, the story just running out of steam with no real resolution).

 

 

It seemed to me that Wyndham said there was no real resolution, not in the classic sense, at any rate.  Doesn't it seem more realistic this way?  I mean if it tied up neatly, I'd complain about that! :)

 

Hah, I thought the title meant the monster awakens......didn't even consider anything else. :blush2:

 

Raven wrote: I recommended it for the reading blog here! (twice!).

 

And I'm very glad you did!  Persistence pays! :D

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It seemed to me that Wyndham said there was no real resolution, not in the classic sense, at any rate.  Doesn't it seem more realistic this way?  I mean if it tied up neatly, I'd complain about that! :)

 

I think the thing I have found about the end of the story is that it just runs out of steam.  Perhaps it goes hand-in-hand with what I was saying about the novel being about the events rather than the characters, but he still had to finish the story from the character's point of view.  I think it would have been good to leave the story at the point where they decide to head south, but the last couple of pages where we learn the Bathies have been defeated and the government is starting to put things to rights seems tacked on (and I can't help but wonder whether this "happy ending" was the result of his publishers having a quiet word).

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the last couple of pages where we learn the Bathies have been defeated and the government is starting to put things to rights seems tacked on (and I can't help but wonder whether this "happy ending" was the result of his publishers having a quiet word).

 

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.

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