China Mieville's Kraken: Summary & Analysis

Instructor: Kerry Gray

Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.

In this lesson, we summarize and analyze the science fiction novel ''Kraken'' by China Mieville. This story is a dark comedy about a missing giant squid at the Natural History Museum in London.


Think about some of the unconventional practices and beliefs of religious cults. There are groups that await magical cosmic leaders to descend on Earth in flying saucers, religions in cult-classic movies of the 1970s-80s, and those who study The Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. In Kraken, by China Miéville, a squid-worshipping cult is at the center of a theft at the Natural History Museum in London. Let's summarize and analyze this novel.

The Missing Squid

China Miéville novels are are all filled with strange characters and occurrences that are loosely derived from the scientific community. They are often combined with elements of crime and corruption. Kraken combines all these typical Miéville themes and adds his commentary on religion. Together, it is a story filled with puns and dark comedy.

In the novel, a third-person narrator describes the story of Billy Harrow, a curator who works with the cephalopod exhibit. He is in the midst of giving a tour that culminates with the viewing of a magnificent specimen. The narrator explains:

''This was what they came for, that pinkly enormous thing. For all its immobility; the wounds of its slow-motion decay, the scabbing that clouded its solution; despite its eyes being shriveled and lost; its sick colour; despite the twist in its skein of limbs, as if it were being wrung out. For all that, it was what they were there for. It would hang, an absurdly massive tentacled sepia event. Architeuthids dux. The giant squid.''

It is this creature for whom the novel is named. Kraken is a large, mythical creature said to have lived off the coast of Norway in the mid-1700s. Great works of literature reference this creature, such as Moby-Dick and Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. In Kraken, the squid has been recovered and preserved only to be discovered missing at the end of Harrow's tour.

The Congregation of God Kraken

Harrow is drawn in to the investigation not only because he was working on the exhibit when it went missing, but also because the cult that worships the squid views him as their prophet and its disappearance as the beginning of the apocalypse. Dane, who has been sent by the cult to protect Harrow explains, ''You know things you don't even know…You've worked on its holy flesh.''

The search for answers brings Harrow into contact with Tattoo, an actual talking tattoo, and his gang, the Chaos Nazis. He also encounters a number of other strange and magical creatures in the London underground who also believe that the end of the world is near as indicated by the disappearance of the squid.

Analysis of Kraken

Filled with twists and turns, the story boils down to the theme of creationism versus Darwinism. Through the cult of the Kraken worshipers, the author pokes fun of religion and those who have beliefs that are seemingly opposed to science as if ''Everything's fit to be worshipped.''

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