Tuesday, November 10, 2015


The Kraken Wakes, John Wyndham, Ballantine Books, 1953, 288pp
Summary from Goodreads: It started with fireballs raining down from the sky and crashing into the oceans deeps. 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 . . . The Kraken Wakes is a brilliant novel of how humankind responds to the threat of its own extinction and, ultimately, asks what we are prepared to do in order to survive.
My review:
I had never heard of John Wyndham until I read Jo Walton's Among Others (a book I loved in deep inexplicable ways.) The teen protagonist in that book joins a sci fi reading group at her local library and Wyndham's The Chrysalids was one of the books discussed.
I have since learned that Wyndham single-handedly redefined science fiction by not writing about "the adventures of galactic gangsters" but instead about stuff that could happen on earth if we kept going the way we were going. He called this "logical fantasy" but today it is called speculative fiction. He influenced Margaret Atwood: The Handmaid's Tale and The Maddaddam Trilogy.
His first book, The Day of the Triffids featured an attempted takeover by monstrous carnivorous plants, his speculation on genetic engineering. The Kraken Wakes involves an invasion of aliens, visible only as dots of bright red lights coming in from space and going directly to the deeps of the oceans. They begin sinking ships, capturing people from shoreline towns, and melting the polar icecaps. 
Mike and his wife Phyllis, favored journalists for the English Broadcasting Company, follow the story for years. Professor Alastair Bocker, a visionary scientist, after much ridicule, finally develops a way to obliterate the alien monsters without destroying the planet.
The writing is intelligently humorous and moves at a typically British sedate pace but you can't hold a gripping tale down. It is a leisurely page turner, if you can imagine.
Relevance for today: How earth might deal with rising sea levels. The way governments and business influence the press to keep the real magnitude of disasters from the public.
Connections with other books I've read: 
The Sea Around Us by Rachel Carson where I first learned about the Deeps.
The Highest Tide by Jim Lynch in which a kid finds a possible almost extinct Giant Squid on the shores of the Olympic peninsula. He was a Rachel Carson fanboy who read The Sea Around Us over and over.
The Deep Range by Arthur C Clarke, about whale farming and the sea monsters who threaten it.
Kracken by China Mieville; the weirdest story ever about a Kraken. 
(The Kraken Wakes is a bit hard to find in print. I got my copy from the library: a John Wyndham omnibus.) 


  1. I have read some Wyndham but not this book. It sounds fascinating and it's now on my list to read.

  2. Wow, that's quite a connection the way this book came to you. I guess synchronicity works in mysterious ways.
    I am not that much into sci-fi, but the science and politics behind it are sound and relevant in this day and age.

    1. I do get all excited about the synchronicity of reading!

  3. I remember The Chrysalids but it sounds like you liked this one better. I think I need to read both. I just reserved a library copy of The Kraken Wakes for my husband. I'm impressed that our library system had it. Aliens invading? Sounds good to me.

    1. I am just writing up my review of The Chrysalids. I liked them both but for different reasons. Good for your library!