The Kraken Wakes, By John Wyndham
Sunday 28 September 2008
Along with The Day of the Triffids and The Midwich Cuckoos, Penguin is reissuing three of John Wyndham's lesser-known novels, each examples of the strain of sci-fi he liked to call "logical fantasy" and each with a notable contemporary resonance.
The Kraken Wakes (1953) is narrated, in whatever is the prose equivalent of received pronunciation, by radio journalist Mike Watson. He is one of the first to report on the mysterious fireballs spotted falling into the world's oceans, and as he follows the story, along the way picking up unfamiliar new words from scientists such as "tsunami" and "ecology", he finds himself in increasing agreement with the minority who imagine a link between the fireballs and a range of phenomena from the sinking of ships and strange weather patterns to the melting of the ice caps and an apparently inexorable rising of sea levels.
More than a mere alien invasion thriller – though it's a gripping one of those – this is a potent parable in which humanity notices too late a threat to its survival, and is all too plausibly ineffectual in its response.
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