Sunday, 25 September 2011

British Binds

While Kraken isn't China Mieville's most accomplished novel, this urban fantasy still romps along, piling on the strange and manages to kick seven shades out of Neil Gaiman's efforts. A giant preserved squid is stolen from the British Museum and Billy, a curator, is plunged into an alternative London filled with mancers, mages, assassins, cults and occult sects most of whom want a little chat about his now absent specimen. Though dark, Mieville keeps things chipper with plenty of humour and cultural references and it's one of his more commercial - mainstream even - offerings but like PKD his imagination is irrepressible and page after page is stuffed with ideas and invention.

On Chesil Beach is an oh-so intimate examination of the wedding night of a young, virginal couple in the early 1960's. McEwan's novella ably demonstrates his skills, with a clean, clear narrative style unfurling the duo's tensions and characters in the seaside hotel they've chosen for the physical consummation of their love. She, a scared, neurotic classical musician with father issues and he, a intellectual voyeur, devoid of maternal love but ramrod with expectations - this was bound to be a, er, bumpy ride. Only 160 pages or so but still a magnificent read that's as funny as it is touching.

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