PUBLISHED : Sunday, 21 November, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 21 November, 2010, 12:00am

by China Mieville
Pan Macmillan HK$104

China Mieville has been called many things in his career. Science fiction novelist. Steam punk. Defender of genre fiction. Agent provocateur: he's an outspoken political commentator. Thanks to his last two novels (The City & The City and now Kraken) he is being called a literary superstar in the making. Kraken starts conventionally enough - think of a gothic Night at the Museum and you're not a billion fathoms away. Billy Harrow is a curator at the Natural History Museum in London. Among the millions of prize specimens is a perfectly preserved giant squid. 'It's 8.62 metres long ... Not the longest we've ever seen, but no tiddler either.' Then all 8.62 metres disappears. Weird, but only a prologue to the weirdness that ensues. It's as if the squid drags Mieville's carefully described surface reality into a dark and gloomy underworld nightmare. There are gangs, feuds and vendettas. There is squid worship and strangely tattooed thugs. Life is cheap and no-one is exempt: Mieville kills characters like most of us swat flies. Yet, somehow, he makes it credible and funny. Gone is his purple prose, replaced by something wild and wonderful. Give it a whirl.