'The Kraken Wakes' - Book Review

The Kraken Wakes
John Wyndham

John Wyndham was one of Great Britain's best known SF writers in the 1950s and 60s, most famous for The Day of the Triffids. I'm a huge fan of that book and also The Chrysalids, but several attempts to read The Kraken Wakes over the years stalled. I finally got into it last month, and I quite enjoyed it. Like The Day of the Triffids, it's another "cozy catastrophe:" the concept applies to any book about the destruction of the world where our heroes live through it and form a new society. The term was given by Brian Aldiss to this entire genre (apparently specifically Wyndham). In this case, some sort of meteors, clearly controlled by intelligence, come to Earth and descend into the Ocean's depths. This occurrence is initially ignored, but eventually a full scale and uneven war develops between the ocean dwellers and the Humans. The book has aged remarkably well because Wyndham addresses everything almost entirely from the sociological point of view, he barely deals in technology at all. And unlike The Day of the Triffids (which was released only two years prior), the casual sexism of the era is almost entirely gone. Our first person narrator is married, but his wife is, like him, a writer - and also an equal partner in the marriage. And there's no mention of cooking or making babies, both of which come up in Triffids.

One thing that struck me was a similarity of names and characters between the two books: "Coker" in Triffids and "Bocker" in this book. Both are secondary but important characters: Bocker is a scientist, and the story's oracle, full of disturbingly accurate predictions - and a good friend to our lead couple. Coker was a much more interesting character, and initially severely at odds with the lead couple of Triffids as he attempts to do the right thing in a doomed enterprise - but later becomes their friend. Bocker suffered in comparison to Coker, who I thought was in some ways the best character in Triffids (you really understand where he's coming from in his attempts to save everyone, even as they fail).

Wyndham was a great writer, and I highly recommend at least the three books named here.