Thursday, May 05, 2016

Cryptozoology in fiction: Kraken

Max Hawthorne has followed up his marine reptile adventure, Kronos Rising, with his shot at truly epic cryptofiction with Kraken
This sprawling novel, the first half of a two-book story, is essentially a kaiju movie in novel form. That's not a bad thing - I enjoy films about Godzilla and his enemies - but every creature in it (except the whales) is much bigger than paleontology accepts, and much smarter, too. Indeed, even the sperm whales seem to think on a human level. ( I will grant an exception to the "too smart" view here for Max's Octopus giganteus: we are still learning how smart octopuses are, and a giant long-lived species might be very smart indeed.) Thirty years after the first novel took place, the loosing of the monster pliosaurs and other beasts has rewritten the rules for human use of the oceans and made hash out of the existing ecosystem, and humanity goes to extreme lengths to regain the illusion of control. 
Kraken is basically about the clash of three giant predator species and the humans who try to study, kill, or weaponize them. It is about massively armed and powerful beasts bashing hell out of each other (the same description might be applied to the novel's apocalyptic main sex scene: you'll see what I mean if you read it.)  
Hawthorne is of course going to be compared to Steve Alten, and he includes a funny reference on p.439 to Alten's competing view of megalodon. There some other laughs here, too. The incompetent admiral who wants to weaponize marine reptiles or get himself killed trying is a good comic foil for the exasperated heroes. The first sex scene is hilarious - I won't spoil it for you by saying why - and Hawthorne has the same talent Alten displays for playing with the pop-culture and media aspects of his creatures. 

I doubt very much there were ever 130-foot pliosaurs or 80-foot sharks. I don't think the energy budgets involved support them, and neither does the fossil record. (Hawthorne makes an argument for titanic pliosaurs based on a fossil nicknamed the Monster of Arramberi, but I'm not aware of any paleontologist who interprets the evidence the same way.) In response to my questioning Peter Benchley's 100-foot squid, though, Richard Ellis wrote me that "Benchley's monsters are fiction, and he can make them any size he wants them to be.") True. Hawthorne's not trying to write a textbook.  
So I can't convince myself his creatures are practical, but the bottom line is that if you want marine monsters, Hawthorne delivers 'em like no one else.

1 comment:

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