And the monster is…

A few days ago I finished John Wyndham’s The Kraken Wakes. The book was written in 1953, so some elements come across as being rather dated, though for 1953, and for John Wyndham, the lead female character comes across as being surprisingly modern, especially considering that the book is set in the present rather than in a distant future. Over all I would describe it as an interesting book with a good build up but a rather disappointing ending. It is on the slow end of the spectrum, but that too feels like a deliberate choice. The story is similar to H.G. Wells The War of the Worlds, but seeing how the threat here comes from the deepest parts of the sea, the author is free to go for the old ‘the scariest monster is the one you can’t see’ trope. Anyway, the first two parts of the book, while well written enough, didn’t appeal to me all that much, however that changed when I reached the third and final one (even though this post is rather short, I’m inserting a break here because the rest of it contains spoilers).

In that third part we have an apocalyptic scenario in which the unseen monsters melt the icecaps and trigger a flood that causes the collapse of society as we know it. Okay, so there are no monsters, or rather we are the monsters, but the thing is that, while taken somewhat to the extreme, this particular scenario does not sound all that different from the reality we are facing due to global warming. In that regard the book is both prescient and way off the mark.

The possibility of seeing both what the authors got right and what they got wrong is one of the things I enjoy the most about reading SF classics. Yes, the science is outdated, and the societies they portray are often infuriating (especially when it comes to the role of women), but as an author who sometimes dabbles in this particular genre, I find that being confronted with where we once thought we would be is a very sobering reminder of just how limited our understanding happens to be.

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