Miéville has described the book as "a dark comedy about a squid-worshipping cult and the end of the world. It takes the idea of the squid cult very seriously. Part of the appeal of the fantastic is taking ridiculous ideas very seriously and pretending they’re not absurd."
An inexplicable event has occurred at the British Museum of Natural History — a forty foot specimen of giant squid in formalin has disappeared overnight. Additionally, a murder victim is found folded into a glass bottle. Various groups are interested in getting the squid back, including a naive staff member, a secret squad of London police, assorted religious cults, and various supernatural and mostly dead criminal elements. The wondrous squid represents deity to the Church of Kraken Almighty. Did they liberate their god, or could it have been stolen by a rival cult? The only thing that all agree upon is that the fate of this embalmed kraken is intimately tied to the End of the World.
Billy Harrow, an employee at the Darwin Centre at the British Museum of Natural History. Billy discovers the kraken missing beginning his adventure into a world of magic, squid cults, and sentient tattoos.
Dane, a member of a Krakenist cult who seeks to protect Billy.
The FSRC (Fundamentalist and Sect-Related Crimes Unit) of the London Police.
Collingswood, a female police officer of the FSRC.
Marge, a young woman in search of her missing boyfriend.
The Tattoo, a ruthless gangleader who happens to be a sentient tattoo.
Goss and Subby, unstoppable centuries-old assassins in the employ of The Tattoo.
The Chaos Nazis, thugs in the employ of The Tattoo.
Grisamentum, a dead magician who was chief rival to The Tattoo, whose former associates are forming new alliances.
The Londonmancers, neutral prognosticators and protectors of the City of London.
Wati, a living Egyptian afterlife familiar who heads the UMA, the Union of Magicked Assistants, on strike.
Kraken seems as though Miéville is taking a step back from the artistic agenda that has previously informed his writing, perhaps to flex creative muscles grown stiff in the constraining seriousness of the New Weird. And Miéville sets about his dark comedy with almost unseemly relish.
Miéville’s most stylistically exuberant work to date, not just gloriously adjectival ... but wildly creative as well, marrying a marvellous ear for the rhythms of London English to the cracked semi-scientific jargon of occult literature.