I've been a long time fan of China's work ever since he were a nipper at t'Macmillan along with me back at the turn of the millennium and I'm glad to say that although some of his books haven't really been up my street they've never been disappointing. Kraken however, was not only up my street it was virtually in our house and has gone straight into my Top Books category.
What I loved most about this book was the fact that it has the feeling of being a unique, complete whole artistic project - it is what it is at every level, with the language and structure contributing as much as the storyline, the characters and the premise. It reminded me very much of Mike Harrison and Mervyn Peake's work with its vision of a reified spiritual topology coming across with a relentless cohesive power that's rare in anyone's work. To read it was to be transported into a wonderful, awesome version of reality that was rich, intriguing and satisfying with its highly contemporary vision of religious belief and deep intuitive understanding of magic. It's full of superlative moments of fun as well as one of the best female characters I've come across in modern SFF, the deliciously rebellious and vulgar Collingswood.
Having said that the sheer density of the experience is quite something and I did need to counteract the effect with 4 light romance novels to balance myself out while I was reading it - so that's a 4 on the Crusie Scale, one of the many personal parameters I'll be introducing as a way of evaluating the experience of reading.
The Crusie Scale is named after wonderful romance author http://www.jennycrusie.com/ Jennie Crusie whose humorous, earthy trips to the Land of Hearts-Entwined provide the necessary uplift for me to counter the massive, broody power of levianthic texts like Kraken. It is not intended as a critical scale, it's just a measure of balance. Kraken is a huge, delicious intellectual and emotional trawl through the deeps of the spirit and mind. It requires the witty warmth of 4 Crusies (and a Crusie can be any book delivering similar fodder for the soul) to counteract its benthic power for me. That's a really high score by the way, signifying the sheer mass of Kraken.
I will have to invent some more scales for various other effects. If you have any ideas for similar kinds of scales, why not let me know?