Title: The Kragen
Author: Jack Vance
Copyright: 1969 (2007)
Publisher: Subterranean Press
Rating: 3/5 stars
Challenge: 100 Books 10, 1010 Challenge (SciFi Category)
Yet another find from the Subterranean Press grab bag. The Kragen is a novella written in 1964 which Jack Vance eventually expanded into The Blue World and published in 1966. The kragen are squid-like nautical beasts that roam the oceans and terrorize the populace of the Floats (a village built on large lily pad-like vegetation), humans who were brought to this new world after they escaped from their original world. Even though it is never explicitly stated, I'm fairly certain the ship that the original colonists used to get to the new world was a prison ship, and that the ancestors of the current populace were criminals; the reasoning behind this is the caste system that is used for the new population with names such as Bezzlers, Hoodwinks and Counterfeiters. After several generations on this new world which has no land and is nothing but one large ocean, the populace has created a rather strict system of governing themselves. They have also developed something of a religion based around King Kragen, the largest kragen, who protects the Floats from other smaller kragen.
After one kragen attack too many, Sklar Hast, a Hoodwink of some repute, has decided that they have lived under the tyranny of the kragen, and especially King Kragen, long enough, and decides to kill a smaller kragen, which has never been done before. After King Kragen exacts revenge on the Float and the governing body of the Floats wants to punish those responsible, Sklar Hast and his fellow sympathizers decide to set out to find new Floats and to set up a new life for themselves and to discover a way to kill King Kragen and take back their own lives.
This is a fairly quick read, a little slow to get into, but once the action starts it's fairly consistent. Fairly. It does seem to drag a little in parts, and the ending just seems so non-committal, I couldn't believe that was it. My first impression was that the story definitely needed to be longer, and upon discovering that it was, in fact, expanded into a longer novel makes me want to go pick that up to see how Vance grew the story, hopefully with a more fulfilling ending.