Kraken: The Curious, Exciting, and Slightly Disturbing Science of Squid by Wendy Williams (2011)
Abrams Image Publishers, ISBN: 978-0810984653
The Kraken is a mythical creature, supposed to be a giant sea monster, sometimes about the size of an island (!) with many arms, which it used to get a hold of ships and sink them, trapping and eating the sailors as they went overboard.
A 1800s depiction of a Kraken-like creature sinking a ship. Source: Wikipedia.
This legend is generally attributed to sightings of the giant squid, an invertebrate of the cephalopod (head-arms) family, which include besides squid, cuttlefish and octopi.
Cephalopods are very interesting animals. They are the most intelligent invertebrates on earth and they were also one of the main characters in the history of modern neurobiology.
In “Kraken” Ms. Williams gives us a wonderful overview of these organisms. Despite being a short book, it covers a lot of material albeit superficially, but this is ok, because it makes for a very pleasant reading. This is a true science book, but at the perfect level for the interested layperson. I can truly say that I learned a lot!
Even more remarkable (from my point of view at least) is that it presents a pretty decent narrative of the role of squid in the history of neurobiology. This was a surprise, as it was not evident from the Table of Contents, and it was a pleasure to read!
I am almost tempted to say that the only critique that comes to mind is that the book was too short. However, I believe that it was just right, because I now want to know more about these critters! I believe that you will like the book too.
I want to dedicate this short review to our dog, Ginger, whom we lovingly call “The Kraken”, as in “Release the Kraken!” from the latest version of the movie “Clash of the Titans”.
Do not let her calm appearance fool you. She’s nuts.