THE MOUNTAIN IN THE SEA
RELEASED OUT NOW!
464 pages | Hardback/ebook/audiobook
Author Ray Nayler
Publisher Weidenfeld & Nicholson
The nature of consciousness, the potential of AI and the discovery of a new species of octopus are at the heart of this strikingly assured debut.
Dr Ha Nguyen is a marine biologist dispatched to live and work on the remote – and heavily fortified – Con Dao Archipelago. There are rumours in the area of a “monster” which Ha believes is in fact a previously undiscovered species of cephalopod, one that may match humanity in its intelligence. Working with one-of-a-kind android Evrim, the pair try to establish first contact. But do their aquatic neighbours want to know?
Two subplots orbit this narrative. Eiko is a young man pressed into slavery on an Ai-driven fishing vessel, while in Europe a hacker is forced into taking on a seemingly impossible mission. How these relate to Ha’s story is only gradually revealed. For the longest time they are almost entirely separate, but it’s to Nayler’s credit that they’re never distractions; by contrast, they expand our view of his fascinating, Gibson-ian fictional future.
This a world of monolithic corporations, identity-concealing “Abglanz” masks, suicide drones and digital companions for people who don’t have the time for a human relationship. None of these ideas are radically new – many of them are cyberpunk cliché – but Nayler weaves them in so deftly with the novel’s ecological and philosophical concerns that they feel fresh and plausible here.
It helps that, for all its ideas about language and non-human intelligence, The Mountain In The Sea reads like a particularly pacy thriller. Smart and often scary, this is a fearsomely entertaining novel. Will Salmon
Ray Nayler was recently appointed international advisor to the US’S Office of National Marine Sanctuaries. Which is nice.