“The Mountain in the Sea” by Ray Nayler – Book Review

Winner of the 2023 Locus Award for Best First Novel, “The Mountain in the Sea” by Ray Nayler is an entertaining and in depth exploration of the meaning of consciousness and the ecological effects that humans have on the world.

Many stories are interwoven throughout the book, but it mainly follows Dr. Ha Nguyen who is hired by a transnational corporation called DIANIMA to research a species of octopi who seem to have developed a culture and language. Dr. Ha Nguyen must work with a battle hardened veteran and the first human-like android to decipher the language and discover the secrets that these octopi may hold. The story also follows a talented hacker and a man who was kidnapped to work on an illegal fishing vessel.

A misconception that some may have when seeing the cover and reading the synopsis is its premise. It is not just a book about octopi, for much of the book they go unseen, but more so a character exploration and an analysis on the meaning of consciousness. The story is very character driven and you will get to intimately understand the thought processes of the multiple narrators throughout the pages of the book.

The multiple perspectives, at first, may feel disjointed and somewhat confusing to follow, but they all iron themselves out in the end to make an amazing story. There is also a lot of scientific and technological jargon throughout the book. Much of this jargon may feel overwhelming at first, but for the most part is explained at one point in the book. It is all written in a way where although it is using quite complicated language at certain points it is still an easy read.

The enjoyment factor will vary depending on how technical you like your science fiction books. If you like sci-fi that is more light or fantastical this isn’t quite the book for you, but if you like technical reads that are grounded in reality you will almost without a doubt like it.

Overall it’s a very methodical analysis of what makes and qualifies as consciousness through the lens of trying to create an interspecies relationship between humans and octopi. An easy recommendation for anyone who likes grounded sci-fi or heavily character driven stories.

Author: Ray Nayler

Page Count: 464

Genre: Science Fiction, Thriller

My Rating: ★★★★½

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