The Mountain in the Sea

Paperback / ISBN-13: 9781399600484

Price: £9.99

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‘I loved this novel’s brain and heart’

‘A first-rate speculative thriller, by turns fascinating, brutal, powerful, and redemptive’

There are creatures in the water of Con Dao.

To the locals, they’re monsters.
To the corporate owners of the island, an opportunity.
To the team of three sent to study them, a revelation.

Their minds are unlike ours.
Their bodies are malleable, transformable, shifting.
They can communicate.
And they want us to leave.

When pioneering marine biologist Dr. Ha Nguyen is offered the chance to travel to the remote Con Dao Archipelago to investigate a highly intelligent, dangerous octopus species, she doesn’t pause long enough to look at the fine print. DIANIMA – a transnational tech corporation best known for its groundbreaking work in artificial intelligence – has purchased the islands, evacuated their population and sealed the archipelago off from the world so that Nguyen can focus on her research.

But the stakes are high: the octopuses hold the key to unprecedented breakthroughs in extrahuman intelligence and there are vast fortunes to be made by whoever can take advantage of their advancements. And no one has yet asked the octopuses what they think. And what they might do about it.

Locus Award 2023 – Winner of First Novel award
Nebula Award 2023 Finalist.
Ray Bradbury Prize 2023 Finalist.
Shortlisted for the 2024 Arthur C. Clarke Award


A hugely accomplished debut.
Natalie Xenos, CULTUREFLY
Full disclosure: in all my years as a science journalist, I could never quite get my head around the so-called hard problem of consciousness. I could recite the theories, but it wasn't until I read Ray Nayler's The Mountain in the Sea that I truly understood it in my bones. This book has many layers. It has the clothes of a futuristic eco-punk or cyberpunk thriller, the guts of a philosophy seminar and the soul of a religious tract.
A novel of ideas... [a] cerebral but not self-satisfied book that also features welcome episodes of comic relief and tightly choreographed action... It is successful entertainment as well as a warning.'
Steven Poole, GUARDIAN, Book of the Day
Less a science fiction adventure than a meditation on conscioussness and self-awareness, the limitations of human language, and the reasons for those limitation, the novel teaches as it engages
Kirkus Reviews
With a thriller heart and a sci-fi head, The Mountain in the Sea delivers a spooky smart read. Artificial intelligence, nascent animal sentience, murderous flying drones: like the best of Gibson or Atwood, it brings all of the plot without forgetting the bigger questions of consciousness, ecocide, and scientific progress. Truly a one-of-a-kind story.
Kawai Strong Washburn, author of SHARKS IN THE TIME OF SAVIORS
The Mountain in the Sea is intelligent, ambitious and thought-provoking. . . For its thoughtful depth, its dealing with big ideas such as the manner and matter of intelligence and communication and its education about the oceans, it is very, very good.
Nayler's debut is in equal parts page-turning near-future thriller and a profound exploration of language, communication and otherness... exhilarating and kaleidoscopic.
This compelling debut is impossible to put down, a delightful embroidery of the rush of scientific discovery and the pain of isolation, asking hard questions about what society is and what it means to truly understand another creature
Booklist, starred review
This is a tour de force in showing how well fiction can explore society's challenges and problems. It also is a delight that, while asking difficult questions, the author offers some hope for humankind, and redemptive joy in the struggles involved in facing our environmental battles.
Graeme Gourlay, DIVE MAGAZINE
I loved this novel's brain and heart, its hidden traps, sheer propulsion, ingenious world-building and the purity of its commitment to luminous ideas.
David Mitchell, author of CLOUD ATLAS
Ray Nayler has taken on the challenge of a near future that's less certain than ever, and made it gleam - not only with computer terminals and sentry drones (we love those, sure) but also polished coral and cephalopod eyes. From these pages, I got the sense of William Gibson, and Paolo Bacigalupi - and Donna Haraway, and Octavia Butler. This is a planetary science fiction, and a profound new kind of adventure, featuring ? among so many other wonders ? the best villain I've read in years. In the end, the enormity and possibility of this novel's vision shook tears loose. What a ride; what a feeling; what a future.
Robin Sloan, author of Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore
Readers of Peter Godfrey-Smith's Other Minds and Eduardo Kohn's How Forests Think will delight in an Anthropocene adventure that brings their ideas so vividly to life.
An action thriller with profound consequences. Groundbreaking stuff.
Doug Johnstone, THE BIG ISSUE
The Mountain in the Sea is a first-rate speculative thriller, by turns fascinating, brutal, powerful, and redemptive. The book poses profound questions about artificial and nonhuman intelligence, and its answers are tantalizing and provocative.
Jeff VanderMeer, author of ANNIHILATION
I came to The Mountain in the Sea for the cephalopds (I love cephalopods) but I stayed for the fascinating meditation on consciousness and personhood. I loved this book.
Ann Leckie
Nayler's masterful debut combines fascinating science and well-wrought characters to deliver a deep dive into the nature of intelligent life . . . As entertaining as it is intellectually rigorous, this taut exploration of human - and inhuman - consciousness is a knockout
Publishers Weekly, starred review
A wildly original, gorgeously written, unputdownable gem of a novel. Nayler is one of the most exciting new voices i've read in years.
Blake Crouch, author of DARK MATTER
Exceedingly ambitious . . . [This] is a novel that is alert, intelligent, open
New York Times
A high tide of ideas and emotion. A compelling vision of other minds sharing our world - a vision you will long to be true
Stephen Baxter
Both a profound meditation on the way human actions are affecting the world we live in... but also a breathless thriller and a perfect example of world building, this is a breakthrough novel which I expect to have a major impact over years to come.
Maxim Jakubowski, CRIME TIME
[A] brilliantly clever and compelling thriller.
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