Mountain in the Sea

A Novel

English language

Published Dec. 2, 2022 by Farrar, Straus & Giroux.

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4 stars (2 reviews)

Humankind discovers intelligent life in an octopus species with its own language and culture, and sets off a high-stakes global competition to dominate the future.

Rumors begin to spread of a species of hyperintelligent, dangerous octopus that may have developed its own language and culture. Marine biologist Dr. Ha Nguyen, who has spent her life researching cephalopod intelligence, will do anything for the chance to study them.

The transnational tech corporation DIANIMA has sealed the remote Con Dao Archipelago, where the octopuses were discovered, off from the world. Dr. Nguyen joins DIANIMA’s team on the islands: a battle-scarred security agent and the world’s first android.

The octopuses hold the key to unprecedented breakthroughs in extrahuman intelligence. The stakes are high: there are vast fortunes to be made by whoever can take advantage of the octopuses’ advancements, and as Dr. Nguyen struggles to communicate with the newly discovered species, forces larger …

5 editions

Asks many interesting questions, has the sense not to try to give pat answers

5 stars

So much to love about this book, how it weaves together unanswerable questions about consciousness and computation, together with a much more didactic message about humans' consumptive relationships with, well, everything including each other, and enough of a mystery story to keep the plot moving along. Also some great evocations of places (ahhh, multiple key scenes on Istanbul ferries), and of the ways peoples' reputations misrepresent their selves.

It's not a strongly character driven book - every character that is fleshed out seems to be a variant of "loner who wishes for connection" and largely a vehicle for the author's ideas - but there's enough depth to the characters to keep me reading. My one real criticism is that the ending felt a bit rushed. Not in the sort of too convenient, story-undermining way, but not quite satisfying either. It doesn't feel like a set up for a sequel, but …