The Mountain In The Sea - Ray Nayler


In this book, humans discover a group of octopuses that have the beginnings of society. They have developed language, writing, religion, tools, and a sense of caring for the young and old. This is contrary to the existing science that says octopi are solitary creatures.


The central premise did not feel derivative, and the level of detail in explaining and rationalizing the sci-fi made the story plausible. Here are two of my “likes” -

  • The AI
  • Ephraim

The AI

AI was the buzzword last year (2023), and although this book was written a year prior (2022), it managed to anticipate the forthcoming AI buzz within corporations in 2023.

The story is set in the dystopian future where one mega-corporation, DIANIMA, has become the leader in AI. Its crowning achievements include creating a conscious artificial humanoid that passes the Turing Test.

The Turing test, originally called the imitation game by Alan Turing in 1950, is a test of a machine's ability to exhibit intelligent behaviour equivalent to, or indistinguishable from, that of a human

In this story, humans can control multiple drones simultaneously via AI-assisted software. This proprietary software is highly sophisticated and secret. Two corporations maintain the leading edge in this field: DIANIMA and the Tibetan monks. The AI software of both corporations are fundamentally opposites.

The discovery of advanced Octopi caused DIANIMA to purchase the Con Dao archipelago in Vietnam to get the first rights to study these octopi, representing a unique research opportunity to advance their AI.


Ephraim is the first and only artificial humanoid to pass the Turing Test. It is constructed from a set of consciousnesses donated by various people. This is similar to current-day generative AI, built on top of information scoured from the Internet.

In the story, humans can obtain virtual spouses with whom they can have a relationship. This virtual companion technology is quite popular and is a precursor to Ephraim.

However, rather than welcoming the creation of a self-conscious AI, most of the world is terrified of Ephraim. Ephraim’s creator explains that this could be because of humans' existential fears when faced with the possibility that virtual and physical life could be created artificially.

Given Ephraim's rising unpopularity, he is exiled to Con Dao.

I did like how the character was developed. Ephraim was unique not only because it passed the Turing Test but also because it believed that it was no different from humans.