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Nayler, Ray

Entry updated 4 March 2024. Tagged: Author.

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(1976-    ) Canadian-born US Foreign Service officer (concerned with environmental issues) and author, in the US from childhood, who began to publish work of genre interest with "The Ropes of the Lasso Inn" in Deathrealm for Winter 1996, his first sf story being "Mutability" (June 2015 Asimov's). His first novel, The Mountain in the Sea (2022), takes clear advantage of his professional work in its Near Future examination of the nature of the Intelligence of a sophisticated octopus culture, an examination which ultimately treats human/octopus Communication (see Linguistics) in terms of First Contact. Gathered together on a remote Archipelago, the cast – which includes a marine biologist, an Android figure inhabited by an AI, a high-grade hacker, and an expert in drone Technology – is well sorted to refract the complexities of the issues raised. The world in which this conflicted consort operates is visibly wounded by Climate Change, and their investigations are threatened by a giant corporation run by a figure who sophisticatedly combines aspects of Mad Scientist and aspirational billionaire-guru Secret Master. The burden of the tale can be understood to be the saddened realization on the part of the cast that Homo sapiens as a whole is not very good at First Contact. This book won a Locus Award as best first novel.

The human/octopus link in The Mountain in the Sea is thematically expanded upon in The Tusks of Extinction (2024), set decades after Homo sapiens has put paid to the last elephant; a Russian attempt to "de-extinct" the woolly mammoth is put at risk by organized poaching by ivory hunters; the mammoth point-of-view is powerfully rendered, in a sense, through the downloaded consciousness of a human whose mind had been in storage since the previous extinction. The grief-stained anger conveyed through this novel, and its predecessor, mark Nayler as a significant voice in the third decade of this century. [JC]

Raynald Patrice Desmeules Nayler

born Alma, Quebec: 5 June 1976



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