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Excerpt from The Mountain in the Sea by Ray Nayler, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Mountain in the Sea by Ray Nayler

The Mountain in the Sea

A Novel

by Ray Nayler
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  • First Published:
  • Oct 4, 2022
  • Paperback:
  • May 2023
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Print Excerpt


He'd never dive again.

He would go back to his little apartment now in District Three, and continue to watch DIANIMA's "generous compensation" dwindle while he failed to find a way forward.

Two blocks from the café, the cramps hit him, sending him crashing to the pavement. A motorbike stopped. A stranger's hands on him. A woman's voice. "Are you all right? Sir?"

His vision was a hazy tunnel, filled with rain. "Call help. Please." Then he saw the injector in the woman's hand.

The motorbikes drifted past, outlines distorted by rain ponchos covering bikes and riders. The rain fell into Lawrence's open, staring eyes.

He was there again. The ship. Murky water full of shapes … blurred shapes his mind kept making into something else …




We came from the ocean, and we only survive by carrying salt water with us all our lives—in our blood, in our cells. The sea is our true home. This is why we find the shore so calming: we stand where the waves break, like exiles returning home.

—Dr. Ha Nguyen, How Oceans Think

2

THE DRONE HEXCOPTER'S LANDING LIGHTS, their beams filled with windblown rain, panned over the ocean chop. They cut through a span of mangroves and flooded the airport tarmac.

There were no lights anywhere on the ground. The ruin of a runway slanted across most of a narrow neck of the island. The helicopter landing circle was a faded smear. Ancient planes rotted against a black tree line. The plastic siding of the main building was peeled away like scales torn from a dead fish.

The hexcopter swung into final descent. It twisted and settled with a lurch, indifferent to human comfort but efficient. The rotors cut off. The doors winged open.

Ha heard the insect cacophony of the jungle, the hooting call-and-response of macaques. Rain blew sideways into the pod. She hauled her gear from the storage compartment. The drone's engines ticked, cooling.

There was a watery halo of headlamps between trees: her welcoming party. The drone's running lights shut off. Now Ha saw the full moon, half-occluded by a smear of cirrus clouds. Cumulus clouds hovered low, watering the island's tropical forests.

Ha breathed in, closed her eyes, opened them, adjusting her vision to the darkness. The hexcopter's comms squawked. "Ground pickup incoming. Move away from the copter."

Ha gathered her bags and ran for the shelter of the airport overhang. The hexcopter's lights snapped back on. It lifted off the tarmac and swung away at an angle of attack and speed severe enough to knock a passenger unconscious. It was gone in seconds, enveloped in clouds.

The ground transport was armored, ex-military: a self-driving troop carrier with hardened porthole windows, oversized airless honeycomb tires.

Inside, it was upgraded for comfort. The passenger cabin was padded to dampen the noise and jolt of armor. The car's fuel-cell engine ran silent enough, but the transmission whined and sent weird vibrations through the compartment. Ha dimmed the cabin lights.

The porthole's thick strata of glass and polycarbonate distorted the scene outside. Through it, Ha watched the undulating barrier of jungle encroaching the narrow road. Ruined walls of rubble studded abbreviated clearings, structures that could have been fortresses once. Or mills, or factories. Anything. The full moon cast waveforms on the sea's surface.

The car entered the dark town clamped between forest and ocean. The heavy red-tiled roofs of the French colonial buildings dripped with rain, their stucco walls stained with tropical damp. Their shutters were closed, their gardens overrun with vine and moss. Here and there, a brutalist Communist building broke the sequence: a high school, the Communist Party administrative building. Concrete monsters damp with lichen, colorless in the night.

Excerpted from The Mountain in the Sea by Ray Naylor. Copyright © 2022 by Ray Naylor. Excerpted by permission of MCD. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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