A tender and well-researched story, but lacking in its climactic conclusiveness.

It is of course nothing new that fiction takes an immense interest in consciousness. But this book does a great job of exploring it in a modern fashion. As something that you could believably read in popsci in a few years.

Ray has still built a world with plenty of dystopian elements of late-stage capitalism. Monolithic tech companies. Pervasive AI applied to optimizing profits; from fishing freighters with human slave labor, to general transportation, and AIs strategizing business tactics. An interesting exercise in short-term future telling. Though let us hope that it won't turn out so dystopian.

Ha Nguyen is a scientist studying octopi. The octopus is the stand-in for the book's discussions on consciousness and culture. She gets flown to a remote island (in a hexcopter) and is stuck with an outlawed android (the first of its kind; they're too uncannily human), and a Mongolian combat veteran turned private security (with a tank of sentient fluid in which she submerges herself to control a fleet of security drones). Together they're studying "the monster of Con Dao"; a shapesinger and a whole colony of other octopi.

The process of deciphering their language (patterns flowing over their bodies) felt a bit underdeveloped, and pales in comparison with "Story of Your Life" by Ted Chiang.

Something else that felt weirdly off, is the side-plot of Rustem (an exceptionally skilled hacker). He was tasked by an unknown organization to break into an AI, but even only mentioning it caused his loved ones to get killed. After having been transported to somewhere else in Istanbul, he runs into another vague organization that tries to convince him to do not any damage. And ultimately, the only resolution we have is that a) we get told it's Evrim (the android) whose brain he had to hack, and b) he can destroy the "portal" and thereby free Evrim from outside control. Rustem's whole arc seems to amount to a character moment for Evrim, whose internal life we have experienced way less of.

And then there is the plot of Eiko and Son, who are being held captive on the automated fishing freighter for their slave labor. Midway through the story we're already aware of their eventual climax of having tricked the ship's AI to steer to Con Dao, but when they eventually get there, and are obliterated by Altantsetseg's security perimeter, nothing happens. Son en Eiko make it to the beach, half-dead, and are picked up by the Tibetan automonks who were helping baby turtles find their way to the sea. The story devoted a not insignificant amount of time to their struggle, but its climax feels unfinished.

Altantsetseg's plot-twisting betrayal of DIANIMA by revealing her allegiance to the Tibetan Buddhist Republic has also no immediate effect, besides the implication that it'd allow Ha and Evrim to continue their research into the shapesingers for longer than when they'd have remained under DIANIMA jurisdiction.

Overall, I enjoyed the book, but the ending felt like a bundle of loose threads.