I am looking for a science fiction book that is about an octopus who gains intelligence. That is all I know about the story and I have no idea when it was written but I'm thinking it's quite old.

  • 3
    It sounds interesting but at the moment the question seems a bit vague. Would you have a look at scifi.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/9335/…? The points there might help you flesh the description out more.
    – cryptarch
    Commented Dec 13, 2018 at 0:29
  • 5
    Octopuses are already intelligent. :)
    – Paul
    Commented Dec 13, 2018 at 0:51
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    @Paul - If they're so smart, then how come they taste so nice grilled with garlic butter?
    – Valorum
    Commented Dec 13, 2018 at 1:02
  • 3
    @Valorum, might one not say the same of “long pig” and apple sauce? Commented Dec 13, 2018 at 2:15
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    @Valorum that proves nothing, pretty much anything grillable tastes good grilled with garlic butter
    – Paul
    Commented Dec 13, 2018 at 3:28

2 Answers 2


This is possibly Jack Vance's The Gift of Gab. A mining operation of sorts -- the workers gather sea creatures that sequester valuable metals (based on the fact that Earth tunicates actually do this for vanadium).

One species of these organisms, the dekabrachs, are ten-armed creatures that the protagonist deduces are intelligent, but have no language. To save them from being harvested for a valuable metal, either platinum or palladium, he invents a language based on arm positions and teaches it to a captive dekabrach. The manager who discovered that the dekabrachs could be harvested attempts to poison the educated dekabrach with acid, but the dekabrach survives and is able to identify the attempted murderer.

At the end of the story, the captive is released, and it brings a number of other dekabrachs back to the operation to learn the new language.

  • I've read that one, from memory it doesn't seem to fit the OP's given outline, not actually an octopus but an alien creature on an alien planet & it doesn't become intelligent, it always was & they just hadn't figured out that it was intelligent or how to talk to it at the start of the story.
    – Pelinore
    Commented Dec 14, 2018 at 12:44
  • I think you're right. Highly recommended as a good SF mystery in any case. Commented Dec 14, 2018 at 19:45
  • I found the idea of an intelligent species without a means of communication pretty implausible -- can't recall whether I enjoyed the story or not.
    – releseabe
    Commented Jan 15, 2020 at 21:07
  • Yes, Vance has the protagonist conclude that the dekabrachs are so close to identical that they think alike, and therefore have no need to communicate, which is dubious. It does make for a good story, though. Commented Jan 16, 2020 at 5:05

If "squid" could stand in for "octopus" in your memory, Stephen Baxter's novel Manifold: Time includes a genetically engineered squid named Sheena 5 which (who?) pilots a space ship. Baxter's story "Sheena 5" goes into more detail.

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