- Series: Nexus Arc (Book 2)
- Mass Market Paperback: 624 pages
- Publisher: Angry Robot (April 7, 2015)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0857665510
- ISBN-13: 978-0857665515
- Product Dimensions: 4.3 x 1.6 x 6.9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 10.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars See all reviews (320 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #46,234 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Crux: Nexus Arc Book 2 Mass Market Paperback – April 7, 2015
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Naam’s follow-up to his sterling debut, Nexus (2013), continues the story of Kaden Lane, creator of a revolutionary mind-linking software called Nexus. Set about six months after the first novel, this one is at least as action-packed, but with its political commentary and dystopian elements ratcheted to higher levels. The author briskly catches us up with the characters introduced in Nexus; Kade is on the run, trying to find his friends Ilya and Rangan, who are being held captive by the American government; Su-Yong, the Chinese expert on transhumanism, exists now as a “software being,” her mind uploaded to a computer after the death of her body; and the agents of the ERD (Emergent Risks Directorate) are desperate to find the source of Nexus and to eliminate the software once and for all. Meanwhile, the Post-Human Liberation Front is using Nexus to turn ordinary people into assassins, threatening to throw the world’s governments into chaos. The book would have benefited from a “previously on . . . ”-style prologue to remind readers of the story and world introduced in Nexus; those unfamiliar with that book will be utterly lost here (especially when it comes to the software itself). Those who’ve read the first book, though, should have no trouble picking up where they left off. A strong, exciting, and intellectually stimulating sequel. --David Pitt --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
A strong, exciting, and intellectually stimulating sequel.
--David Pitt, Booklist
Praise for the Nexus series:
"Good. Scary good."
"Provocative... A double-edged vision of the post-human."
- The Wall Street Journal
"A lightning bolt of a novel, with a sense of awe missing from a lot of current fiction."
- Ars Technica
"Starred Review. Naam turns in a stellar performance in his debut SF novel... What matters here is the remarkable scope and narrative power of the story."
"A superbly plotted high-tension technothriller ... full of delicious, thoughtful moral ambiguity ... a hell of a read."
- Cory Doctorow
"A gripping piece of near future speculation... all the grit and pace of the Bourne films."
- Alastair Reynolds, author of Revelation Space
"A sharp, chilling look at our likely future."
- Charles Stross, author of Singularity Sky and Halting State
"The most brilliant hard SF thriller I've read in years. Reminds me of Michael Crichton at his best."
- Brenda Cooper, author of The Creative Fire
"A rich cast of characters...the action scenes are crisp, the glimpses of future tech and culture are mesmerizing."
- Publishers Weekly
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Top customer reviews
In particular, I think Crux may have been the victim of its predecessor's success. Nexus was praised for its thrills and action, and I believe the movie rights have already been sold. Naam seems to be trying to be trying to build on this, and as a result Crux reads like a screenplay draft for the kind of action movie that gets reviewed as an "edge of your seat thrill ride," where the action cuts rapidly between scenes and things like "THE WHITE HOUSE -- 18:30 GMT" are displayed in a quasi-military font at the bottom of the screen.
That's fine as far as it goes, and obviously the other reviewers here love their suspense, but it comes at a cost. Most of Nexus's subtleties have been smoothed over to keep the action pumping. All governments are corrupt and evil, the villains are unsympathetic caricatures, and philosophical differences are most often resolved with missiles. It's really a shame: one of the more intriguing subplots made it seem as though the CIA was trying to save Kaden from the less trustworthy branches of the DHS. Since the CIA in popular fiction is almost always a bunch of scheming lunatics, giving them the moral high ground would have been a nice touch. Unfortunately, Ramez Naam has already written a novel in which much of the U.S. government is corrupt and evil, and the easiest way to ramp up the suspense is for the entire government to be evil. So it turns out that, of course, the CIA was just plotting to control Nexus like everyone else.
There is still some time spent on Kaden and Sam's character development, but too much of the emotional content is cheap and heavy-handed, to save time for more thrills and suspense. Sam and the other good guys spend a lot of their time talking about how much they love children, or else gazing with adoration at beautiful children suffused with joy. The bad guys spend most of their time looking around with cold empty eyes, talking about how children using Nexus aren't human, and ordering their torture and extermination.
Everything has been taken up a notch, unfortunately past the point of credibility. "Oh my God, the President was behind everything all along!" was good fun when I was playing Metal Gear Solid in my parents' basement as a teenager, but I'm an adult now and it seems a little silly. One of the cornerstones of the plot is a laughably transparent government conspiracy. How laughable, you ask? Well, it happens to be the exact plot device used in Quentin Tarantino's Machete, a movie intended as an over-the-top caricature of cheesy action films. Yet this conspiracy is treated as serious business, and when the Big Reveal happens near the climax, we're evidently supposed to be surprised. The Big Reveal is carried out by having a villain considerably less sympathetic than Hitler gloat about his plans, only to have the confession caught on video and released to the press. And yes, this is again exactly how it played out in Machete, except here we get to use the phrase "false flag" a lot, which is nice.
The other main antagonist is a brilliant man (Shiva) with a history of hardship and abuse, who sees Nexus as the road to a posthuman future and is willing to take extreme measures to get there. He and Kaden develop mutual respect and admiration for each others' abilities and goals, but eventually Kaden decides that Shiva's disregard for freedom and human life is too high a price. Shiva likewise decides that Kaden is too naive to succeed, and the two become grudging adversaries. If you think this sounds an awful lot like Professor Xavier and Magneto, you're not alone. The main difference is that Magneto's back story was far more plausible. When you have an Indian man named Shiva (very subtle!) who was born into the Untouchable caste, rose against the odds to become a billionaire, suffered unspeakable abuse and witnessed unfathomable horror; and then this man ends up in a flowing white robe, standing atop his island fortress/mansion with his arms opened to the heavens proclaiming his godhood, whatever else you call it you have lost all claim to realism. You do, however, have a Bond villain with an island fortress just begging to be assaulted by autonomous drones and AI-guided missiles fired at Mach 8, which I'm sure will look fabulous in IMAX 3D. So there's that.
The theme that's developing here is that this is more of a comic book than a novel, just without any pictures. That's ok, and it was enough fun to keep me entertained. But while government overreach and security paranoia are real problems, having an evil President whose top adviser is basically Hitler is not a realistic or thoughtful way to explore these problems. One of the things that made Nexus great was its enthusiastic depiction of minds brought into contact through technology. But Nexus (the nanotech) has become something of a superpower in Crux, with any of several major characters able to instantly assume complete control over anyone else's mind. Again, this is no longer a thoughtful exploration of the topic. Naam has been called Michael Crichton's successor, and I hope he isn't trying to live up to that title: we don't need another Crichton, but we really could use another Vernor Vinge, and Naam is up to the task if he wants to try.
(A brief note about the edition and prose: The Kindle edition doesn't have good separation between sections of chapters. Since the POV changes so rapidly, this often leads to confusion. One character will be thinking something in Thailand, and suddenly bullets will be flying towards another character in Washington, and it just looks like contiguous paragraphs.
Also, some sections of the prose would have benefited from additional editing. There are a few chapters narrated from a child's point of view, and Naam's approach to a child's thought process is to use caps lock a lot. It isn't very successful. There is also an unfortunate passage at the end of the book where two news anchors are discussing the release of direct evidence of the biggest and most diabolical government conspiracy in the history of America. They do this using stereotypical, stilted newscaster language that is hackneyed and doesn't at all fit. "Apparently, Bob, the President has been torturing children. But that's not all, is it Bob? That's right, Joe, there's more! This will really harm the President's reelection chances, don't you think?" and so on.)
It's a gloriously dark tale where no one is safe, and no one is right. It's obvious Naam is an optimist, but reality keeps getting in the way. Characters you love make bad decisions for noble reasons, while characters you want to hate compel you with their tortured humanity. It's a fast-paced action thriller that will leave you giggling, crying, and begging for more.
Exceedingly appropriate given the direction of this story.
I have had books one and two sitting in my queue since December 28, 2014. They were pushed back as projects came up or authors asked me to read their works. Finally, I had a moment to look at books which had been waiting for a while and I began book 1, Nexus.
I was devoured.
Immediately starting on this, the second as I finished the first, I began to wonder, would there be more? I filed a mental note that my review would start with the longing for more of this tale. As I finished book two today, my Kindle app kindly prompted me to purchase the third in what was now a trilogy! I shall be abed early this night.
To the story itself. So many real emotions initiated in the whorls of my brain. To say that I cared for the characters and story wouldn't do justice to how I felt.
The book runs the gamut of love, hope, wonder, excitement, fear, dread, terror, horror, helplessness, betrayal, determination. I could go on but I shan't blather you into boredom.
The concept is at once fascinating and frightening because we already see real world progress and trials on what is being covered here. Fascinating for what we could achieve, frightening for what could be done with it. One doesn't have to be familiar with the Star Trek Borg to see both sides of this weighty coin but it would help.
And the minds! Such beautiful, staggeringly bright and wondrous moments are richly described. The author is surely a genius.
Our protagonists are layered and complex, bright, wounded, jaded, programmed, oops, there I go again. My mind is reeling with the number of adjectives I could throw at these books.
I've already gone past my typically short (and usually but not always sweet) review so I shall end here by saying this will likely achieve a spot in my all-time favourite series.
Now I must rest my wrung out neurones and nodes.