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I, Human Paperback – May 27, 2016
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"Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress"
Is the world really falling apart? Is the ideal of progress obsolete? Cognitive scientist and public intellectual Steven Pinker urges us to step back from the gory headlines and prophecies of doom, and instead, follow the data: In seventy-five jaw-dropping graphs, Pinker shows that life, health, prosperity, safety, peace, knowledge, and happiness are on the rise. Learn more
"In John Nelson's futuristic and aptly titled spy thriller, I, Human, he explores the boundaries of what it means to be human . ..Intelligence analyst Alan Reynard is sent on a mission to secretly infiltrate a Bornie spiritual community whose leader, Maria Fria seems to be able to heal people and enhance emotion in ways beyond what the brain processors can do. But those who have sent him have not revealed the real purpose of his mission and Reynard and an outcast former, Emma, will find themselves on a dangerous exploration into the truth of self, consciousness and who we are and can be. An intriguing and superb futuristic spy thriller."
--Andrew Kaplan, author of the Scorpion and Homeland novels.
"John Nelson, in I, Human, imaginatively gives an apocalyptic scenario about the dark sides of pharmaco genomics and neural implants. He tackles a ticklish question. What exactly is a human being, and is there an invisible line inside that splits the human biocomputer into part man and part machine? And how will governments of the future manipulate it?"
--Henry David Abraham, M.D., author, co-recipient of the 1985 Nobel Peace Prize
Alan Reynard starts the novel as a typical Everyman: he has a neuralimplant, making him a transhuman, that has upped his I.Q. and he usesthat ability. However, where he differs is that he works for a company, K industries ("a private sector think tank for all levels of lawenforcement") that specializes in finding individuals who are breakingthe law. Reynard specializes in thinking outside of the box, thinking of non-logical ways that a felony was accomplished. Additionally, whenbeing interviewed by the company psychologist Reynard shows he is ableto switch from one mental state to another to another quickly. It's notexplained what he's doing, but it's strongly insinuated that he's ableto essentially switch off his emotions, an ability he's trained himselfto do. This distances him from being human and more like his computerimplant, but makes him the perfect focus for an individual to rediscover what it means to be emotional. Reynard hides nothing from the reader in his narration. He is, rightfully, in a constant state of secondguessing, bordering on paranoia, how anyone's words and actions could be hiding a more sinister purpose.
Dr. Klaus weaves in and out of the novel whenever Reynard is mandated to speak with the psychologist.Klaus is an wonderfully enigmatic character, who seems to confideconfidential information to his patient, but ultimately reports to thecompany. Maria Fria is the X factor of this novel, being the next"borny" assignment. The government, who has hired Reynard, believes shemay have telepathic abilities because she is causing a community inArizona to grow in their distrust of implants and has, supposedly,caused previous agents to go insane from their contact with her. After a tremendous build up from company characters, Fria turns out to be avery different character, and in doing so Nelson has made her everyappearance an important and excellent one. These characters are alloutstanding, with Reynard being one of the better original sciencefiction protagonists I've encountered in some time.
There are no radical or stereotypical science fiction settings in this book and that works immensely to the story's success. This could be set in New Yorkten to twenty years from now. The explosive setting is in Arizona andthe many road trips that Reynard takes with his companions. After beingexposed to Fria, Reynard begins to see and experience things he hasn'tdone before, allowing Nelson to describe sensations that are wonderfulto read. The descriptions of something so simple as food made meimmensely hungry with how each meal is described. This is good writing.
The action is psychological in this novel. The threat is what Friaand her ilk could do to one's implant and to one's mind. There is a lotof build up that allows Fria's reveal and actions to have an incrediblyhigh level of tension. Before going on this mission, every scene atReynard's home and work is one of constant distrust, pulling the readerinto the protagonist's mind wonderfully. This paranoia is constant,which had me reading the book in one setting because I could not put itdown.
[While] the conclusion was a disappointment--once thecharacters make a key decision, the novel follows a predictablepath--there is much to enjoy in this tale of a too near, too possibleexistence. Alan Reynard is one of the best Everyman characters in recent science fiction. If only the ending hadn't taken a drastic turn. Thequestions this novel addresses go beyond the genre and hammer at modernman's existence. Worth reading.
--SciFiPulse - Patrick Hayes
A spy story with an evolutionary twist. Who do you trust? Your name is Alan, and you are the sharpest knife in the drawer. Your combination of surveillance skills, trained intelligence, and honed intuition make you a formidable counter-intelligence agent for your employer, which is ostensibly K Industries, and, is, in reality, though slightly behind the scenes, the government.
I, Human is set a few decades in the future, in a society that is reaping the harvest we are sowing now. The partial collapse of the ozone layer and the rise of the oceans have led people to protect themselves in ways they take for granted and we would find horrifying.
Politically, a corporate / governmental elite manipulates everything and everybody, including each other. The elite is are all about control, and everyone automatically assumes (correctly) that they are under continuous electronic scrutiny.The natural result is the curtailment--practically the abandonment--of emotionally intimate relationships.
But the sharpest arrow in the surveillance state's quiver is the neural processor implant. The NP vastly enhances computational ability, making people smarter and faster. (Alan's IQ is about 200.) But it also deadens feelings, which is fine with the powers that be.
The result is a life of almost autistic self-absorption, an almost unbearable loneliness, taken for granted the way the fact that tasteless food is taken for granted. It is a world of deadened feeling, with sex as casual, as mechanical, as anything else,and real relationship rare. And that is life inside the world of the privileged!
There is another, the communities called "borny"because they prefer to live the way they were born, refusing neural processors. In a society that demands conformity, there is no threat so great as those who go their own way, regardless whether they have any additional agenda. Just the fact that they exist makes them a potential threat.
And so, one day Alan is told he is going under cover again. There is a healer out in Arizona whose healings, and the healings performed by those she has trained, threaten to interfere with the functioning of the neural processor. Is she secretly attempting to bring down the government? Is she part of an underground network? He is supposed to go find out.
He doesn't know what the real agenda is, so he doesn't know how much room to maneuver he has. And then he meets the healer, as planned, and experiences her energy, as planned--and that's the end of the plan. From this point in, the plan is being re-written on the fly, by Alan, by the healer, by life itself.
Alan plays increasingly complicated and delicate mind games with his controller, trying to hide the fact that he isn't really on the team any more. But by that time he has become transformed in ways foreseen by nobody, and he has put vaster changes into motion.
In the end,the take-away is that life itself has preferences, and will produce unforeseen developments to support itself--but it needs human cooperation, and only in that cooperation can the products of a distorted society learn what it is to be truly human.
Absorbing and thought-provoking. Highly recommended.
--New Dawn Magazine - Frank DeMarco
"In his latest offering I, Human, John Nelson, veteran speculative fiction author, starts off in what seems to be the dystopian tradition of Orwell's 1984 or Huxley's Brave New World. To the previously expounded population control methods, Nelson adds neural implants craftily programmed to boost recipients' mental processing powers to genius levels while numbing normal emotions and intuition to almost nil.
I, Human is staged in a hostile future permanently disfigured by human science gone amok. Alan Reynard, an intelligence analyst, is sent to the Arizona desert to infiltrate a spiritual community whose charismatic leader, Maria Fria, is known to heal and enhance ability in those with or without neural processors. But Alan's handlers do not reveal the true purpose of the mission. Thus, he and an outcast former operative, Emma, find themselves trapped between the objectives of the implant manufacturer, the government, and their own awakening intuition and love for each other.
John Nelson has broad experience in diverse fields that range from neural science to energy medicine to psychology and spirituality. In this visionary fiction work, he adroitly synthesizes these many elements to bring the reader face-to-face with present-day dilemmas that are now leading us to that crux where we have to choose between human annihilation and spiritual evolution. That he does so without leaving the reader unduly depressed or too easily euphoric is masterful. I, Human is not merely a good read; it is food for thought and action."
--Victor Smith, Visionary Fiction Alliance
Humans have been upgraded to be more efficient. But those upgrades come with a price, less connection to the people around them. This loss of emotional ties makes work hard for some people. Alan Reynard works for a contractor. He shows a level of empathy and intuition rarely found in enhanced humans. This makes him both useful and feared.
Those who choose not to become enhanced are referred to as "borny". Alan has infiltrated borny communities in the past looking for trouble and signs of unrest. His most recent deep cover involved a pretend marriage to Emma. They had a deeper connection, one that is a concern to the government, but there is a greater problem.
Alan is sent to the Southwest to infiltrate a community of spiritual healers. In order to learn about the group, Alan undergoes a healing. The healing creates paths and options which open up the future, a future that some don't want to come about. He must decide whether to help or hinder the makers of the enhancements that allow him access to great insights.
This novel is set in an established universe, but does not seem to be a direct sequel to the previous entrants. I was able to follow the story without having read any of the earlier material. Although hinted at, I would have liked to see a little more of borny society and how they view enhanced humans. The story is told from the first person perspective.It follows Alan through his journeys. This is a big switch from the third person multi-POV novels I have been reading recently. The clean prose doesn't get lost in changing perspectives allowing readers to just go with the flow of the story.
The thing that drew me to this story was the idea of bio-enhanced humans. This exploration was focused on normal individuals. This in contrast to the military science fiction where I first encountered enhanced brains where most of the enhanced were soldiers. The encounters of soldiers are focused on survival and battle, not humans becoming all they can in noncombat situations. The tech in military SF is often more tech- than bio- based.
There was also a little hint of the potential for the future as people reach their full potential. I definitely recommend this novel for people looking to explore the bounds of humanity. I am also likely to go checkout some of the author's earlier works to see how this world developed.
--Bill Lawhorn, SFRevu
About the Author
John Nelson is the author of Starborn, Transformations, Matrix of the Gods, and The Magic Mirror, the COVR winner of best book of the year for 2008. He is the former editorial director of Bear &Company and Inner Oceans Publishing, and the owner of Bookworks Ltd, his freelance editorial umbrella. He has been a cutting-edge thinker on spirituality, consciousness, and self-realization for some forty years.
Top customer reviews
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This is an engrossing story and important book that will stimulate a lot of thought. It would be a great "book club" book in which to explore social values and how technology, if unquestioned, could cause us to change what it means to be human without first really having a conversation about it. Viewing ourselves as machines, and not humans, threaten to damage us individually and as a community. This must-read book can help us sort out the future before we passively let it happen.
But it’s “I, Human.” And it can’t be seen on Nickelodeon.
It’s an intense, brutal hard science-fiction thriller about the divide between technology and spiritualism. It’s brought to life in a guy with neural implants amid a society that isn’t dealing well with their implants. Emotional breakdowns are the hijinks that ensue when this society uses tech to improve itself.
This book could use another round of copy-editing. One character is introduced as “He’s pudgy and smarmy and nobody liked him.” I’d prefer to see that acted out in the story than just being told about it.
I’m a copy editor in my real life. In fact, I will gladly copy-edit sci-fi novels, if only to make sure that the contraction “it’s” always has the apostrophe. This is my job. I can’t unsee it.
Beyond that, it’s a very good story. The characters are lived-in and detailed, and the drama plays out while also asking tough questions. That’s a rare feat. (reviewed by Joe Crowe, [...])
Alan Reynard, a government agent is given the assignment of infiltrating a spiritual commune run by a healer named Maria Fria who has modified the implants for increased functionality. Alan grows to believe in what Maria is doing and causes him to begin to work towards modifying the government's social control.
The thesis of the book is interesting and the concept possible. But Mr. Nelson falls into the trap of an overabundance of explanation of what is happening and could very easily lose the reader in sheer wordiness.
Presented as a futuristic spy-thriller, this book captured my attention and interest, and kept me reading even though the sometimes preachy or awkward writing style occasionally bogged me down in parts. Definitely overall thought-provoking and highly recommended reading.