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Nexus: Nexus Arc Book 1 Mass Market Paperback – March 3, 2015
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Winner of the Prometheus Award!
An NPR Best Book of 2013!
Shortlisted for the Arthur C Clarke Award
Shortlisted for the Kitschies Award
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Today, more than half a century later, advances in artificial intelligence and neuroscience suggest the real possibility that Licklider's vision may be realized. The most prominent of latter-day visionaries in the field, Ray Kurzweil, famously predicts that computer intelligence will overtake humans' by 2045. He calls this event the singularity. Hawking, Gates, Musk, and others are alarmed by this possibility—which AI researchers almost universally appear to assume is inevitable. The skeptics fear that advanced artificial intelligences will not just surpass humans but supersede us, eventually leading to the extinction of the human race. By contrast, Kurzweil and his adherents insist that humans will gradually gain powerful new abilities by incorporating machine-based intelligence and enhanced sensory perception, advancing the human race into a bionic, transhuman future.
But will the transformation of humanity by artificial intelligence stop there? Is there a step far beyond into post-human abilities so far superior to those of human beings today that a new species will result? This is the premise of Ramez Naam's brilliant science fiction trilogy. In Nexus, the first of the three novels, Naam explores the circumstances in which the conflict between humans and post-humans emerges into the open. Although the book is unquestionably imaginative, it is far from fantasy. Naam is a computer scientist and is intimately familiar with contemporary neurological research into using computer interface technology to enhance human cognitive abilities.
Nexus is skillfully written and a page-turner. It's undoubtedly a work of fiction. However, as Naam writes in a postscript to the novel, "to the best of my abilities, the science described in the science fiction is fully accurate. While the idea of a technology like Nexus that allows people to communicate mind-to-mind may seem far-fetched, precursors of that technology are here today."
Naam is the author of an earlier, nonfiction book, More than Human: Embracing the Promise of Biological Enhancement. As Naam notes in his postscript, "That book goes in depth into brain computer interfaces and also into the genetic enhancements that might make humans stronger, faster, smarter, and longer lived than ever. As a bonus, it dives into the politics, economics, and morality of human enhancement—other topics that Nexus touches on."
But wait, it’s even better than...
...most Michael Crichton novels because the plot whips along without constantly getting bogged down with so much technobabble it makes you feel like an inferior human being.
...Neuromancer because Nexus is not so damn artsy that you think you should love it but don’t actually (secretly) understand what all the hype is about.
...The Matrix...well, okay, not better than the first Matrix movie, but Nexus is the start to a trilogy, and unless I’m sorely mistaken (dear Lord, I better not be) parts two and three cannot possibly be worse than Matrix two and three, so...NEXUS!
Or to put it in a more subdued fashion:
As a modern day science fiction teacher I am constantly on the look out for, (but rarely find) intelligent, hard science fiction novels that aren’t so damn dense. I love Alastair Reynolds/Peter Hamilton/Anne Leckie/Liu Cixin/Neal Asher/Peter Watts, but I can only read him/her once a year because his/her books are so big and meaty. And even worse, I can’t give any of these authors to my high school students to read because of their tiny attention spans. High schoolers who are testing out science fiction for the first time demand engaging and brisk reads. These entry level novels are all over the fantasy shelf, but are sorely lacking in the science fiction shelf (thank goodness The Martian came out last year). Fortunately, I can now add Nexus to my bookshelf of "Oh-you’re-new-to-reading-science-fiction-are-you?-Well-try-this-book-of-both-intelligence-and-awesomeness."
Nexus scratched an itch that I never thought was going to be scratched: hard(ish) science fiction that is both intelligent and flows like water. Ramaz Naam, you’ve done it right - keep writing!