- Series: Nexus Arc (Book 1)
- Mass Market Paperback: 528 pages
- Publisher: Angry Robot; Reprint edition (March 3, 2015)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0857665502
- ISBN-13: 978-0857665508
- Product Dimensions: 4.3 x 1.4 x 6.9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars See all reviews (741 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #73,390 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Nexus: Nexus Arc Book 1 Mass Market Paperback – March 3, 2015
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*Starred Review* Naam, an expert in new technologies and author of More Than Human: Embracing the Promise of Biological Enhancement (2005), turns in a stellar performance with his debut sf novel. Nexus is a nanotechnology that allows human minds to link up. But rogue scientists are using it to turn ordinary people into killers (shades of Richard Condon’s classic novel The Manchurian Candidate). The American government recruits—in other words, blackmails—Kade Lane, a grad student who’s been known to tinker with Nexus, to get close to the suspected leader of the mind-control program. But, as Kade soon discovers, one man’s villain is another’s visionary, and he’s forced to choose sides in a hurry, before someone else decides he’s too dangerous to stay alive. Naam has set himself a difficult challenge here: he’s telling a story in which much of the action and dialogue takes place inside the characters’ minds. But he succeeds admirably: one scene, in particular, in which a character races to make changes to the Nexus system by reprogramming it inside his own head, is nail-bitingly tense, when it could easily have come off as preposterous. The dialogue might be a bit raw in places, and there might be a slight overuse of exclamation points, but those are minor rookie mistakes. What matters here is the remarkable scope of the story and its narrative power. --David Pitt --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
Winner of the Prometheus Award!
An NPR Best Book of 2013!
Shortlisted for the Arthur C Clarke Award
Shortlisted for the Kitschies Award
An NPR Best Book of 2013
"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
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!
In his authors@google talk, Naam talks about the requirements for 'Google in your brain': data in, data out, encoding/decoding, multiple data types, safe/secure/deployable. He makes a convincing case that we have very primitive forms of data i/o, encoding/decoding and multiple data types (audio, video) today in the form of medical devices like the Cochlear implant and primitive computer-assisted vision for the blind. Advances in computing power, miniaturisation, and communications are going to enable even more powerful functionality in the future.
Naam explores the possibilities of networked, customisable human brains from many different angles. There's the cyberpunk crowd that wants to have raves where you experience the emotions of everyone around you, the Buddists who meditate for hours as a single focused mind, various governments who want to limit access to the technology but also use it to boost the capabilities of their soldiers and armies, cults whose leaders use it as a form of mind control, and all manner of other criminal/illegal/unethical things that are possible when you can control someone else's mind.
So the ideas are brilliant, the science is great, and Naam's technology background is present everywhere: I certainly can't think of another novel where 'stack trace' was used correctly, or a compiler hack described complete with a Ken Thompson reference.
Unfortunately the novel is weakened by an over-abundance of action fight scenes, guns, explosions, and just general Michael Bay-ness. The opening sequence when Kade uses a pick-up line program followed by a pornstar program was ridiculous, and read like a teenage programmer's fantasy: if only I could write a program to get girls! Just need some sleazy lines and some porno moves! I was more convinced by the Bruce Lee program as a sort-of crude predecessor to Keanu's "I know Kung-Fu" moment in the matrix in the more distant fictional future.
As a Bay Area resident I liked the local references, and the party in Hangar 3 at Moffett. The ability of multiple cooperating governments to suppress important information despite the massive connectivity and diversity of the Internet was also an interesting case study for the future.
"Broad dissemination and individual choice turn most technologies into a plus. If only the elites have access, it's a dystopia."
If you like action novels, you'll probably love this. Personally, I'd rather Naam and China Miéville took some Nexus 5, joined their minds, and re-wrote this as a dark techno underground thriller :)
Ramez does a great job of making seemingly complex social issues simple enough for anyone to understand.
He weaves a great story around the people on both sides of the ongoing debates revolving around an individuals right to choose their own destiny.
From time to time, it's depressing to read, but well worth pushing through.
It's interesting that, specially in the beginning, both sides of the conflict are given their due, showing a problem with no easy solutions. It slips off a little when the author's bias start to shift the balance from a grey area into a black and white one, but it's not enough to take a star from it.
My only gripes on this book are that a) it doesn't even try to pretend it's a self contained story (not a bad thing in itself, but not my personal preference), and b) the US special forces manage to botch two operations in the span os a couple days, both times in a catastrophic scale. In this book they are the heavies of the story (I expect that'll change a little in the sequels), and my personal preference is that the forces opposing the protagonist be smarter than what these morons showed themselves to be.
If I could, I'd give 4 1/2 stars, but forced to choose, I give 5. Its a good action thriller, and it is highly educative on future technologies and it's potential risks and rewards. well worth reading.