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Nexus Paperback – January 1, 2013
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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 Audio CD edition.
Any old writer can take you on a roller coaster ride, but it takes a wizard like Ramez Naam to take you on the same ride while he builds the roller coaster a few feet in front of your plummeting car... you'll want to read it before everyone's talking about it. - John Barnes, author of the Timeline Wars and Daybreak series. "An incredibly imaginative, action-packed intellectual romp! Ramez Naam has turned the notion of human liberty and freedom on its head by forcing the question: Technology permitting, should we be free to radically alter our physiological and mental states?" - Dani Kollin - Prometheus award winning author of The Unincorporated Man
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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.
If you like to read every detail about a fight scene, this book is for you.
I don't normally feel compelled to write reviews. Often, I just give a star-rating and leave it at that, however, Nexus is without a doubt one of the best reads I've had in months and deserves a review. I have to urge other readers to give this one a try. (One note however is that the Kindle e-version is horrendous. All the italic words, sentences and paragraphs are completely missing, leaving the reader clueless on quite a few pages. Ridiculous. Amazon really needs to step it up in this area. This isn't the caveman era -- this is unacceptable. If you can spend a few more bucks for the paperback -- DO. I wish I had.)
First of all, this book is not for everyone. If you're a tech nerd, you'll love this. If you're a cognitive sciences nerd, you'll canonize this.
Not only was the plot compelling, the characters real and likeable, but right from the start, I could see this playing through my head like an action movie (BETTER than any action movie I've seen.) By the end, my heart was racing, wondering how things could possibly get resolved. Wow.
I didn't think that I could get any more blown away. Then I read the author's end notes revealing that precursors for this type of technology are already in place, already being experimented with. Absolutely amazing!
I can't wait to see what the coming decades look like for the science world and I can't wait to see what other offerings this incredible author has. I will be eagerly feasting on both!
This series is what Snow Crash was to the Internet in 1992 but for Machine Brain interfaces -- A projection of what the future will look like when the technology is fully realized -- but with an eerily plausible dystopian future and written with the pacing of The DaVinci Code.
10/10 would recommend. If you like Sci-fi thrillers you will like this.
For fun, extra pre-reading: I heard about Nexus from an interview Ramez Naam gave in an awesome waitbutwhy.com post about Elon Musk's new company Neuralink which is trying to build machine-brain interfaces. If you want some context into the real world efforts going into the tech in the book its worth reading first.