Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Nexus Is A Good Book

Or why you should read Nexus by Ramez Naam

Nexus is a discussion about the emergence, control, and dissemination of technology, along with a philosophical viewpoint, all wrapped up in a big action film. In the novel Nexus is a nanomachine drug which travels to the brain and allows Nexus users to experience each others emotions, memories, and thoughts. Futurists, academics, utopian thinkers see Nexus' potential to elevate humankind, while criminals and sociopaths view the drug as the means to exploit others for profit. Governments seek to control and police the use of the drug, to use it against their enemies and to prevent the nanomachine from being misused. Some people just want to experiment with it for a good time. Kaden Lane is a talented neuroscience graduate student who has developed a new version of Nexus with awesome potential which will throw him into a world of espionage, repression, revolution, and crime all seeking to control his invention.  

Nexus is one of those "holy shit why isn't everyone talking about this!?" novels. It's pretty much everything I want in a contemporary Sci-fi novel for the commute. The plot races along, pages flying, with a rocketship of supercool action driving the story forward. But the story itself is a really thoughtful, blisteringly smart meditation on the emergence of perception altering technology and a broader treatise on the philosophical role of emerging technologies in society, the American security apparatus, and 21st century imperialism. Nexus is very nearly a manifesto. It's also one of the better portrayals of Science academia I've read and a great example of how to use complicated Science concepts in fiction. (Although it is weird how Kade's PhD supervisor is never around or that the author of a Science paper would ONLY get a poster at an academic conference is kind of funny. Also, poster sessions are nowhere as groovy as the one portrayed in the novel.) Basically, Nexus is a really exciting novel that plays with some fun speculative technology, asks some deeply fundamental questions about Science and Society, and pulls the whole thing off with panache. It's fantastic.

I would recommend this novel to anyone into Science Fiction: this book is really, really good. It's also a novel that I think would do very well with the thriller crowd since it's properly exciting and action packed. I'd also think that it'd be a fun read if you were a Science academic since it gets a lot right and is kind of amusing where it idealizes reality. And seriously, I do not know why this novel isn't a universally read critical and commercial smash hit. You really ought to read it.

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