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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


Ramez Naam

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To purchase Nexus

Title: Nexus
Author: Ramez Naam
Genre: Novel
Written: 2013
Length: 458 pages
Availability: Nexus - US
Nexus - UK
Nexus - Canada
Nexus - India
Nexus - France
Nexus - Deutschland
Nexus - Italia
Nexus - España
  • The first volume in the Nexus Trilogy

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Our Assessment:

B- : decent premise fizzles into action-mess

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Guardian . 11/1/2013 Eric Brown
Wall St. Journal . 22/12/2012 Tom Shippey

  From the Reviews:
  • "Ramez does a brilliant job of examining the ramifications of upgrading humankind and combines in-depth philosophising -- occasionally resorting to clunky info-dumps -- with effective action sequences in a mind-expanding cyber-thriller." - Eric Brown, The Guardian

  • "Mr. Naam sees all the angles of future technology almost too imaginatively to keep up with, and he makes the case that big developments are just over the horizon -- a mere 20 years, he suggests, for drugs like Nexus -- along with their downsides." - Tom Shippey, Wall Street Journal

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Nexus is set in 2040, the world having suffered a few crises since the present-day, but, beyond a variety of technological advances, otherwise not seeming to have changed all that much. The 'Nexus' of the title is a drug -- or, actually, "some sort of nano-structure, not really just a drug". What's generally in circulation is 'Nexus 3', but Kaden Lane, who is getting his doctorate "in brain-computer communication" is playing around with the next generation of the drug, Nexus 5 -- and it's a huge advance: "Nexus 5 is like Nexus, but with software layered on top". And what this means is that:

We found a way to program it. We founhd a way to get data in and out. To get instructions in and out.
       Nexus allows users to connect to others' minds -- but Nexus 5 is a much more powerful and versatile tool. Essentially, it allows for software to be 'run' on it, so it can be adapted -- programmed. It is also permanent (unlike the original Nexus, which, like a drug, wears off). Nexus allows for a hive-mind -- the joining of multiple (indeed, infinite) consciousnesses, like some grand parallel processor -- as well as forms of mind-control and prying around in others' thoughts.
       There are, however, still some kinks and bugs to work out, as one of the earliest scenes, in which Kade tries to take it for a spin in seducing a young woman at a party, demonstrates.
       Governments are also interested in -- and worried about -- this sort of technology. In fact, Nexus is illegal in the US, and so is the research Kade and his colleagues are engaging in: "This technology had to be kept out of the wild", the powers that be feel. The US Department of Homeland Security has added an Emerging Risks Directorate (ERD), and this kind of research is high on their target list. Indeed, they've targeted Kade and want to coöpt him into working for them, by getting close to "perhaps the most impressive neuroscientist in the field", Su-Young Shu, who appears to be connected to some prime examples of how this sort of technological advance could be abused.
       Kade and his colleagues are rounded up, with only one escaping, and Kade agrees to play along. He gets a handler and goes to Bangkok, where he has an opportunity to impress Su-Young Shu and get the desired offer to take a postdoc position in her lab. She turns out to have reached a quite advanced state of mind-connecting ability as well (as have some of the local Buddhist monks ...). And Kade continues to feel uncomfortable about this role he's been thrust (essentially blackmailed) into.
       The mind-probing, -connecting, and to some extent -controlling enhancements that Nexus, especially, provides give Naam a lot to play with, but the counter-forces, relying largely on brute strength and weapons (as well as some neat technology) make for a lot of messy confrontations here. Rather than focus on what the consequences of this mind-joining technology might be, too much of Nexus is a smash-'em-up action-thriller. Admittedly, as the first part in a trilogy, Nexus can be seen as stage-setting -- indeed, the conclusion here pretty much forces Naam's hand: surely the following volumes will have to deal more with that -- but there's an awful lot of B-movie carnage getting there.
       There are any number of interesting issues at play here, including the role of governmental control over technology (and government power to jail or even outright 'disappear' citizens involved in activities it sees as dangerous); among Kade's insights is:
     Broad dissemination and individual choice turn most technologies into a plus. If only the elites have access, it's a dystopia.
       (The operative word here would be 'most' .....)
       Given the creepiness of this technology -- basically, allowing others into your mind (and memories) -- there's way too little here about the downsides and possible abuses. The use of Buddhist monks, who look to reach a similar state via a different route, but are now eager to embrace this new technology -- is a nice touch and makes for an interesting example, but closer examination and discussion of this and most everything else remains pretty thin.
       Quite a few bits of Nexus are enjoyable, and the uses various technologies are put to is consistently of interest, but on the whole the novel reads far too much like a novelized version of an action-thriller flick.

- M.A.Orthofer, 2 November 2016

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Nexus: Reviews: Ramez Naam: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Egyptian-born author Ramez Naam came to the US when he was three.

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