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  • Nexus
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on 4 November 2017
Interesting ideas
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on 1 January 2013
A stunning "what if" view of future human development and evolution and a morality tale about modern "security" concerns regarding the web and internet free speech issues.
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on 23 March 2013
It looks like being trans-human is back in fashion (or it might just be Amazon's recommendations engine), but this is the second SF novel on the trot that I have read that covers this -- the other being Accelerando by Charles Stross. Both good, but both ultimately rather depressing. Maybe I'm just antisocial, but living forever in software, and in somebody else's head to boot (or reboot), just isn't my idea of a heavenly afterlife. And anyway, who's in charge of the servers, and the network, and restore from backup? Nobody ever tests restore from backup!Then there's the added frisson that Naam works for Microsoft and is at least partly responsible for the development of Internet Explorer. Hmmm, no mention of the "blue screen of death" here, for some reason...

The story itself is pretty good though, kind of Bourne for the Facebook generation, and while I can't (willingly) subscribe to the basic premise, and the plotlines are a bit stretched in places, it's undoubtedly a ripping yarn and one that I finished happily in only a few days. Let's just hope that this particular future is as far off as personal rocket planes for happy commuting have turned out to be.
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on 4 March 2015
Nexus is about an experimental drug capable of linking human minds together. It has mixed reactions with the human population. Developers like Kaden Lane a PhD candidate in neuroscience wants to see where he can take it, while others, like the government, want to get rid of it entirely. When Kaden is caught illegally developing Nexus he suddenly becomes plunged into the life and death world of international espionage and playing for very high stakes.
Nexus provides some very credible extrapolations off what is currently possible with technology and intelligently weaves these technical details in with a very human story of betrayal, trust and the value of friendship.
Setting the story in 2040 allows enough historical time for the technology to be feasibly developed. Nexus 5 is a type of programmable nanotechnology drug into which software can be loaded and developed. As a plot device it is used to great effect, not only in very dynamic and credible action sequences where the protagonists use it in life-threatening situations, but also to demonstrate both the benefits and terrible cost it might have on the human population and that it needs to be used wisely. But the book also injects humour while making a point. A test of some seduction software that goes hilariously wrong and the hero trying to get to grips with ‘Bruce Lee’ a programme that enables the user to become an expert fighter clearly demonstrates the difficulties in the development and successful interface of new technology with human biology. The sheer inventiveness and determination of the human mind is also evident in some of the more technical sections of the story.
Nexus uses the notation of regular date and time checks to make the narrative feel as if it is ticking away like a bomb and the plot very much rattles along like a freight train towards an explosive and thoughtful conclusion. The dénouement of the whole plot leaves an intriguing conundrum as to the ethics of developing biotechnology.
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on 4 June 2017
I started reading this book after it was mentioned on the Wait But Why blog about Neuralink.
It seems to have been written by a 15 year old kid who watched one too many summer blockbusters. It's cliché after cliché. I would describe it as a bad science fiction movie in book form. Poorly written (it tries to be cinematic, so to speak), shallow characters, simple plot.
Caveat: it would take something stronger than Nexus 5 for me to find the courage to finish the book so maybe after the first half it stops being very bad and becomes very good.
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on 24 November 2014
We now know where the post-human weirdness so beloved of modern science fiction will begin; inevitably, a bunch of bright kids messing about customising a mind expanding nano-tech drug. The current street version (Nexus 3) gives a temporary neural network interface with other users in the vicinity; great for parties, no doubt. The authorities, just for a change, see it as dangerous and a threat to the status quo so a special unit has been created to prevent the proliferation of Nexus and its derivatives. Not surprisingly, and suitably hypocritically, the authorities are themselves enhancing the drug to turn their operatives into super-agents and for military applications. Nice.

So the scene is now set. Young Kade and his chums have developed Nexus 5 which persists in the brain and allows permanent connection to other users in the locale while the aforementioned government heavies (the ERD) try to track them down and generally bust them. What ensues is a splendidly taut sci-fi conspiracy thriller and while not multi-threaded, the narrative is by no means linear with enough well developed characters to maintain plausibility while the pace generally bowls along at a cracking rate. There is a bit of a lull in the action mid-way during the conference in Bangkok but it is necessary for the introduction of a raft of new characters & motivations and to get them into position for the blistering finale.

Needless to say, I really enjoyed this book. Proper speculative near-future science fiction, well written by an author who has plainly put a great deal of thought into the background science but without feeling the need to show off or bore the reader with huge info-dumps. Excellent stuff and the sequel, Crux, is now on my wish list although I’ve got to wait until April 2015.

Thanks to Amazon’s apparent trend in stocking fewer ‘minority-interest’ books (hoping, I expect, to boost sales of E-books & Kindle thingies), I bought my proper paper copy via the splendid BookDepository dot com. Interestingly, I believe that BookDepository is now owned by Amazon so I’m sure they won’t mind me plugging them in an Amazon review.
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on 10 October 2015
Bought because I am a fan of John Carmack and he recommended this series on Twitter. I could not get past the first few chapters because I found all of characters and dialog unbearable. I am sorry John, I just don't share your taste in fiction :)
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on 6 April 2015
There's a lot to like about this book. It zips along, uses credible scientific language, and emphasises entertainment. I thoroughly enjoyed. On the negative sides, there are some longish sections were the reader is given 'infodumps' (I didn't mind when these were presented as 'briefing' chapters, but the scenes where characters are just exchanging information do go on a bit), and there are some proofreading/formatting problems (inconsistent italics, misplaced spaces), but these are certainly outweighed. A fast-paced, fun read, with some interesting projections about our electro-neuro future.
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on 29 July 2015
The idea at the centre of Ramez Naam’s debut novel, Nexus, is actually rather a difficult sell despite obvious fictional antecedents and the proliferation of technology in the real world, and he does a superb job in making it feel both believable and important. The occasional info-dump aside, he also manages to do so while ensuring his narrative is always moving, only pausing for breath when hammering home the uncertainty at the heart of his debate. It veritably tears along, and explores the potential in his proffered speculations fully enough to promise some very interesting things to come.

The disappointment is, if anything, his characters: Sam is the closest thing there is to a driving presence, and she’s actually quite unlikeable for the majority, with Kade simply a narrative tool to be bounced from one experience to the next. Wats, easily the most compelling character in the book, is sidelined to a 'and this is what Wats got up to' postscript on most chapters, and really no-one else – not the various groups of arbitrary bad guys, not the genius tech wizard, not the clone army, not even the people Kade is supposed to be so desperate to protect – gets a look in. For something so rooted in its devastating/wonderful effect on humanity, there is very little humanity on show.

There is a lot here to admire – the 'Briefing' chapters are a lovely idea, never exploited as a lazy back door to force more plot in, supplying context in a manner not unlike the adverts from Frederik Pohl’s Gateway – and while you do finish it acutely aware that this is the end of Part One, I have every intention of going on to Part Two. I do recommend that you read it, just don’t expect to be blown away at this stage. That, however, may be on its way...
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on 11 September 2015
As a Computer Science undergradate, this subject fascinates me. The ability of computation and interfacing to a brain and between brains is literally my dream. This book highlights the dangers of a world where modification due to technology is abundant and all the socio-political mess that comes with it, including much soul searching and ethical-boundary issues. A highly recommended read for people who enjoy a science fiction novel with plenty of technical goodies ( Hard Sci-fi ) and contains a narrative that literally stops you from putting this book down.

If you could touch the mind of others, what could you accomplish? A lover, a colleague, a friend, a relative. To experience raw concepts without the conversion to language as a medium. To relive memories shared of a life a generation ago. To feel and share the emotions another person is going through and be able to comfort them in the most intimate way possible, to let them know your true feelings in utter clarity.

Ramez Naam is a supporter for transhumanism, and this book ( this trilogy ) perfectly embodies that goal. The world in Nexus is set in approx 2040 where such technologies could exist that 'enhance the human condition'. This isn't just a fictional novel but a possible extrapolation given today's technological feats and engineering. The author even outlines several research studies and experiments, at the end of the book, which show how technology has already improved people's lives. Electrodes implanted in the brain to help a blind man see ( and even drive! ), Cochlear implants for those who are severely hard of hearing, or those whose cochlea hair cells are severely damaged, who can hear again! Even then, some of these preliminary research experiments were set in the early 2000's, and look how much technology has grown since then.

It feels real enough to be a possibility for our immediate future, containing well explained processes for the underlying technologies, including the world's response to these technologies and the 'fear' around their use ( Just look at general public response to ever increasing AIs ). It really leaves you wanting to read more, and gets you excited and also concerned for our future where nano-scale technology may, one day, enable us to directly interface technology with our neurons in our brains. It leaves you asking: What does it mean to be human?
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