Ramez Naam, a nano-technologist, is the award-winning author of the non-fiction book, More than Human: Embracing the Promise of Biological Enhancement, so I knew his research for his new evolutionary novel Nexus would be impeccable. If you like science fiction and are interested in human potential, or just like a good nail-biting sci-fi thriller, then you’ll want to check this one out. It’s something that could quite easily happen in the near future, given our progress in nano-technology. One lucky reader will win a Nook or Kindle e-book copy of Nexus for their own enjoyment!
“Transhuman – noun –
A human being whose capabilities have been enhanced such that they now exceed normal human maxima in one or more important dimensions. An incremental step in human evolution.
Posthuman – noun –
A being which has been so radically transformed by technology that it has gone beyond transhuman status and can no longer be considered human at all. Any member of a species which succeeds humans, whether having originated from humanity or not. The next major leap in human evolution.
Oxford English Dictionary, 2036 Edition.”
Nexus is a street drug the federal government is trying desperately to get off the street in 2040. The powers that be don’t want anyone else to have power over this drug’s users and they’ll stop at nothing to ensure all non-governmental usage stops.
Nexus isn’t your average drug. It’s not a chemical but a nano-drug that links human beings mind-to-mind. It also creates an interface between individual brains and computer software. That can lead to a legion of possibilities for good or evil. One good potential outcome is that humans of all kinds begin to understand each other on an intrinsic level, accessing each other’s thoughts, beliefs, emotions, memories – in short, it’s the ultimate empathy vehicle for universal understanding and peace. One potential evil outcome is that it provides a vehicle by which one megalomaniac can completely control others and turn them into zombie-like puppets.
The U.S. government is fixated on the potential for evil in this drug and doesn’t want any other government using it. It seems on the surface like a legitimate concern because the potential for worldwide domination just got whittled down to capsule form, and there’s always some yoyo out there who wants to be world dictator. Extreme consequences like these are how the government has justified not only making Nexus illegal but the right to basically disappear anyone found distributing or involved with the drug.
Enter our little band of pacifistic heroes. Kaden “Kade” Lane and his friends have been working with Nexus in a Silicon Valley academic research setting. Being the enterprising grad students that they are, they’ve tweaked it and are conducting their own little side research project with what they’re calling Nexus 5.
Instead of a temporary drug-like experience, they’ve made it a permanent installation with apps that can be accessed. Want to fight like Bruce Lee? You may not have the muscle power but one of their Nexus apps can give you all the moves. Want to appear super confident when you’re really shy? Try the Don Juan app.
“Kaden Lane watched carefully, clinically, as Don Juan molded his body’s responses. A slight smile. Release of oxytocin. Dilation of capillaries in his cheeks. A mix of confidence and anticipation. Candidate replies flitted through his mind, half-formed on his lips, as the software’s conversational package sifted through possibilities.”
Kade and his friends see Nexus 5 as an amazing force for good and universal peace but some might say they’re naïve about its potential for harm. Their plan: To put Nexus 5 out on the Internet as basically shareware that everyone in the world can access. They believe if everyone has it then it will exist on an even playing field and can’t be misused. Their goal: To bring about world peace and harmony.
Samantha “Sam” Cataranes works for Homeland Security. Having watched what happened to her family in a cult, she’s committed to getting Nexus off the streets and secured no matter what it takes. The very thought of what it could do in the wrong hands sends chills up her spine and gives her nightmares.
When Sam goes undercover and busts Kaden and his friends, they’re given a Hobson’s choice. They will each disappear into some dark solitary-confinement cell for life or Kaden can volunteer to go to a neuroscience conference with Sam. While there, he’s to help her entrap Su-Yong-Shu, a Chinese scientist he admires, who the U.S. government believes is experimenting with Nexus in training Chinese military troops. The idea of the Chinese government using Nexus for its military troops has the U.S. terrified to say the least.
“[Sam said,] ’How can you be so naïve, Kade? You’re a good guy. I’ve felt that. But what about other people who get their hands on this? You think they won’t reverse engineer it? You think they won’t make slaves out of this? Suicide troops? Sex slaves? Worshippers?’…
Kade bristled. ‘This is stupid. You can hurt people with guns. You can get them to do awful things with words. Books are as dangerous as anything I’m doing. We need this. Our current problems can’t be solved by the level of thinking that created them. Einstein said that. This can take us to a new level of thinking.’”
To make matters even more complicated, Homeland Security suspects Su-Yong-Shu has used Nexus to become post human. The government fears the creation of post-humans above all things. Such beings would perform and think like super computers, while integrated with and able to control everyone linked mind-to-mind with them. Such a person could quickly become unstoppable.
What Sam and Kade find when they journey to the neuroscience conference is not what either one of them expects. And that’s when this roller coaster of a global thriller jumps into warp speed: San Francisco, Washington, Shanghai, Bangkok, and Thailand Buddhist monasteries. Can Kade and Sam trust each other? What is Su-Yong-Shu’s real role? Who can they trust and what is the right thing to do with Nexus 5 for the world? Can they survive long enough to do what’s right?
Michael Creighton has nothing on Ramez Naam when it comes to writing fast-paced scientific thrillers that ooze with authenticity. I could not put Nexus down and literally read until my eyes crossed. I was equally fascinated and terrified by the technology and by its potential for good or harm. I was intrigued by the whole concept of posthuman as an evolutionary next step, and could see how easily that could happen. The ethical and philosophical questions alone kept me thinking about this novel long after I’d finished it. It seems like the perfect novel to start off the New Year! As you may have guessed – I highly recommend Nexus!
Can’t wait to read it?
Nexus was published on December 18, 2012, so it should be available from your favorite online bookseller below. Just click the button to go there to get it. As an example, Amazon has priced the paperback at $10.01 and the e-book at $5.38.
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One lucky reader will receive a Nook or Kindle e-book copy of Nexus by Ramez Naam!
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