Nexus. Book Review

nexusBNEXUS by Ramez Naam

Angry Robot, p/b, £8.99

Reviewed by R A Bardy (@mangozoid)

I’ll say at the outset that I really enjoyed this — it did take a little while to get going, but once it did I found myself wanting to push on through to the end, and in that sense, as a reader you can’t really ask for more. And Nexus was not just a riveting read, but rather it felt more like I was watching some kind of action film in a similar vein to the Bourne films, The Matrix, etc.

Briefly, the book’s tagline reads “Mankind gets an upgrade” and basically we’re introduced to Nexus, a mind-enhancing drug that allows people to share the same thoughts/memories and to effectively talk and interact with each other through thought alone… Like any snazzy new drug, there are those who want to use it for good, but twice as many who would rather use it for their own nefarious purposes, like mind control, etc.

Into this arena, our main protagonists have been thrust: there is Samantha Cataranes, an augmented agent for the ERD (Emerging Risks Directorate), who we later find out is not all she seems, and likely someone else entirely; Kade Lane, an idealistic scientist who is caught doing something he shouldn’t to try and improve Nexus for the benefit of all; and a whole cast of other solid characters, all with their own individual aims and desires for the wonder drug: Professor Su-Yong Shu is a particularly dangerous adversary here, although it takes a while to work out exactly whose side she’s on… Indeed, there are so many layers upon layers herein, and although the author introduces them gradually, he does have a tendency to skip from one to the other to another mid-chapter — normally this would be confusing, but for me it added to the feeling that this was a full-on movie playing out in my head.

I should add here that this is a debut novel by a celebrated computer scientist who has previously won the HG Wells Award for his non-fiction work: More Than Human: Embracing the Promise of Biological Enhancement, so he definitely knows his stuff, and this helps to add the necessary levels of authenticity to proceedings, making the whole thing entirely believable. There is a sequel of sorts, called Crux, due out in 2013 or ’14.

I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this for anyone looking for a good action yarn — it’s fast-paced, feels very hip and happening (even a bit “modern cyberpunk”-ish), and the author’s voice is genuinely refreshing. I really liked it, and think you probably will too if this is your thing: I’m very much looking forward to seeing more from this exciting new talent, and well done Angry Robot for finding him.