Posted by : atcampbell | On : May 5, 2014

Nexus by Ramez Naam

9 people had started the book. 2 people finished. 7 people planned to finish. Nobody had read anything by Ramez Naam before. 5 people had read Nexus as an ebook.

Several people thought the book started too slow (some even said the opening scene was irrelevant to the plot and made them put them book aside); but those that stuck with it felt rewarded, as the pace picked up significantly later on. Several scenes in the book stood out as especially suspenseful; one of them was the scene where the protagonist races against time to put a backdoor in the Nexus source code; the other was the final battle, where success and failure fluctuated rapidly between both sides.

Some readers observed that the protagonist, Cade, was just head-slappingly naive. He clung to the notion that he didn’t have to choose sides, and that he could prevent the Nexus technology from falling into the bad guys’ hands, despite repeated evidence to the opposite.

Another common criticism was that Nexus, a mind-to-mind communication technology, seemed out of place in a near future world that was in all other ways just like our own. The emergence of direct brain link technology would indicate that this is a society well on its way to Singularity, not one that’s frozen in time as of 20 years ago (and that alone would be hard to believe even without Nexus). It’s all the more surprising because Ramez Naam is a futurist, so one would expect him to have fleshed out a more complete vision of technological change.

Many readers enjoyed the ethical dilemma presented in the book: to try to regulate (or even ban) the new science so it won’t fall into wrong hands, or to accept that it can’t be controlled and let it go where it
may. The book, as many readers agreed, presents a balanced approach to this dilemma. In this novel United States outlawed the Nexus technology as being too dangerous even to study, but other countries took a more nuanced approach. For example, Thailand organized a neuroscience conference with Nexus being an important subject — so important that the King of Thailand opened the conference with a keynote emphasizing Nexus potential to improve mutual understanding between people and nations. Thus United States allowed other countries to get well ahead of them in both peaceful and military applications
of Nexus, so in a way it is a cautionary tale. But — and we acknowledged this to be one of the strengths of the book — the pro and con views were closely balanced. There are no strawmen here; both the cautious side and the radical side make compelling arguments that really make you to pause and think. A reader commented that it’s unusual for a book to be so balanced. The characters were not pure good or pure evil either, and that also added to the book’s appeal.

Elze Hamilton