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Mankind gets an upgrade

In the near future, the nano-drug Nexus can link mind to mind. There are some who want to improve it. There are some who want to eradicate it. And there are others who just want to exploit it. When a young scientist is caught improving Nexus, he’s thrust over his head into a world of danger and international espionage, with far more at stake than anyone realizes.

Audio CD

First published December 16, 2012

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About the author

Ramez Naam

32 books1,391 followers
Ramez Naam was born in Cairo, Egypt, and came to the US at the age of 3. He's a computer scientist who spent 13 years at Microsoft, leading teams working on email, web browsing, search, and artificial intelligence. He holds almost 20 patents in those areas.

Ramez is the winner of the 2005 H.G. Wells Award for his non-fiction book More Than Human: Embracing the Promise of Biological Enhancement. He's worked as a life guard, has climbed mountains, survived dust storms in the desert, backpacked through remote corners of China, and ridden his bicycle down hundreds of miles of the Vietnam coast. He lives in Seattle, where he writes and speaks full time.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,747 reviews
Profile Image for Genevieve.
Author 7 books127 followers
June 20, 2015
< ErROr: Experiencing cognitive dissonance >

Nexus is an aspiring techno-thriller written by "professional technologist," Ramez Naam. Naam has done his research on AI (his day job), has nearly twenty patents under his name, and has written widely on post-human topics, most notably More Than Human Embracing the Promise of Biological Enhancement. So this guy knows his stuff. I expected lovely tingles in my brain where Nerd Girl lives when I cracked this book open.

So why did I cringe so much while reading Nexus? This is a guy who seems to have his finger on the pulse of post-human discussions, both the philosophical speculations and the science. On plot premise alone, the book intrigues, but ultimately crashes and burns on narrative marks. After you've read William Gibson, Peter Watts (Blindsight was head-spinningly phenomenal), and Neal Stephenson—authors writing in this pocket of science fiction that explores near futures and post-human tech—you'll realize how disappointing Nexus is as a novel. If those authors write in poetic verse, Naam writes in emojis in this book. :-p

First, the tropes and stereotypes regarding gender and race are just unbelievably outdated—and not in the alternate future, self-critical way, but in the lazy shorthand way that defies good judgment: There's the *cough* sexual assault in the first twenty pages of the book as a way to introduce the main character, our "hero," Kade Lane. Meant to be humorous, that infamous party scene only makes Kade, the supposed enlightened scientist, look like Kade, the desperate caveman. Then there are the villainous Chinese scientists and politicos right out of the James Bond universe that Kade is later strong-armed to spy on, who are deviously making clones for world-wide domination. (At one point, before the clones are confirmed, one person casually mentions that he wasn't sure because, well, don't the Chinese all look alike?) Look, I'm not easily offended; my PC-alert levels are switched pretty high. But these were just so ridiculous, it was their ridiculousness that offended.

It's all a bit ironic considering this is from a futurist writing about the near future, but, I guess, who says futurists can't be victims of present-day stereotypes?

On the writing: It's earnest. It really tries. But the novel badly needs structural editing at the scene level. Naam is particularly clunky with his action sequences, and he tends to rely on strings of sentence fragments and odd phrasing, like this:
"She accepted the fist, twisting to mute it, felt the pain blossom inside her as he connected."

And then there are thematic notes spouted as soapbox platitudes:
“I’m not more important than the hundred people out there,” Kade said sharply.
“Your work is.”
Ilya cut in. “Wats, we can’t let the ends justify the means.”

See? Leaden dialogue and action. It just drains the enjoyment of reading this book. A book like this could be so much more nuanced and complex, and yet it feels like … a really bad X-Men episode:
“The humans are the enemies of the future. They hate us. They hate our beauty and our potential. Either they hunt us down and kill and enslave us, or we rise above them and take our rightful place in this world."

Against this backdrop of characters spouting lifeless dialogue and acting in badly paced scenes, you do get some forward-thinking food-for-thought about the ethical implications of brain enhancing technology. In this case, the book revolves around the hacked nanotech based on the party drug Nexus (the name has a nice pharma ring to it) that allows temporary mind-to-mind communication and psychic communion. Kade and his retinue of scientist buddies manage to reverse engineer the drug and make it so that ingesting it embeds that technology right into the brain—sort of making it hardware instead of software. Not only that, there's computer code that lets you control a Nexus-ed mind remotely. Of course, the government would take notice! The potential for abuse and the criminal implications are astonishingly obvious. When the security agency, ERD, comes riding in and arrests Kade and his group, I wasn't exactly surprised or even sympathetic.

Anyway, the premise is within the realm of possibility and there is more than ample opportunity to give these broad concepts around mind and body tech a reboot. The problem is that this book is a bad reboot, and the science, which could have been the best part, ends up sounding like an overly glossed, slickly produced TED soapbox lecture. Smart cookies, these scientists, so why do they talk and act like idiots?

Science fiction as a genre is compelling for so many people because it offers that imaginative glimpse of the future that echoes our present, our past, and all the timeless anxieties of humanity. And certainly on this count, Nexus approaches these ideas boldly. But this is still fiction. This is still art. When a futurist-author falls back on cliches, it makes all the talk about Singularity and the flush and excitement for a tech-centric future backwards and empty. Nexus is a definite pass if you expect more from your science fiction. I do.

[Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher via NetGalley for an honest and candid review.]
Profile Image for Mario the lone bookwolf.
805 reviews3,855 followers
August 29, 2021
When drugs don´t mean perdition, but quicker and better human evolution, one still hasn´t made the calculation without thinking about any kind of possible side effects.

These new technothriller action post cyberpunk authors with action, philosophy, and innuendos are hells of reading rides, Naam, Suarez, Sakey, and other new ones know their target audience and let science, near future scenarios, cool settings, badass characters, and fast paced, cliffhangery, and extremely suspenseful novels dictate the course of this sci-fi subgenre.

Naam is an exception, as he had already made a career as a computer scientist before he wrote this amazing trilogy, whose first two novels I can fully recommend trying out.

I have a feeling of a bit of a Clarke and Lem reminiscence in some of the monologues, inner perspectives, and general thoughts about identity and ethics, something the other mentioned authors are skipping to focus on the technological and action aspect. I don´t know anything about Naam´s personal ideology and faith, but how he deals with the idea of how such a mind uniting technology might change religion and be most interesting for Buddhists, is an interesting mind game to expand and think about.

Überhumans, the wet dream of both industries and militaries all around the world, would of course also love such a technology which leads to the question of who will first use it on a large scale, Western democracies, pure patriarchic dictatorships, or communist authoritarian states. The potential of uniting soldiers minds or to pimp single individuals minds to ingenious killer machines might seem attractive at the first moment, but I subjectively deem that full automation with oil instead of blood flowing in masses over the battlefield of the future, might be the more realistic option, because too much can go wrong with genetic engineering and nano drugs Castle Wolfenstein style.

Bond style superagents are, of course, something else, and investing in quality; instead of quantity, cloning, and mass manufacturing; and perfecting the next evolutionary step for targeted killing and industrial espionage might be the bigger next thing than breeding the perfect extermination machine.

Tropes show how literature is conceptualized and created and which mixture of elements makes works and genres unique:
Profile Image for Melissa (Mel’s Bookshelf).
473 reviews287 followers
July 13, 2016
I listened to the audio version of Nexus and let me tell you, it was 13 hours of nerdy fun brilliance!!!

It has an intricate plot, basically it is set in the not too distant future. Technology has surpassed what we would have ever expected. The new nano drug Nexus works by linking minds together, it is also extremely feared and illegal. Young budding scientist Cade is caught improving it, and is made to work for the government as a spy, to bring down others who would use and distribute this technology. But not is all what it seems. Are the government the good guys? How can linking human beings together be a bad thing?

What a ride! It was exciting, thrilling, action packed and so darn interesting! The technology in this book is WOW, however still not incredibly far fetched. There is so much action in this book! It doesn't really let up! The way that the characters all communicate in their heads and use their brains as an internet of sorts, allows the plot to develop in really unique ways. It was SO MUCH FUN!

The characters are all fantastically written! They have depth and all have other special qualities, whether it be physical upgrades, or if they have surpassed human intelligence all together. I thought Cade was a great character, however I felt he didn't have quite the depth as some of the other characters. Sam was my favourite character, and we find out a lot about her and where she came from, and why she is the way she is. I enjoyed the way the story was written, with extracts, interviews and articles in between chapters to set the scene of the technologically advanced world and the challenges that it has encountered.

I thought the audio version narrated by Luke Daniels was FANTASTIC!! I loved the way he portrayed all the characters and at times it really felt like I was watching an action movie in my head because of his talented and gripping narration. If you are looking for a good audio book I would highly recommend you try this one!

Would I recommend Nexus?

YES! If you like sci-fi I am almost certain that you will enjoy this book! Loads of fun and there are two more! YAY!

For more reviews check out my BLOG
Profile Image for Andrej Karpathy.
110 reviews3,655 followers
July 12, 2021
Nexus is a (programmable) operating system layer over the brain that allows people to program their minds (e.g., download a "Bruce Lee" package), and communicate directly with the minds of others. The book's plot involves a protagonist scientist who wants to release the technology for good, and a government organization who wants to stop it (or at least massively slow it down) in its tracks for fear of unintended consequences.

I quite enjoyed the world-building pieces of this book. The Nexus operating system is interesting and is described in quite a lot of technical detail. More generally, the world features a large number of human body/mind augmentations that can be purchased. We also get a glimpse of some post-humans and we're teased with ideas of human hive minds.

Unfortunately, after the awesome world-building is over in the first ~third of the book, the plot mostly transitions into what feels like a long chase sequence / thriller, and loses some of its grandeur.
Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 5 books4,102 followers
May 29, 2015
I have nothing bad to say about this novel. I was forced to stay up very late to read this, and I ducked out of other entertainments just to finish it. Did I get sucked into the idea of a transhumanism emergence? I think so.

At least with Nexus, it's definitely my favorite Linux distro. I've got about a dozen ideas for apps that I'd like to write. If I can't find it in open source, of course.

I want my new OS!

As for possible complaints about evil governments... Come on...
Anyone read history? Ideas and backlash through coercion abound everywhere. It always has.

Now, I don't really know if this might spark a resurgence of telepathy in SFF lit, but I hope so. People might have gotten burned out on stories like that, but this novel feels fresh. Ignore 30+ years of SF that has resurfaced these ideas across the board, of course. That doesn't matter. When a novel reads well, has excellent rounded characters, absolutely fucking-fantastic pacing, I'm not only willing to run with the novel; I'm willing to shout it from the rooftops.

The story is Damn Good.

The respect for Taiwan cultures propelled the undercurrent of themes so well as to make it inevitable. The expressed deep heart made me stare at the corner of my desk for half an hour and made me cry, especially when everything came to fruition.

You know, now that I think about it, the many fight scenes actually continued to develop the characters. The undercurrent of themes, as well. They were memorable and emotional. I can't often say that about fight scenes in writing. Maybe just a handful of books. I'm very impressed.

Absolutely nothing was wasted.

I'm putting this in my fanboy collection. Seriously. I'm shocked.
Profile Image for Rob.
853 reviews540 followers
August 1, 2016
Executive Summary: Fascinating, enticing, thrilling, terrifying.

Audio book: It's Luke Daniels. If you don't know that means it's a good audio book without me saying, you've been missing out. This book has been on my radar for awhile, and I already owned the ebook. The fact that Luke Daniels did the audio and that there was a cheap whipsersync upgrade got me to finally pull the trigger. Yet another reason to thank Luke Daniels!

Full Review
I wish there were more books like this. It's totally in my wheelhouse. Not quite Cyberpunk, but close. Sci-Fi that is smart, plausible, and not overly dystopian. And it's well written, with interesting and well developed characters. It's hard to believe it's a debut novel.

This is one of those books that I kept thinking about even when I wasn't reading it. The ideas here are so thought provoking.

I've wanted to have the internet in my head for at least 15 years. Maybe longer. Instant access to all the information in the world? I mean smart phones are great and all, but the interface is clunky. Just think it and bam. Programming your brain? Where do I sign up?

Except.. Opening yourself up to cyber viruses, brain hacking, or even just internet trolls? Frightening.

Everything here is pretty grey. Is Nexus OS good? Is it bad? It seems to have both positive and negative potential. Some of those in favor of it appear to have the best of intentions. Yet at the same time, some of those opposed to it, do as well. Whose right? Should the government block certain research and technologies for good of it's citizens?

And at the core of it all, Nexus is a drug. I've never been a drug user. I don't think I've even been drunk in over 10 years. So the idea of needing drugs is a big turn off to me personally. My main disappointment in this book is the general lack of consequences of the technology.

I don't mean the possible bad things that someone can do to you/your brain. What does Nexus do to your brain? Is it addictive? What are the long term effects of constant use? Hopefully these things will be explored in the later novels.

Apart from that though, this book was really great. I was always eager to pick it back up. I've already jumped right into the second book and have blown through it pretty quickly.

If you want a smart, well written, thought provoking sci-fi novel, definitely give this book a try.
Profile Image for TS Chan.
719 reviews886 followers
April 19, 2017
Pick up a near-future sci-fi book and you will typically encounter similar themes of the moral dilemma of technological advances, particularly in the field of human enhancements. Then you will have the regression of supposedly democratic governments towards fascism to stem personal freedom and choice, in their attempts to stop such enhancements from progressing or falling into the wrong hands. The wrong hands meaning anyone but themselves.

This book was no different. Nexus is also called coercion technology as its ability to connect human minds also enables mind control. Throughout the entire time I was reading it, I find myself flipping back and forth on what’s right and what’s wrong. And the answer is “no one really knows.”

Do I condone the methods used by the government to stop the threat of the elite few utilising Nexus to potentially control the entire human race? Do I think that the good or benefit of widespread availability of Nexus will outweigh the potential abuse? The best aspect of this book is how it makes one empathise with both sides of the coin. I can appreciate how the connectivity of the general human mind if properly guided and trained can only advance the human race to greater heights (both spiritually and mentally). I can also understand how such technology if left unchecked in the hands of the few elite can lead to a dystopian society. Or how political or religious extremists can seek to abuse it.

The characters are well developed to illustrate such themes and the quandary of people achieving such revolutionary advances as to make them more than just human, all without being preachy. In the end, though, I’m still not sure if the main protagonist did the right thing. This book really was that thought-provoking!

On the story itself, there was a lot of action and the pacing of the plot made it an absorbing read, neurological mumbo-jumbo aside. What unnerved me the most was not part the story but an afterword where the author wrote a section called the Science of Nexus, highlighting how such technology is plausible based on various discoveries/advances in neurological science at the turn of the century.

Recommended for fans of cyberpunk science fiction.

This review can also be found at Booknest
Profile Image for Apatt.
507 reviews805 followers
May 22, 2017
“There is a war coming. A world war. Not between China and America. Between humans and posthumans. You see it all around you. The humans are doing everything they can to prevent the posthuman transition from occurring. While we are struggling to be free of their controls.”

I think that sums up Nexus reasonably well, though this book does not depict armies of humans and posthumans going at it. The war is basically between “The Emerging Risks Directorate” (ERD), a section of Homeland Security and Kade Lane, the protagonist of the book. Kade is one of the inventors of Nexus 5, a nanomedicine that facilitates mind to mind communication and linkages of multiple minds to form a hive mind. It is also a brain-computer interface, an OS residing in the brain that and can run software applications that give the host special abilities while the app is running; and also to control or operate computers via neural commands.

The ERD wants Kade to work for them to give them control of Nexus 5 and also to spy on Su-Yong Shu, a female scientist who they suspect of being a posthuman. Kade accepts the job under duress and he is dispatched to Bangkok to attend a nanotechnology conference where this Su-Yong Shu is expected to attend. In Bangkok Kade finds the ERD to be ruthless and operates with little regard for innocent civilian lives, so he tries to get away from them and allies himself with Su-Yong Shu. The ERD are not having any of that and Kade is not having any of them, much violence, losses of lives and limbs, and high tech warfare ensues.

Nexus is a high octane post-cyberpunk sci-fi espionage thriller, it is fast paced and seldom stops to take a breath. It is also notable for being the second sci-fi book I have read that is mainly set in Bangkok, my hometown (the awards winning The Windup Girl is the other). Near future Bangkok (2040) is an interesting setting but it is also distracting for me because I kept trying to find faults in the author’s portrayal of the Thai culture. I did find a few and have made some notes about them in the “Notes” section of this review, so you can easily ignore them if you are not interested.

As a spy thriller Nexus is more like the TV series Chuck than James Bond; that said, it is not a comedy like Chuck, it just has several similar plot elements. I like the Chuck-like role reversal where Kade is protected by a transhuman girl Samatha Cataranes who is much stronger than he is and trained for combat, she even carries him on her shoulder when he is injured. Ramez Naam’s characters do not have a lot of nuances but they are fun in what they can do. I like that Naam makes a distinction between “transhuman” and “posthuman”, basically a transhuman is an enhanced human whereas a posthuman is so highly modified they are no longer human. Naam’s prose style is nothing to write home about and can be rather clunky at times. He tries his best with characterization but they just drive the plot without coming across as real people. The science is fascinating and believable, Naam’s background as a computer scientist stands him in good stead. There is a very interesting “Afterward” at the end of the novel where Naam discusses the real world scientific developments which inspired the Nexus series.

Nexus is a highly entertaining sci-fi thriller and highly recommended for fans of books like Neuromancer and Snow Crash; this is an excellent start to a trilogy which I look forward to coming back to soon.

• Bangkok in 2040 does not seem to be much different from Bangkok today, it even has the same traffic problem. What? No flying cars?

• Very Hot weather at 11 PM seems unlikely, so many hours after sundown is not going to be that hot.

• One character says “Awesome thing happening in the ’Kok tomorrow night!”. 😂 “ ’Kok” is not a thing! Generally, Ramez Naam seems to be familiar with Bangkok though.

“War between those who accept the limitations of “humanity” and those who embrace the power of the possible is inevitable.”

“Input spiked at Nexus nodes attached to neurons in the speech centers of his frontal and temporal lobes. Nerve impulses raced outward from speech centers to motor cortex, and from there to the muscles of his tongue and jaw, his lips and diaphragm. A fraction of a second after he’d heard the girl speak, those muscles contracted to produce his response.”

“War over the human condition. War for the right to change oneself. War to create humanity’s successor species. War to usher in a utopia.”

“Shu caught the thrust of his thoughts. This is directed evolution, she sent. How many generations would this take natural selection? Millions? The faster we uplift ourselves, the fewer who need die. Join me. Help move the work forward.”
Profile Image for Carmen.
2,065 reviews1,904 followers
March 29, 2016
Mindjacking - the ability to read another's mind and, if you want to, force them to move and speak as you wish.

Kaden Lane is a young scientific genius experimenting with Nexus 5, a new version of a popular "drug" (really a nanotechnology) that allows you to connect your consciousness with the consciousness of others. He is naïve, goodhearted, and wants this technology to be expanded and created in order to give everyone a higher consciousness. He believes this technology will make the world a better place.

Samantha Cataranes (real name Sarita Catalan) was a prisoner of a evil cult when she was a child. She saw the Nexus technology used to enslave people. She was raped and beaten and burned over and over every day for years because of the Nexus. Her little sister, who she vowed to always protect, caught the eye of one of the men and Sam was forced to take action that ended with brutal death and destruction for both the guilty and the innocent. Now she's become a spy - a secret agent working for the ERD, a kind of Homeland Security that focuses on destroying the Nexus. She's vehement that no other little girls will suffer the way she and her little sister suffered.

Watson Cole is a warrior, a former soldier of the highest order, trained and enhanced to be a killing machine. He's responsible for the death of hundreds. However, after taking Nexus and connecting to others, he realized the suffering and pain he caused. He started to doubt that he was on the side of good. He leaves the army and becomes a kind of vigilante, working with Kade to create higher and higher forms of Nexus in order to better the world through shared consciousness.

Who is right? Kade and Wats, who believe Nexus can be used for good and make the world a better place? Or Sam, who knows firsthand just what kind of horrors this technology can inflict on people?


Naam does an amazing job making all the main characters complex, real, 3D beings. You feel and ache for each of them. And he doesn't make it clear what is wrong or what is right - in this way the book is much like the real world, with lots of grey areas. You feel doubt and confusion just as the characters do when learning more and more and trying to make the right choices.

This book is chockfull of action, explosions, shootouts, and fights. It's wonderful! But it's also very thoughtful about what is moral, and how different people can interpret the same thing in many ways.

There's a lot of science and computer jargon in here, but I followed along fine and I'm no science geek. So I feel it's pretty accessible to the general public.

It's really nice, for once, to see how technology was formed and what the politics were surrounding it, instead of (like so many SF books) being plunged into a world of incredible technology with no explanation of how it got there.

My only (minor) quibble is the accessing of memories. In the book it's presented as a straightforward affair - with Nexus, you can "watch" another person's memories as if they're movies. But memory is unreliable and also disjointed. It wouldn't work like this. But I'm willing to overlook it for the sake of enjoying a fascinating book.

In short, an amazing, powerful, exciting read. If you have any interest in the premise, I'd advise you to give it a try.

This reminds me of the book: REAMDE by Neal Stephenson, which is excellent and another book I would highly recommend.
This also reminds me of the following movies: MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE starring Elizabeth Olsen, which is a good movie, if a bit dark.
And the excellent, amazing film THE EAST starring Brit Marling and Ellen Page. I highly recommend this film to anyone. It's really stayed with me and I usually forget movies right after watching them.

I'm disappointed that this book isn't available in Spanish - it would be amazing in Spanish.

P.S. In both this book and book 2: Crux, I really appreciate Naam's messages about consent. He does a lot of work and moral questioning on the subjects of free will, slavery, and rape, and I love the conclusions he comes to and his reasoning for getting there. Great job, Ramez Naam.
Profile Image for Xabi1990.
1,991 reviews897 followers
January 13, 2020
Ya recuerdo por qué no suelo leer ninguna review antes de escribir la mía: porque si lees alguna muy buena, ¿que leñe va a escribir uno?

Pue eso, que no escribo nada, que las 5 estrellas dicen bastante...y que leáis la reseña de Xavi, que suscribo a pies juntiyas.
Profile Image for David Sven.
288 reviews448 followers
June 8, 2015
A cyberpunk/speculative fiction thriller set in the year 2040. Nexus is a drug that employs nano-tech which alters the brain to be able to connect with other Nexus minds. And it can also accept software stretching the bounds of what it means to be human.

The first half of the book was ok, but the second half was breakneck speed action with secret agents and high tech electronic warfare and monks...and Bruce Lee all mashing together in a techy/druggy roller coaster ride to the end. I thought the fact that a lot of the action happens in Thailand was also cool.

Ramez Naam paints a near future not so different from the present but with some advancements that I think are little optimistic for only 25 years in the future. He does write a good action scene though.

Luke Daniels, the audio narrator, didn't do anything for me though his accents are pretty good. If he just narrated with a Thai or Chinese accent the whole book he'd be fantastic.

The book as a whole wasn't quite gritty enough for me and I'm not sure that I want to continue with the next book in a hurry - but it did give me an itch to revisit the Altered Carbon universe and continue Takeshi Kovacs story for some reason.

I'm giving this...wait for it..wait for it...concentrate...30% uploading 60% uploading...90%...

3.5 stars!

Profile Image for Sarah.
733 reviews73 followers
July 26, 2016
Well, that was fun! For about three months I've been looking for a book that was fast-paced, action-packed, and preferably had lots of gun fights and hand-to-hand combat. This is the book that fulfills those hopes ;)

There were a couple of things I didn't like but overall it was just good fun. It was also extremely difficult to put down because the action and/or suspense never fully let up. Now I must find time for the sequels...
Profile Image for Mogsy.
2,073 reviews2,634 followers
February 1, 2014
4 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum http://bibliosanctum.blogspot.com/201...

Besides being a pretty damn good book, Nexus also has the distinction of being the first cyberpunk-ish novel that I've genuinely enjoyed. There's not as much as a barrier when it comes to diving right into the story, and there's just something about the characters that kept my interest levels high from beginning to end.

Despite being a futuristic techno-thriller, certain aspects about it will feel just familiar enough to cause a teensy bit of discomfort when imagining a world like this could be right around the corner. When bio-engineering meets nano-technology meets the drug scene, we get Nexus, the new pleasure drug that allows users to integrate their consciousness, linking mind to mind. What could this mean for the future of our society?

The book's protagonist Kade Lane believes he has the answers, aiming to improve Nexus along with a cadre of his idealistic friends. But while people like them may have humanity's best interests in mind, others' intentions are not so benevolent. There are those out to exploit Nexus, those who would use it as a weapon. As well, there are factions that wish to outlaw it, put an end to its use all together. When Kade gets caught making his own modifications to Nexus, he is pulled into an international web of conspiracy, intrigue and lies.

The action and thrills aside, I found the most compelling aspect of the book to be the various characters' perceptions of this nano-drug as well as the outlook for its future. There is no doubt Nexus could do the world a lot of good, but so much evil could come of it as well. Kade is an interesting character; I think it's a shrewd decision by Naam to write about such a bright young man who can also be so naive. At the same time, we inevitably come to the question of whether or not to throw out the baby with the bath water. Do we stamp out and reject the positive along with the negative? Do we say no to something wonderful like Nexus, a new technology that can improve billions of people's lives, just because of the potential for abuse?

Anyway, the reason why I don't read as much hard sci-fi is because I'm typically the kind of reader whose eyes glaze over at the sight of too much technobabble. But like I said, this is a very easy book to get into. Ramez Naam has a very impressive author's bio, being a computer scientist with knowledge and experience in the fields of artificial intelligence, software development, and biotechnology. Clearly, he knows his stuff. However, not once did I feel out of my depth or overwhelmed by the science and tech in Nexus; the author makes everything clear and easy to understand, never allowing the heavy details to get in the way of his fast-paced action plot.

I really enjoyed Nexus; the story itself is great, but it's the philosophy and moral questions behind it that makes it even better, catapulting this book into the realm of being something truly special. A worthwhile read.
Profile Image for Althea Ann.
2,233 reviews1,046 followers
February 16, 2015
If ever a book was tailor-made to be an action movie, this would be the one. It's non-stop action mixed with exotic locations, plenty of explosions, and high-tech hardware.

Kaden Lane is a promising young neuroscientist who, along with his friends, has come up with Nexus. Nexus is an illegal party drug - but it also promises (and threatens) to usher in a new posthuman era, with its capability to enhance communication between individuals.

The United States government will stop at nothing to shut down the threat. They've got a cyber-enhanced agent, Samantha Cataranes, on the job, and soon they're blackmailing Kade into working for them to ferret out further Nexus-related secrets at a biochemistry conference in Bangkok.

The Chinese government may have its own plans for Nexus (not to mention a cloned Ninja army.) And Thai Buddhists, as well, see other potentials for the new technology.

Occasionally, the shooting stops long enough for an interesting conversation to emerge: about new frontiers and the debate over suppression, careful distribution, or wide dissemination of ideas that have the potential to be abused.

The book moves along at a fast clip and is quite entertaining - but I couldn't help but be reminded (in both theme and content) of Daryl Gregory's 'Afterparty,' which I did prefer.

Still, I'd recommend this to anyone with an interest in action-oriented writing and cutting-edge technology.

Many thanks to NetGalley and Angry Robot for the opportunity to read this book. As always, my opinion is my own.

Profile Image for Mark.
490 reviews84 followers
June 25, 2015
Brilliant book, well worth the read, really good characters nice steady storyline, vivid descriptions of whats going on, made it good for me. The action really kicks off in last third of the book.

main strength of this is how the author brings in the role of human fears and ignorance and how we react to them.
Profile Image for sj.
404 reviews81 followers
November 18, 2012
Originally posted here. 2.75/5 stars on the review rubric, rounding up.

Bluh.  I feel like I shouldn't even be calling this a review, because I'm not sure it'll end up being one.

I was way into the idea of this book very early on because of that oh-so-very-intriguing tagline.

Mankind gets an upgrade

I mean...right?  Yeah, that totally sounds like my kind of thing, y'know?

AND THE COVER!  [swoon]  Seriously, that's an amazing cover and contributed to my whole sense of "ZOMG MUST READ THIS NAO!"

The titular (heh) Nexus is a nano-drug that allows for mind-to-mind communication, and the first few pages were kind of hilarious with our main character testing out the drug with programs that allow him to be a smooth lothario...only there's a glitch that ends up - look, that part is pretty funny and I'm not going to ruin it for you.

...and it's not like there weren't other parts that were interesting, because really the story could have been pretty great.

I did say "could have been" though, I hope you noticed that.

The ideas presented were new enough that I found myself extremely disappointed when the story devolved into just another spy-thriller-zomg the government is EEEEEVIL novel and I might have enjoyed it more if I hadn't just finished Mira Grant's Newsflesh series, which was very similar thematically (but with zombies instead of nanotechnology).

I felt like the fact that much of our (as readers) knowledge of this future society came to us through infodumps taking the form of "interviews" and "briefings" and that was just sloppy worldbuilding.  No, really.  If I'm reading something where each line is denoted with who is speaking, I'm going to get annoyed and bored REALLY FAST.  I think that's why it took me SO LONG to finish.  Nexus was a book that I kind of enjoyed while I was reading it, but getting to the point of picking it up was a chore.

I didn't hate it, I just couldn't bring myself to care.  I read fiction to lose myself in the characters and worlds I'm reading, and I wasn't able to do that with this one.  I probably won't be picking up the sequel, but since I enjoyed the sciencey bits (in particular the notes at the end) more than I did the narrative, I'll be checking out Ramez Naam's non-fiction title ( More Than Human:  Embracing the Promise of Biological Enhancement ) and I think I'll find that to be more what I was expecting.  For realsies, I look forward to reading that one - so I'm not counting this as a loss since I wouldn't have known about Naam's non-fic if it weren't for this book.

Would I recommend it?  At the beginning, I thought I'd be telling Trev and Yogs to read it, but now I'm not so sure.  If exposition doesn't bother you and the thought of a futuristic spy thriller makes your knees weak, then definitely check it out.  If that doesn't sound like your thing - don't bother.  I'm not about to get all shouty about this one either way.

Thanks (once again) to Angry Robot for the eARC.  [crosses fingers that the next one will be more her cuppa]
Profile Image for Andy.
428 reviews66 followers
October 18, 2015
Another Winner from Angry Robot Books!

The technology is way out there (at times) but its delivered in such a way that you can follow it & it becomes the major part of a story that hooks you from the get-go.

The story touches on the next evolution of man through the nexus environment, mind melds & talk of super humans, then of posthumans, all interesting & even some very plausible technologies amongst all the science fiction as well as a few substantial leaps. Was fully caught up in it though & not once did I think that’s just stupid & impossible. Well crafted & intelligent writing. Upon finishing & reading the bits at the back of the book about the technology & the author’s background I understand why this is so & makes the novel even more outstanding.

Some absolutely brutal gun battles with one which is absolutely heart-rending in it's telling, fully emotive which, knits perfectly with the Nexus concept.

A lot of humour is involved, Bruce Lee App is a great one as was the Peter North porno App which was used for the first time as a “test” by Cade, the main protagonist to a very amusing conclusion.

I enjoyed the historical back fills too which helped to paint the current landscape of 2040 & where/why ERD had been created. It also gives us insight into each player as they evolve within the story & the balance is jus right. They also illustrate the polarising views on the use of Nexus much akin perhaps to the development of any science through the millennia which first the church called evil & the work of the devil through their fear of losing power over the masses & nowadays moralistic politicians will look to outlaw as it puts itself above humanity. Those are my views & interpretations btw :) (not a fan of the church(s) is me)!

I could say a lot more but that would likely spiral of into spoilers & I only like to give a flavour so that’s yer lot bar to sum up.....

The book takes you through a range of emotions & will oft take you off-guard on this roller coaster of a ride. The author really gets into your head with this story! Full 5 stars & seeing that there’s more in the series is jus grand!

Recommend to all friends interested in the genre
Profile Image for L.A. Starks.
Author 11 books665 followers
August 8, 2016
Very good sci-fi about the potential of the hive-mind. What would it be like if we could instaneously connect to the minds and memories of all of those around us? Set in California and Thailand, the book quickly makes apparent the conflicts that ensue between humans and "post-humans."

Readers who like this book should also try Extraordinary Powers, the first book by Joseph Finder whose theme of mind-reading is still quite relevant. Signal and Runner, both by Patrick Lee, also center around characters who can read minds.
Profile Image for Kara Babcock.
1,954 reviews1,293 followers
February 1, 2014
William Gibson once said, “The future is already here—it’s just not very evenly distributed.” I’m starting to think this is the case with the Singularity as well. By its very definition this would seem to belie the idea of a Singularity at all, but bear with me.

Singularity generally deals in two closely related concepts: artificial intelligence and posthumanism. Once we get an AI that no longer relies on humans to improve its own processing capability, we’ve hit Singularity: the AI is god and we are its primate crash-test dummies. Beyond the point of the AI’s emergence, we can’t really predict what the future will hold for us. Similarly, any attempt to guess at what will happen to the human species once it shares the universe with a posthuman species (other than, you know, extinction) is largely futile.

A great deal of Singularity fiction embraces a “hard” Singularity, where the AI or the posthuman threat outpaces humanity in a very short period of time. But perhaps a softer Singularity is more realistic: posthuman technologies emerge not all at once but gradually. Computers that you wear like glasses. Computers that you stick to your skin like bandages. Computers that you swallow, like a drug.

The first two are real (if only prototypical). The third is Nexus.

Nexus is part techno-thriller, part spy novel, and entirely dystopian in its outlook on the near future. Ramez Naam explores how governments will attempt to control the dissemination and use of technologies that fundamentally alter the capability of human bodies and minds. His conclusions, that such technologies will force redefinitions of what it means to be “human”, to be a “person”, to have rights and liberties as recognized by documents like the Constitution, are both predictable and terrifying. The slider setting with “security” on one end and “freedom” on the right has been tilted entirely too far in the former’s direction. Yet—and this is the kicker when it comes to posthumanism—the alternative could well be chaos on an extinction level.

Kade Lane, the protagonist, is one of the primary innovators of a new version of Nexus. Arrested by the ERD, Homeland Security’s posthuman division, Kade agrees to a dangerous mission in return for the freedom of his friends. He’s sent to a neuroscience conference to infiltrate the circle of Su-Yong Shu, a Chinese scientist who turns out to be far more posthuman than even the ERD suspect. Shu is on to Kade from the start, and she tries to recruit him as a double double agent. But the ERD has another target on its radar at the same time, and in attempting to apprehend him—using Kade and his handler as bait—everything spirals out of control. Kade, who at this point has been contemplating how he can avoid being used by both the ERD and by Shu, finds himself struggling for his survival.

The titular technology, Nexus, is a network of nanomachines. Imbibed like a drug, Nexus sets up shop in the brain and provides direct, programmable access to a human’s cortex. Through Nexus, it’s possible to take control of someone else’s body, to program them or even adjust the emotions they experience. A group of people running Nexus can link and network their thoughts and feelings into a gestalt, conjuring up the terrifying images of a cyborg collective or a hive mind. Naturally, governments have banned the technology. Naturally, it’s flourishing in the underground.

The plot of Nexus is nothing special. However, it immediately grabbed my attention by giving all the characters three-dimensional motivations. Watson Cole is not a flat, megalomaniac with delusions of grandeur. Kade is not the one-note hacker hippie who wants information to be free. Sam is not the mindless government agent who only turns because she falls in love with the hero. Even Director Becker’s motives are understandable: he genuinely believes what he does is necessary to safeguard the United States and keep the world safe so that his daughters can grow up and flourish. By avoiding straw men and creating genuine actors, Naam illustrates the difficulty of deciding how to regulate, restrict, and use technologies like Nexus: sometimes, there are no "right" answers, no good answers.

This is not a story of the evil government attempting to quash a new technology (though the government certainly tries to do this). Kade is trapped between two unappealing alternatives: the ERD wants to control Nexus; Shu would use it to kick off a brand new generation of posthumans and launch a pre-emptive strike against humanity to "minimize" the loss of life. Both sides are committed to an us-or-them mentality when it comes to the future of humans and posthumans. Kade desperately wants to find middle ground, but he is having trouble doing so.

This is the reality of emergent technology. While nothing like Nexus exists today, there are plenty of examples of governments trying to come to terms with new technology. We’re still playing catch-up with copyright in the Internet era. And as exciting as these technologies are, they are nothing compared to what might be coming in the decades ahead. That’s what Naam portrays in Nexus: technology that alters us, biologically and psychologically. It might not be real yet, but it’s a possibility. When this technology appears, you can bet that governments will react as they do in this book: with extreme prejudice. While the individual players will insist they are doing it to safeguard citizens, the system as a whole will be working to do what it always does: preserve its own power in the face of inherently disruptive developments.

Nexus ends ambiguously, which is as it should be. Though its timeline is quite rushed, it is not so much extrapolative as descriptive: Naam describes the questions we are beginning to ask now and will be asking in decades to come. There aren’t easy answers for these questions. We’ll have to draw new lines in the sand, decide on new definitions for what it means to be human. There will be some messy mistakes along the way. Ultimately, I hope we stumble less and make fewer pitfalls than we see so far in the Nexus timeline. I’m not sure there’s reason for such optimism though.

Nexus reminds me of Postsingular , which also depicts a global crisis of nanotechnology. Whereas the latter ultimately succumbs to Singularity absurdism, this book remains relatively grounded (as much as thrillers can be). Like much good science fiction, it wraps a cautionary tale into an entertaining story. Naam packages action with moral dilemmas, producing a book that makes you think about big issues even as it keeps you extremely entertained.

Creative Commons BY-NC License
Profile Image for Milda Page Runner.
300 reviews234 followers
December 28, 2021
Too much action not enough of sci-fi for my taste. I think spy action thriler with near future technology would be a better definition.
My own fault for not reading the blurb - this is near future (only 20 years from now) - and all action is on earth where various organisations are fighting for control over the new emerging technology.
That new technology or drug is the fictional part, but it's not exactly new idea or very exciting...
All together there was not enough science fiction here to grip my imagination.
Profile Image for York.
174 reviews50 followers
September 10, 2015
The story and ideas make this book great. One of the best books about potential of near future technology and a great commentary about government, the NSA etc.
Profile Image for Michelle Morrell.
1,041 reviews75 followers
February 9, 2016
Set in the near future, humans are perfecting an organic operating system for the brain (called Nexus) that allows manipulating reactions, interfacing with others and software overlays for anything from increased reaction time to (insert anything you can think of here).

Warring factions want to control this: the government agency tasked with eliminating what they consider a threat to humanity, the people so augmented they don't qualify as human anymore, and everyone in between who can think of uses beneficial to sinister.

There was a lot of action and adventure in this book, but it's never just a shallow ride. With it's high tech overlay, it still manages to touch on age-old observations of who decides what is human and whether those different from us deserve the same basic rights. Woven in are discussions on humanity (base humans, trans-humanity and post-humanity). On power and who is allowed access to it. On peace and the means to achieving it. On the methods to reaching either. On the responsibility that comes with new tech and weighing the potential good of an application versus the potential abuse. On the morality of censorship. It all flowed quite reasonably from where we are today, a quite plausible next step in our evolution.

The author has much real life cred, having worked in areas including AIs and bioengineering humanity. He comes off as scary smart, in all the right ways, and after reading this novel, I felt my own brain churning away at least a few percentage points more seriously.

This is the first novel in a trilogy, the third of which was nominated for the 2015 Philip K Dick awards.
Profile Image for Carolyn (on vacation).
2,248 reviews642 followers
November 19, 2016
I would describe this more as an action packed futuristic techno-spy thriller than a traditional scifi novel. It's the first of a trilogy so there is more sci fi (and no doubt a lot more action) to come.

The year is 2040. Nexus is a new drug that allows users to link with other minds and send and receive thoughts and memories and has become a popular if illegal party drug. Based on nanotechnology, it works by entering the brain, linking up with neurons and using nano-filament antennae to send and receive signals. In the US, a group of neuroscience grad students led by Kade Lane have been working on ways to permamently embed a more sophisticated version that will do so much more. Of course other groups around the world are also working on ways of improving Nexus in their quest to build a better human, or post-human. When Kade and his friends are busted in the middle of an illegal Nexus party by the US Homeland division for Emerging Risks (ERD), Kade is coerced into working as a spy for them and sent to Thailand to attend a Neuroscience conference that one of the world's top neuroscientists and suspected Nexus developer will be attending. This is where the action really ramps up as Kade becomes a person of interest to competing groups who want to control Nexus for their own purposes.

So overall a good spy action thriller set in the near future. Some food for thought as we are made to think about how far mankind would or should go to enhance our bodies and minds and how we would ever control what could be done in the future, for good but also with the potential for evil.
Profile Image for WTF Are You Reading?.
1,306 reviews91 followers
December 10, 2012
Kade Lane has improved the Nexus technology. He is fully aware that this technology can change the world overnight. He is also becoming aware that the tech that he has created could cost him his life.
This is the first techno-thriller that I have ever come across in the New Adult drama. The main players in this book are Kade and his friends, who are effectually the next great minds in nanotech.

The thing that makes this book such an easy read is the fact that though Kade and his friends are very intelligent; they approach this new technology with very naive and altruistic ideals. (Cue the creepy spy music, there are people watching.)
Readers are clued into the "eyes" that are following Kade and his friends long before they make themselves plain to the group, which makes readers both curious as to what will happen and protective of the obvious "sitting ducks".
Things just go from bad to worse for Kade after he and his friends become aware of the war that is being fought for control of Nexus 5 between the US government and secret agencies and factions as far away as Shanghai.

One is never quite sure who the good guys are in this and the web of intrigue, lies, secrets and tech just gets more complex as the story goes on.
The writing style is one that very precise; providing you with a very clear snapshot of happenings without unnecessary explanation. This writing style is perfect for the nonstop action and minute to minute plot twists found here.

This book is the perfect blend of "The Matrix" and "War Games" without the flying.This subject matter and questions raised within this story are far more than just entertainment. With technology advancing as such a face pace; the fact is that we as a people are not far from tech like this being a reality.
I would recommend this book to anyone who has ever sat in from of the glow of their computer screen and wondered "what if"...

This is an unsolicited and honest review.

This review can be found here: http://www.wtfareyoureading.com/2012/...
Profile Image for Sky.
29 reviews10 followers
March 15, 2015
Wow...This book really blew me away. I had no idea what the book was about going into it - I just kept seeing positive reviews + recommendations from people here on Goodreads. It turns out the book touches on many subjects near and dear to me, from:

- The use of psychedelics in therapy, particularly for treating PTSD
- The insanity of war on terror, drugs, and in this book, what it means to be human
- Buddhism and meditation
- The link between what is being found in the forefront of neuroscience and what Buddhists have been doing for 2,000 years (I highly recommend the non-fiction piece, Buddha's Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness Love and Wisdom if you are into this sort of stuff)

The book is a great mix of hard-sci and cyberpunk. Naam was a computer programmer by trade and it shows. Now I don't know much about neuroscience (though I do know a lot about computer programming), but most of the technical elements in the book seem quite plausible in the 20 to 100 years. I found it much more compelling and believable than the all other techno-thrillers I've read recently, like Suarez's Daemon and Freedom (actually Daemon was OK technically but Freedom kind of went off the deep end). The book even contains a chapter at the end where he talks about the science of the book, what is state of the art now, and how he got interested in it. Turns out he's written a few non-fiction works as well, which I am putting on my non-fiction TBR.

I can't wait to read the next two installments in the series.

Also, if you plan on doing the audio version, Luke Daniels is as awesome as ever.
Profile Image for RJ - Slayer of Trolls.
807 reviews191 followers
March 26, 2018
Imagine superhuman intelligence and other enhanced features that could be available to anyone just by taking a pill: Nexus. Naam's debut novel draws from cutting edge research and theoretical possibilities in the fields of neurobiology and nanotechnology and blends these fascinating ideas with a page-turning plot full of action and intrigue. Wondrous possibilities and frightening abuses of this technology are fully and deeply explored, as well as some thought-provoking implications of the potential for an individual to achieve "post-human" status.
Profile Image for Bee.
411 reviews3 followers
May 14, 2019
Damn that was good.

Just a mixed bag of some of my favourite things, neuroscience, psychedelics, Buddhism, great near future tech written by someone who understands it deeply. A fast pace techno-thriller riddled with well thought out scenarios of a not too impossible future.

Naam knows his tech, and knows people, and had probably had his fare share of psychedelic experiences.

I'm already into book 2. Read it
Profile Image for Ryan.
270 reviews63 followers
November 9, 2020
This gives off very strong vibes of tech geek with a porn addiction, but it managed to be interesting enough. Lots of thrown fists, shootouts, and knife wielding. The occasional orgie with special mention of erect nipples and spread thighs had me wondering why a hive mind made up of men and women only seemed to acknowledge the bodies of women.
Trigger warnings for rape and child molestation which added nothing of worth to the story but you just knew they'd pop up eventually.

Naam tries to tackle serious issues regarding self determination, state powers, and democratic freedoms. I've read worse attempts on those fronts, but I wouldn't recommend this to anyone besides fans of Jean Claude Van Damme movies.
Profile Image for Fabi.
1,009 reviews147 followers
March 6, 2017
5 stars for the narrator. He is great!

2.5 stars for the a story.

I expected a hard sci-fi story and got a political technothriller instead. Maybe if I had a clearer picture of what this book was about before reading it I would have enjoyed it more. However, I didn't do my homework and let all the awards set my expectations too high. Although there isn't anything necessarily wrong with the story, it simply wasn't as exciting or fascinating as I'd hoped it would be. I felt like it was another one of those books where the MC knows what's best for the entire world population and acts accordingly.
Profile Image for Robyn.
827 reviews131 followers
March 26, 2015
Fascinating book on what it means to be human in an age where our brains can be digitally enhanced and refined. Manages to be an engaging sci-fi thought piece & a fast-paced thriller all at the same time. I enjoyed how Naam engages with the morality of technology, and let's Kade Lane really debate over the best choice with very realistic consequences.

4.5, really!
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