Saturday, February 08, 2014

Book: Ramez Naam's "Nexus"

After three non-fiction books I decided it was time to go back to fiction.  I looked at what was available at my library in ebook form and checked out Ramz Naam's "Nexus".

The book is set in the year 2040.  Biotech and nano technology has advanced to the point that people are enhancing their bodies and creating new drugs for recreational purposes as well and for more nefarious uses.  After a bioterrorist incident in the 2030s, new laws are passed in the United States and global regulations are set up to prevent the misuse of the new technologies.  Just like technologies can be misused, the regulations and laws created also become abusive and authoritarian.  One example is that people who modify themselves genetically to become trans-human or post-human are no longer considered human and therefore have no human rights.  They can be incarcerated without cause and terminated without due process.

The protagonists of the book is a scientist who has found a way to build an operating system (OS) on top of a nano drug called Nexus.  Nexus, when ingested by two or more people, allow these people to share thoughts and emotions.  The OS allows you to control your brain just like you control your computer.  The other main character is an agent of a part of Homeland Security in charge of seeking out and destroying advanced bio/nano enhancements.  The book also has groups wanting to exploit Nexus to create assassins and to control people and people who what to replace the human race with technologically enhanced post-humans.   Through all these different characters and groups, you are shown all sides of the argument.  Should these technologies be stopped?  Should they be set free?  Can they be stopped if you wanted to?  Is the march of technology stoppable?  Will the positives out way the negatives?  When do we stop being human?

Many questions are raised by this book.  There really aren't any clear cut answers.  The book does take you in one direction which I think would be the most likely one.  I won't spoil the story.

As for Naam's writing style.  Many of the characters feel rather cliche.  I have read similar stories with similar characters before.  Even the ending, an ending that is very opened ended, was predictable.  Having said this I did enjoy the book.  It raised questions that made me think.  Making me think is often a good thing.

There is a sequel ("Crux").  I will have to look it up sometime to see what answers, if any,  Naam has come up with.  Recommended for light reading.

One more note.  After reading so much non-fiction lately, I felt a little guilty about reading fiction.  It was like I was reading empty calories.  Am I wrong to think that non-fiction is more 'nutritious' than fiction?

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