Turning The Page: Nexus by Ramez Naam

Can you image a world were a drug can be modified to turn the brains of its users into a wireless communication network? It is as if telepathic powers have been computer engineered by Microsoft or Apple. But the mental enhancer does not stop there as additional instructor software programs can be incorporated so to guide a socially awkward nerd into becoming a smooth Casanova. Welcome to the next phase of biotechnology known as Nexus.

Like with any technology there are rebels like the hacker group Anonymous which enjoy using it to defy the establishment. Kaden Lane is one of those individuals who live on the social fringe whose obsession and proficiency in pushing scientific boundaries has captured the attention of the Emerging Risks Directorate of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Lane is introduced to readers as he is testing a software program which turns his mind into a computer screen allowing menu options as well as audio instructions on how to seduce women at a party. All goes well until the system gets overloaded at a crucial moment resulting in the operator figuratively and literally misfiring. The comedic episode transitions into one with dark overtones when an undercover agent who has taken the enhanced drug is exposed and is physically paralyzed via mind control. The party is over for Lane and his gang as he is coerced into assisting the American government to neutralize the threat of superhuman soldiers being manufactured by the Chinese.

The format and style of Nexus resembles the approach adopted by Daniel H. Wilson for Robopocalypse and AMPED where documentation such as interview transcripts and dictionary definitions are interspersed between the chapters so to provide a social and political context.  Also like Wilson, author Ramez Naam comes from a scientific background which has resulted in him be involved with the creation of Microsoft Explorer and Outlook; consequently, there is a sense of authenticity with the manner of which the technology is portrayed.  Naam has a visual style with his words which leads to one experiencing cinematic scenes rather than being swamped with textbook exposition.   An interesting the scene occurs on the plane where the captured Kaden Lane uses a “mental keyboard” to talk to his fellow captives without being detected.  The sequence when covert operative Samantha Cataranes experiences the mind-meld with the other Nexus users has an epic feel though I have to admit imagining “the soaring towers of the delicate crystal and steel Temple of Self” seems to be a rather daunting task!

Published by Angry Robot Books, the ebook version of Nexus will arrive on December 18, 2012 as well as the print version in the U.S while the UK will have to wait until January 3, 2013 for the hard copy.

Trevor Hogg is a freelance video editor and writer who currently resides in Canada.