Review: Nexus, Ramez Naam

A while ago I accidentally checked out Crux, the second book in a series about a drug called Nexus that expands the human brain’s capacity and permits brains to connect directly to each other. Despite its turning out to be a sequel whose original I hadn’t read, I really liked it. Nexus is the book I meant to check out, so I went back and got that one the next time I was at the library.

The beginning: A government agent called Samantha Cataranes has been sent to gather information about a science computer genius guy named Kaden Lane, who is doing strange and forbidden things with a mind drug called Nexus.

The end: I didn’t read the end. I don’t always! I know what happens after the end because I’ve read the sequel. I could deduce what happens in the end, particularly character deaths, based on events and characters in the sequel.

The whole: Strangely, I am not confident that I’d have kept reading the series if Nexus had been my introduction to it. Where Crux explored the many ramifications of the world having a drug like Nexus, Nexus is almost completely engaged in setting up that world. Or to put it another way, Crux is proper science fiction. Nexus is more of a thriller. I enjoyed it–quite a bit, actually!–but I am not such a thriller girl. Without knowing that Nexus was setting up the extremely cool sci-fi of Crux, I might not have been on board to read a second installment.

It should be emphasized that this is a personal preference on my part. Both Nexus and Crux feature a combination of action scenes and dialogue about moral repercussions; but the ratio of action to dialogue about moral repercussions is much much higher in Nexus than Crux. Since I’m unable to make pictures in my head, action sequences are wasted on me.

Moreover, Crux is less facile and more Patrick-Nessy in its ideas than Nexus. Moreover, I tend to like the second installment in (planned) trilogies the best: The Empire Strikes Back, The Two Towers, The Ask and the Answer, The Subtle Knife, etc.

For those of you overcome with suspense about Shu, whose role I did not understand when I read Crux because she’s basically just living in a computer the whole time, she was surprisingly benevolent in Nexus! Kade has reservations about joining forces with her, because she’s just so angry, but she’s more helpful than harmful. It’ll be interesting to see where Naam goes with these characters and this world in the third book.

Your takeaway is that you should read Nexus, which is a fun and engaging book, and you should be aware that Crux is equally fun and engaging, as well as more interesting. Science fiction written by people in the STEM industries could be my next big thing, y’all. Any recommendations of scientists who write sci-fi that I can go check out?

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12 thoughts on “Review: Nexus, Ramez Naam

  1. Often the second book in a series is my favorite too (although let’s acknowledge that Tolkien saw LOTR as one big book and it was the publisher who divided it into three, yes we know).
    My friend Joan Slonczewski is a biologist who writes SF. Her book The Children Star is dedicated to me and Ron. If I were just reading one of hers, though, I’d start with A Door Into Ocean or her college-in-space one, The Highest Frontier (which is very much drawn from life at Kenyon).

    • Yes yes. I know that is true of Tolkien. Nevertheless, it’s the second third of the book that I liked the best.

      College in space! Wondrous! I will try that one.

  2. This sounds like a decent science fiction piece, I wonder why I haven’t heard of it.

    I liked The Two Towers the least out of the three Lord of the Rings books, but that might have been because of how the story was presented – half the book half the characters – which was okay, but when the second half of the book started with Frodo and Sam wondering and getting lost and the schenaningans with Gollum, I felt it started dragging a bit.

    • I think a lot of people agree with you about The Two Towers, and I can certainly see the complaint. I think I’m in the minority in super loving all the parts with Frodo and Sam in Morder — they’re a bit dull in the movie, but I loved them in the book.

  3. Oh oh oh! Definitely you should read Robopocalypse if you haven’t already. The title makes it sound like a gimmicky Syfy movie but REALLY it’s an amazing scifi book about humanity and ROBOTS and what makes a person a person and it’s really great. And the author is a doctor of robots! Robotics. Whatever. The sequel’s coming out this year, too!

    Also I am adding Nexus to my wishlist because it sounds really good. Yay!

    • I LOVE STORIES ABOUT WHAT MAKES A PERSON A PERSON. Okay I will read that book in spite of its extremely silly title.

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