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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