Nexus

[Amazon Link]

A mind-blowing book about (mostly) blowing minds. (Heh, see what I did there?) The author is Ramez Naam, and I mostly liked his non-fiction book The Infinite Resource a few years back. And this book co-won the 2014 Prometheus Award (given by the Libertarian Futurist Society). It was also on the "shortlist" for the Arthur C. Clarke Award too. Wish I liked it better.

Set in the near future (just a couple decades away, more or less), Nexus postulates, plausibly, that advances in nanotechology, artificial intelligence, and biotechnology have come together in exciting, but also extremely scary, ways. In fact, due to an unfortunate incident where a bunch of (literal) Hitler Youth managed to kill tens of thousands of midwesterners in barely-thwarted bioterror plot, a lot of such innovation has been made illegal by world treaty and Your Federal Government.

That doesn't stop our young hero, Kaden Lane. He and his ragtag team have developed "Nexus 5", a drug/computer that expands one's mental powers to superhuman levels. Instant access to the Internet, of course. But also the ability to take on different personalities and abilities as if they were Halloween costumes. And also direct mind-to-mind linkups with your fellow Nexus-imbibers. And… well, lots more.

Which gets him and his friends in trouble with the Feds, although all they want to do is put on a rave, treating Nexus as kind of super-Ecstasy. The Man, in the form of the beautiful-yet-deadly Samantha infiltrates Kaden's group undercover. (Aided, of course, by some of the same technology.) And in the aftermath, Kaden gets blackmailed/recruited as a spy, using his academic credentials to investigate a mysterious Chinese lady who's apparently up to some nefarious doings in Thailand. What follows is lots of action and violence. (Thanks to biotech, the survivors of each bloodbath are patched up as much as possible to do it all over again in a few dozen more pages.)

Based on its amazing premises, Nexus coulda/shoulda been a great book. But …

It seems absurdly padded. Inside this 500+ page book is a 250-page book screaming to get out.

Page 234: "It was 9pm, halfway into the 8pm to 10pm mixer…" Gee, thanks, for telling us how time and arithmetic work, Ramez. (Note: nothing whatsoever depends on this detail.)

People say/think various forms of the F-word, especially during violence. I got the Kindle version for free (thanks, Amazon Prime) and it counts 147 Fs in the book. Frankly, it seemed like more.

[Added later] Finally, a consumer note: this is volume one of a trilogy, and the ending is pretty much a come-on: "Buy the next book to find out what happens next." After slogging through (again) 500+ pages, that seems a little weak to me.


Last Modified 2017-03-06 6:52 AM EST

URLs du Jour

2017-03-05

■ We jump to a new Proverbs chapter. 28:1 is one you've no doubt heard half of:

The wicked flee when no man pursueth: but the righteous are bold as a lion.

Going with King James here, because frankly it's better than the more recent translations. You gotta say "pursueth".

■ What does America need? At Reason, Robert Zubrin has the answer: America Needs a Liberal Party.

America needs a new political party, one opposed to isolationism, protectionism, nativism, authoritarianism, and ecologism — but which also supports free enterprise, constitutional government, human equality, liberty, dignity, and the defensive alliance of all nations committed to such ideals.

That would be fine. Zubrin's probably right that the best name for such a party would be "liberal". I'd probably vote for that party's candidates.

But the bad news is: I'd be joined by (optimistically) 10% of the voting public.

■ Jonah Goldberg's latest G-File is online, As usual, it rambles. He makes an excellent point about King Kong movies, his dad makes a good (but sadly posthumous) point about color pictures in newspapers, and more. Good observation here:

To the extent that Donald Trump has damaged democratic norms (and he has), his success is attributable to the fact that elites — in journalism, but also in academia and elsewhere — have corrupted those norms to the point where a lot of people see them as convenient tools for only one side in the political and cultural wars of our age.

But (as I shouldn't feel I need to keep saying) RTWT. Why can Jonah emit such a firehose of funny, insightful prose seemingly on demand, and I often have trouble with coming up with a few sentences daily? I dunno.

■ Also at NR, we have Kevin D. Williamson on Fake Hate Crimes. Springing off the recent arrest of a left-wing disgraced journalist for calling in bomb threats against Jewish sites, he recites the string of other similar cases. I'll jump to the conclusion:

The Left, for the moment, cannot seriously compete in the theater of ideas. So rather than play the ball, it’s play the man. Socialism failed, but there is some juice to be had from convincing people who are not especially intellectually engaged and who are led by their emotions more than by their intellect — which is to say, most people — that the people pushing ideas contrary to yours are racists and anti-Semites, that they hate women and homosexuals and Muslims and foreigners, that they could not possibly be correct on the policy questions, because they are moral monsters. This is the ad hominem fallacy elevated, if not quite to a creed, then to a general conception of politics. Hence the hoaxes and lies and nonsense.

Phony hate crimes. Phony hate.

… and he doesn't even mention the actual hate crime perpetrated at Middlebury College recently.

■ At HeatStreet, Jillian Kay Melchior reports: Ohio Bookstore Flips Male-Authored Books, Displaying Them Backwards. It's for Women’s History Month!

Eight of the all-female employees of Loganberry Books went through about 10,000 books, a process that took about two hours. They’ll leave the books turned around for the next two weeks.

Harriett Logan, the owner of the "feminist-leaning bookstore", is quoted: “To give the floor and attention to women, you need to be able to hear them, and if someone else is talking over them, that just doesn’t happen.”

I'm not certain the implied message Ms. Logan is sending is the one she intends. Female authorial voices are so weak—in a all-female-employee, feminist-leaning bookstore, mind you—that "silencing the male voice" is necessary?

■ I've previously noted my love for Frank Sinatra's version of the song "You and Me (We Wanted It All)" by Carole Bayer Sager and Peter Allen. As it turns out, I have company in (ladies and gentlemen) Mr. Rich Little.

Back in the late 1980s, I was coming out of the first of my four marriages and was pretty broken up. My wife and I seemed to have it all—but we came apart anyway. During this period, I listened often to Frank Sinatra’s “You and Me (We Wanted It All),” from his 1980 “Trilogy” album.

OK, I didn't say we liked it for the same reasons; my first and only marriage is pretty solid. But I can see how it might hit someone in Rich's shoes pretty hard. Because, in that song, Frank makes you relate, feel the pain and confusion of guys like Rich.

Or not. You might prefer "Rock Lobster".


Last Modified 2017-03-05 10:17 AM EST