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.