My book reviews are written as a discussion of a book, and not as an advertisement. Please be aware that there may be information that some would consider spoilers. Continue on at your own risk!
The last of my vacation reads- one I finished on the airplane back to rainy Ohio. A story about the edge of human initiated evolution written by a computer scientist. As a former developer and current IT employee, the story peeked my interest. There were action sequences involving the compilation of code- did Ramez Naam pull off the technical complexities of this book? Here is what I thought…
A few young scientist have figured out how to permanently ‘upgrade’ their minds to be able to communicate and experience each others thoughts. In addition to this ‘shared conscience’ they can also control each other’s bodies. For science, this is amazing, but the government (ERD) is scared of this getting in the hands of the wrong people. The ERD blackmails one of the young scientist (Kade) into helping them conquer the people working on this technology. The scientist he is supposed to infiltrate wants the technology for a select few, and the government wants it for no one. Kade wants everyone to have access, and at the end distributes the code to everyone.
Plot Score: 4/5
In there world there are Transhumans (“A human being whose capabilities have been enhanced such that they now exceed normal human maxima in one or more important dimensions”). And there are Posthumans (“A being which has been so radically transformed by technology that it has gone beyond transhuman status and can no longer be considered human at all”)
Within the Department of Homeland Security there is an Emerging Risks Directorate (ERD) that was created to counter any advanced technological threats to the US.
World Building Score: 5/5
Characters and Relationships
Kade-The main character who struggles against the purity of science and the realities of how technology is going to be used. He was a pawn in most of the book, but finally got the nerve to follow his own beliefs (and release the Nexus code to the world).
Samantha Catarnes / Samara Chavez / – Originally a member of the ERD- assigned to protect Kade in his under cover mission., she eventually see’s that the ERD is not protecting people, but using her as a pawn and she leaves to take care of children that were born with Nexus abilities.
Characters Score: 4/5
1. The importance of solving problems together “All that we have accomplished, and all that we will accomplish, is the result of groups of humans cooperating.”
2. This technology is real, and is coming and we must be careful about a war on science (which seems like a natural conclusion of how the government will react) “To understand the future course of this war, one need only to look at the history of the War on Drugs and the War on Terror. Like those two manufactured “wars”, this one will be never-ending, freedom-destroying, counterproductive, and ultimately understood to have caused far more damage than the supposed threat it was aimed at ever could”
3. The importance of empowerment, not control “Buddhism suits me ‘cuz nobody’s in charge. Mobod’s decidin’ for me if I’m good or bad, goin’ to heavin or hell. It’s just me workin’ on my head, you workin’ your head, the friggin’ Dalai Lamai workin’ on his head.”
Life Lessons Score: 3/5
Defining Quote: “Broad dissemination and individual choice turn most technologies into a plus. If only the elites have access, it’s a dystopia.”
It was fast paced and fun- and yes, I loved the sequence around them trying to put a back door in the code and was on the edge of my seat hoping their code would compile!
Style Score: 3/5
-Bonus Beach Read Score: 3/5
-I am totally excited that the basis of this technology exists today. It’s amazing what we are learning to do.
Total Score and Recommendation
-22/25- I recommend it, and I have already pre-ordered the sequel.