Nexus: Awesome Near Term Science Fiction

Nope – I’m not talking about an Android phone. I’m talking about an amazing book titled Nexus by Ramez Naam.

Ramez sent me a pre-release version last month. I read it over my holiday in Mexico while I was recovering from kidney stone surgery. I saved it for the end when I was reasonable rested and cogent – it was amazing.

One of my favorite forms of science fiction is what I call “near term scifi.” It’s stuff written two to ten years in the future, usually linked back to current stuff. In Nexus‘ case, Ramez sets it 20+ years in the future, but I’m going to argue that he’s talking about stuff that’s within a decade. My guess is he chooses 2040-ish given the singularity dynamics – I prefer his post-human definition when man and machine merge into one.

Ramez combines science, technology, and a thriller in a very accessible and page turning way. If I ever decided to write fiction, my hope is that I could master the craft of scifi the way Ramez, William Hertling, and Daniel Suarez have. I put him firmly in their league.

If you are looking for a powerfully stimulating book to read over the holidays about where things are going, with a complex hero / protagonist / antagonist structure, plenty of twists and turns, and great scifi that intersects with our reality, go get a copy of Nexus right now.

  • Just bought it on Amazon. As someone who devoured Vernor Vinge’s singularity scifi novels in the 80s and Kurzweil’s “the singularity is near” book 7 years ago, this sounds like my kind of SciFi.

  • Marco A. Attisani

    In his book Physics of the Impossible, Michio Kaku suggests
    that today, physicists can discern between future technologies that are merely
    improbable and those technologies that are truly impossible. He uses a system
    of classes to establish science-fictional future technologies that

    are believed to be impossible today. The book is truly a
    roller-coaster ride through a description of technologies that might be
    possible within a 100 years time frame. Michio Kaku though is not the first one
    getting that far.

    During the late 19th century a French author was pioneering
    the science fiction genre letting eager readers wonder about amazing
    possibilities. Known for his ultra famous novels Twenty Thousand Leagues Under
    the Sea Journey to the Center of the Earth, and Around the World in Eighty
    Days, the world still respectfully refer to him as Monsieur Jules Gabriel
    Verne, often referred to as the “Father of Science Fiction”, a title
    sometimes shared with Hugo Gernsback and H. G. Wells. Mostly of his novels
    involve technological paradigms that were too far ahead to be considered actual
    possibilities in those days. Only 60-100 years later, nuclear power, hydrogen
    fuel cells, atmospheric advertising, diving apparatus, launching facility, live
    news, video calls, undersea mining, laser and so on and so forth, started to
    become commonplace.

    One hundred years ago, respected scientists would have said
    that laser, television, internet, nuclear power were to beyond the realm of technological
    possibilities but after a look at the development of today’s technology what is
    deemed impossible today might indeed become normal stuff in the next future.

    The realm of actual possibilities is what Brad is describing
    as “near term Sci-Fi.

    I share with him the idea that’s indeed the most compelling
    and thought-provoking science fiction narrative you can have.

    Reading about how human’s technology strives and tries to
    reach an asymptotic perfection while flirting with scientific possibilities
    makes me wonder, setting free impossible fantasies makes me think that the
    writer does not understand what magic really is.

    We need nevertheless to pay attention not to fall in any
    intellectual trap, by looking at the world through a myopic vision as many
    accredited opinion leaders did in the past, while shouting out that the world
    was flat, the Sun was turning around the Earth and man would have never fly…

    This is the reason why I always let myself be guided towards
    the discernment of new possibilities by actual scientific knowledge as well as
    open mind. I use to lean on Clarke’s
    Three Laws of prediction, which are:

    1. When a
    distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is
    almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very
    probably wrong.

    2. The only way
    of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them
    into the impossible.

    3. Any
    sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

    This set of laws was formulated by the British writer Arthur
    C. Clarke and mentioned in the essay “Hazards of Prophecy: The Failure of

    Interesting is today to notice that if Jules Verne could
    think beyond 100 years, and Ramez sets this limit to 20 years, what is really
    going on to the science-fictional capability of predicting the future?

    For answering to this question, I would like to call upon one
    of my preferred scientific thinkers: Mr. Ray Kurzweil, inventor, futurist,
    director of engineering at Google, described as “the restless genius” by The
    Wall Street Journal, and “the ultimate thinking machine” by Forbes. Inc.,
    ranked number 8 among entrepreneurs in the US and also defined as the “rightful
    heir to Thomas Edison.

    Mr. Kurzweil is also the man behind the establishment of what
    is defined the “Law of Accelerating returns”. The law explains how most long
    range forecasts of technical feasibility in future time periods dramatically
    underestimate the power of future technology because they are based on what Ray
    define as the “intuitive linear” view of technological progress versus the
    “historical exponential view.”

    His analysis of the history of technology shows that
    technological change is indeed exponential, contrary to the common-sense
    “intuitive linear” view.

    The future is widely misunderstood because human thinking
    tends to expect the future to be very similar to the actual present, which in
    turn had been much like the past.

    Today, in accordance with the common wisdom, technological
    progress and the social repercussions that follow are expected to be
    “continuous” in their nature but the future will be far more surprising than
    most observers can realize.

    Humanity will never experience 100 years of progress during
    the present century, it will instead experience thousands years of progress.

    Among my preferred science-fiction books are The Age of the
    Spiritual Machine, and “The Singularity is near” (I purposely said “science
    –fiction books” for being a little provocative)

    Back to the question above: a 12th century science fiction
    writer could have foreseen a possible future scenario beyond 1000 years, a 19th
    century science fiction writer as Verne, could describe future beyond 100
    years, today a science fiction writer can reasonable anticipate possible future
    scenarios not beyond 20 years. The future capability of prediction of any science
    fiction author will be then limited to describe what will going to happen the
    following day, the next hour, the next minute and so on… till getting asymptotically
    closer to 0, where future will be impossible to be predicted but only lived on
    the go.

    When we are capable of internalizing the implications of the
    fact that the rate of change itself is accelerating and humans are really going
    towards superhuman status, we also realize that the most amazing science
    –fiction story today is the reality itself!

  • Peter Neame

    Always like your book reviews – you haven’t let me down yet! Just grabbed a copy for my xmas reading list.

    It is startling how much the real world has come to reflect near-term sci fi of 20-30 years ago. If it hasn’t actually achieve it, it often seems as if humanities moral compass has veered away from the often dystopian scenarios. If they weren’t dystopian, they wouldn’t make for good reading, of course

  • glad to see you expand more about this book since you last mentioned it. I have already placed an order for my copy!

  • I wish he’d release an Audible audiobook version!

  • Thanks for this post – I greatly enjoyed “Nexus” and am now reading Naam’s “More Than Human.”
    – Jack

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