In his first novel, Nexus, Ramez Naam burst onto the science fiction stage with a terrific book filled with credible augmented humans set in a fascinating future. Nexus was a thoughtful thrill-ride that came to a very satisfying, action-packed conclusion. In his latest novel, Crux, Naam takes his readers further into a world changed by Nexux, the mind-linking, mind-enhancing technology combining nano-technology, pharmacology and software.
Crux is a thoughtful thriller. While the book is filled with gunfire, assassinations, fist fights, carbon fiber and nano drones, once again it is the very human struggles that propel the story. Crux is fundamentally a story about power, the powers of the government and the powers of the individual.
The events in Crux take place six months after the events that made up the story in Nexus. Naam vividly describes both great good and great evil made possible by Nexus enhancement. Some people are empowered, some are addicted, some are enslaved. Naam is very good at writing conflicted characters, showing how evil can come from good intentions, how good people can fail and how hard choices can be.
Naam never lets philosophy get in the way of a good story. While his characters do battle with their consciences, they are mostly busy trying to stay alive and the story zips right along. Naam does manage to find the time to add small bits of humor to his tale, including a great scene where an enhanced Chinese clone and a grizzled CIA operative compare battle scars. Another great running joke are the repeated scenes where the reader is shown that running Bruce Lee software in your head doesn't make you Bruce Lee.
Crux does the work of great science fiction, it makes the reader look closely and critically at what kind of world we are building here and now. In Crux, Naam doesn't let the reader off with easy answers. Instead he gives them fascinating questions, compelling characters and one hell of a story.
(Note: I was fortunate enough to receive an Advance Reader Copy for this review. Crux will be published later this month.)