Nexus Trilogy

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Naam, Ramez. Nexus trilogy (also Nexus Arc trilogy). Nexus (2012), Crux (2013), Apex (2015). Nottingham, UK: Angry Robot.

Cyberpunk thriller set in relatively near future of the middle of the 21st century.[1] There are the usual cyberpunk add-ons for transhuman or just augmented soldiers and elite police units, raising the question of how much augmentation takes a person from augmented human (somewhat a cyborg) to transhuman to, finally posthuman.

Of interest in Nexus is the former very-special special forces warrior Watson "Wats" Cole. Under the influence of the nano-drug Nexus, possibly in combination with Empathek and other drugs, Cole has experienced deep empathy with other people, moving him into a Buddhist-like desire for peace among sentient beings. This pacifistic attitude doesn't prevent Cole from fighting, but it does put him on the side of those who would distribute Nexus 5 and any successor drugs among the masses which would help achieve individual improvement, cooperation, and, possibly, peace. Note the similarities and contrasts with the machine-mediated telepathy and empathy derived from largely macroscopic, mostly human-scale "soldierboy technology" in Joe Haldeman's Forever Peace. If there are machines involved in Cole's coming to Buddha (so to speak) they are the nano-bio(?)-mechanisms of the drug Nexus. There are scenes of mind-to-mind communion in Nexus — including among Buddhist monks — that should be compared and contrasted with the totally organic Foretelling in Ursula K. Le Guin's The Left Hand of Darkness (1969), and with similar scenes on the "Plateau" in John Shirley's works (see Eclipse Corona); for a much simpler version, see device-mediated brain-to-brain communication in the 1983 film BRAINSTORM. Note also The Bohr Maker and the expanding "ESP empathy" in the thriller Triggers.

Crux.[2] Before the end of the third chapter of Crux, we're told that the nano-tech devices in Nexus 5 are very tiny information-processing machines, and a Nexus 5 dosed Secret Service agent is taken over by a posthuman agent and operated as a "robot." The use of "robot" is mostly metaphorical, but the metaphor reinforces the impression that by the beginning of Crux we're in a fictive world where the boundaries are already blurred between and among the biological/physiological, mechanical, and cybernetic. Beyond the sentence level, we have a scene in this opening section withSu-Yong Shu, a major character who had been killed in Nexus uploaded to cybernetic storage and, to a great extent, punitive solitary confinement "inside" a quantum computer. She is a "ghost in the machine," a human mind and personality (and spirit?) anxiously desiring and awaiting embodiment in a clone — further blurring categories and bringing in all the ideas of a human being (or trans- or posthuman) as, centrally or essentially, biological mechanism, cybernetic or other kind of mind or collection of information, a pattern in nature, and possibly a soul. By the end of this mostly-thriller novel, we've had reinforced in the text the image of Nexus 5 as a computer in one's brain and mind: a machine in the ghost, if we imagine the computer in one's mind; a machine in the most intimate of relationships with one's body, if we picture the Nexus "nodes" in the physical brain. For the theme of the restraining and torturing of a sympathetic character in a high tech way, note strapping in a chair an autistic boy and placing on his head a kind of cybernetic crown of thorns as part of an attempt to force him to purge Nexus 5 from his body. For the theme of "the mechanical god" — updated to cybernetic in this case — note that the trans- but approaching posthuman billionaire entrepreneur Shiva[3] comes to see himself as something of a god, and the thoroughly transhuman, Su-Yong Shu — uploaded to isolated quantum computers and in this book tortured there — emphatically comes to see herself as a goddess. Both are associated with mind-rape in taking over minds and bodies, with Su-Yong Shu climaxing Crux with embodying her Self (our term) in her loyal, likeable, and very powerful young daughter, Ling Shu — horrifically.

Apex: See for further development of Su-Yong Shu as cybernetic goddess, as both a mad mind (cf. and contrast A. C. Clarke's The City and the Stars and in recovery (where she prevents nuclear war). Children in Nexus mind-meld are strongly positive, in contrast to, e.g., the frightening and threatening children in VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED (1960, 1995)[4] and the ambiguous children who will succeed humankind in Clarke's Childhood's End. (1953).[5] The Nexus mind-meld of adults still has the threat of slavery in Apex but comes through more as a promise of great joy and human progress, and the possibility for Nirvana, fairly literally: Buddhism remains a positive force in Apex. As with Crux, Apex has an afterword on scientific research in the real world that prefigure the drug Nexus and its possibilities for at least transhumanity, if not, or not by the 2040s, anything like uploading human mind into quantum computers.

CAUTION: As noted, the maltreatment of children, including torture and at least metaphoric rape, is used to show how awful a number of political actors are in the war of human and posthumans. Adults are also tortured (which is also reprehensible and should be disturbing).

RDE 28/VIII/16 // 5, 21 Sept. 2016; 30Nov21