That Was Awesome! Writers on Writing

The Enticing Realism of Ramez Naam’s Nexus

This moment comes fairly early in Naam’s amazing techno-thriller Nexus, so I hope it is not too much of a spoiler.

If you’re not aware of the basic premise, a quick intro: Our heroes have developed a new variant of an illegal drug called Nexus which can turn a certain unused part of our brain cells into logic gates. And where there are logic gates, code can be installed and run. This new variant, Nexus 5, is essentially an operating system for the brain.

Naam’s way of introducing this concept is as clever as it is uncomfortable, but what really drew me into this book was that awesome moment when the main characters have been captured by some shadowy government-types and have agreed to hand over the code to their new designer variant of the Nexus drug.

In the back of an SUV, knowing they only have minutes before their invention is going to be taken over by the government, the group begins work on a backdoor patch. Only, from all outward appearances they aren’t doing anything other than enjoying the ride. All the action is happening in their heads. This moment, well, let’s just say that if you’ve ever had to fix a piece of computer code in a hurry, you’ll immediately recognize how true to life it is. If you’ve never had an experience in this sort of thing at all, fear not. Ramez does an amazing job here delivering just enough explanation without the scene getting bogged down in programming 101.

Nexus is a great book, but it was this moment that I fell in love with it. Naam has written a thrilling, nail-biting, edge-of-your-seat, race against the clock action scene that is about the mundane task of writing and installing a software patch. It’s totally awesome and, moreover, expertly delivers on what we writers call “the promise of the premise.” You know what you’re in for with this book now, and I for one could not stop turning pages from that moment on.

Jason M. Hough is the author of THE DIRE EARTH CYCLE series and the futuristic spy thriller Zero World—available from Del Rey (US) and Titan (UK). He lives in Seattle. Find him on twitter @JasonMHough.

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