Crux, a sequel to Nexus – bioethical technothriller

I loved Nexus, Ramez Naam's 2012 debut novel about biohackers who produce a nano-based party drug that installs a networked computer inside your brain, and quickly turns into a war-on-drugs bioethics thriller about the free/open transhumanists and mirthless, ruthless drug enforcement agents.

In Crux, the sequel that comes out today, Naam rips through 550+ pages in about ten minutes flat, with a blisteringly paced technothriller that dives deeper and even better into the chunky questions raised by Nexus. Crux tells the story of Nexus's inventors in exile around the world, or jailed by drug-enforcement spooks, or, in one case, uploaded into a physically isolated underground quantum supercomputer controlled by the Chinese politburo.

In Crux, we see a world where the first stirrings of a global revolution in computer/human cognition are taking place. It's a weird political matrix with the pro-Nexus side composed of extremist posthuman Nietzschean terrorists; desperate parents of kids with austism; liberated clonal warriors; children of networked sex workers who were born with nanocytes already in their brains; slavers; drug lords; billionaire would-be saviors; Buddhist monks, and bioenhanced ninjas.

On the other side: scheming politicos; concerned bioethicists; horrified technologists; brutal cops; patriotic spooks; Chinese power-brokers; and a thousand kinds of reactionaries, from Buddhist abbots to bigoted American blowhard politicians.

Naam's special talent is raising important and thorny bioethical questions that have no pat answer, making them part of an action-adventure plot, and infecting your brain with his ideas. This is a fabulous book, and it ends in a way that promises at least one more. Count me in.