The novel “Apex” by Ramez Naam was published for the first time in 2015. It’s the third book of the Nexus trilogy and follows “Crux“. It won the Philip K. Dick Award.
Kaden “Kade” Lane has written out the Nexus backdoor that can allow some attacker who discovers it to literally take possession of people who installed it into their brains but he must find ways to spread the update. To do so, he must first avoid ending up in the American government’s hands and his hope could come from India.
In the USA the presidential election time has come, a vote that will determine the future as it rarely happened during the nation’s history. President John Stockton is determined to be re-elected and to maintain strict anti-Nexus laws, but the secret of the lab in which experiments were carried out on children with Nexus leaked triggering strong protests with a faction willig to add to the chaos. A new front is opened with China with mutual accusations of interference in domestic politics, who’s interested in a clash between the two nations?
“Apex” begins where “Crux” ended forming a single big story with the two previous books so you need to read the whole trilogy to understand the development of its themes, characters and even more of the various subplots. From the beginning, the Nexus trilogy offered a series of ethical and moral positions regarding a possible path to transhumanism and starting from the second book also to posthumanism.
The subplot concerning the transfer of a human mind into a computer has become increasingly important and in the course of “Apex” is for a good part practically independent from the events of all the other subplots. For a while I thought that Ramez Naam might’ve written a separate novel for this subplot, a sort of spinoff to develop it without weighing down the original story but at a certain point the element connected to posthumanism connects back to the other subplots.
This final novel shows which choices could lead, if not to a utopia, at least to a more democratic future and which ones could instead make the nations in which there’s still a bit of democracy fall into an authoritarian regimes. As in previous books, Ramez Naam does that by showing various positions and various opinions with different nuances in a complexity that goes well beyond a trivial division between good and bad. From time to time the author resorted to clichés but in “Apex” goes beyond them at least in the subplot about the American government showing a complexity even within the administration in charge following the point of view of National Security Advisor Carolyn Pryce.
Perhaps the subplots end up being too many and for example Sam, who was a protagonist in the first two books, in “Apex” is almost forgotten after the children saved in Thailand become the absolute focus of her attention. Perhaps it’s the most choral book because it brings together the stories of different people in different parts of the world, an appropriate choice in a world that’s already globalized today and will be even more so in 2040. However, the amount of events and reflections on the part of characters perhaps makes it the heaviest book too.
Ramez Naam isn’t the best writer in terms of style so the Nexus trilogy is sometimes developed in a chaotic way with a pace that’s sometimes hectic while at other times slows down dramatically in introspective moments that perhaps he could’ve managed better. He seems focused above all on the many ideas developed in this trilogy with a technology that could really change the world and the examination of the ethical and moral consequences of its uses, linked to a number of social and political themes. In my opinion the author was excellent in this development.
At the end of “Apex”, Ramez Naam added a brief commentary on the science behind Nexus. He’s the first to say that something like that is unlikely to be available in 2040 and the transfer of a human mind into a computer is even more unlikely. However, technological advances are very quick and bring new ethical and moral problems or new versions of old problems that can have significant consequences. In my opinion, the great strength of the Nexus trilogy is in the exploration of those consequences with a lot of food for thought also for the present and it’s the reason why I recommend reading it.