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Illusion Chasers

Illusion Chasers


Illusions, Delusions, and Everyday Deceptions
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Neuroscience in Fiction: Crux, by Ramez Naam

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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“Rangan felt her before he saw her. Felt them before he saw them. He didn’t understand what he sensed until the door swung open. She was seated in a swiveling office chair. A pretty petite blonde woman in a floral dress. Thirty, maybe. She had a shy smile on her face. And her hands were on her belly. Her giant pregnant belly.”

Crux (Angry Robot Books) is an outstanding speculative fiction adventure. It combines the very highest level of neuroscientific reality with plausible neuroscience fiction that is very well thought through. I loved it.

The techno-thriller is a sequel to Naam’s first novel, Nexus, describing the adventures of a young group of neuroscientists who change the world by developing a nanotech computer system that is ingested—to then intermingle with the neurons of the brain—providing the user with a mental Google glass-like computer interface (sans hardware) that overlays on their normal conscious experience. As I previously reviewed, Nexus was a terrific yarn and Raam established himself in the same league as Michael Crichton and Daniel Suarez for pure bitchin’ fun and coolness.

Crux, if anything, is even better. Naam truly reveals the depth of his imagination by delving deeply into the societal impacts of such an invention. Its ability to help people that suffer from neural diseases, such as people with autism or Alzheimer’s, to literally connect to the outside world. Its effects on human evolution, as parents began to directly communicate with intrauterine fetuses months before birth. Its ability to download Bruce Lee-like Kung Fu knowledge ala The Matrix. Its nefarious uses as a mind control agent. And its sublime ability to create a new level of consciousness as post-humans truly begin to form hive-like minds that transcend genius with super problem-solving capabilities (which, come to think of it, is a surprising lacuna in The Matrix saga given the overlap in the whole let’s-network-our-brains theme). Crux’s adventure, appropriately, centers around how dumb it would be to give such device to flawed creatures, like human beings. I won’t give anymore of the plot away because I really do think you should put it at the top of your summer reading list. You’re welcome!

Crux will be released on August 27, and is available for pre-order now at your favorite bookseller. If you haven’t done so already, get Nexus first and finish it before the Crux’s release.

Enjoy! And please come back and leave your comments when you’re done!

Stephen L. Macknik About the Author: Susana Martinez-Conde and Stephen L. Macknik are laboratory directors at SUNY Downstate Medical Center. Follow on Twitter @illusionchasers.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.





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