In 2032, a group of genetically engineered neo-Nazis create a super virus that threatens to wipe away the rest of humanity. Coming on the heels of a series of outbreaks involving psychotropic drugs that effectively enslave their users, this leads to the Chandler Act, which places sharp restrictions on “research into genetics, cloning, nanotechnology, artificial intelligence, and any approach to creating ‘superhuman’ beings.” The Emerging Risks Directorate is launched within the Department of Homeland Security, and America’s war on science begins.
This is the world that technologist Ramez Naam sets his first novel, the techno-thriller Nexus. Nexus is a powerful drug, oily and bitter, that allows humans minds to be linked together into a mass consciousness. A hodgepodge of American graduate students develop a way to layer software into Nexus, allowing enterprising coders to upload programs into the human brain. It’s shades of The Matrix, but it’s hardly an impossible idea.