4 star #bookreview by @geoffnelder of “Nexus” by Nicolas Wilson

4 stars
Coruscating read in sexed up Nexus

Format:Kindle Edition|Amazon Verified Purchase

Nexus is a huge spaceship sent from Earth to further explore the universe, and subdue aliens, Standard scifi then? Far from it. The narrator is the arrogant, bullying, sex-obsessed captain, who gets away with his behaviour because of his sense of humour and intelligence. His value as the captain becomes evident not so much when he is pistol-wielding his attacks on bear-like or other weird aliens but when he instigates a momentous decision cusp in the plot about three-quarters way through. The need for that change and its consequences lift the erstwhile misogynistic captain to a new level. Until that point we don’t even know his name even though he is the narrator.

I am as interested in sex as the next deviant but to see it as innuendo or described three times a page for over 300 pages when I’m relaxing into a scifi novel. There, I’m sure that comment will sell copies!

Besides the sex, the other main feature of the writing style is the captain’s wry sense of humour. I like it though his puns can be cringe-worthy. Better examples are:
‘I missed the bed by a foot, but the floor was surprisingly comfortable.’ I imagine the constant use of abbreviations, admittedly often used in military institutions, is also meant humorously. I will let readers work these out (as the writer does) NavDiv, EngDiv, SecDiv, SecOff, BacFarm and SecDet. Easy, and sometimes fun to work out but it can lift the reader out of the fiction dream especially when placed close together as in “…PsychDiv would ask MedDiv to castrate me if I traumatized one of your SecOffs…”

Nicolas Wilson also goes a little OTT with his quasi-scientific and engineering explanations. Don’t get me wrong, I know plenty of scifi readers who love knowing the nitty-gritty details but sometimes, as Santiago says to our captain, “It’s a little insulting getting a chemistry lesson in baby-talk, but … is how your mind operates.” Haha, yes and we readers agree! That’s not meant to be negative. I’m having fun, and there are keen moments worth quoting too. Eg “I’ve often found that men who want power least, exercise it best.” And, “Telepathy’s a known unknown.” Both I might quote on Twitter. The latter quote is an example of the narrator’s penchant for echoing his own words but there’s plenty of names and incidents that nerdy readers will recognize as possible homage to classic Sci Fi. Eg Santiago from Mike Resnick’s best selling novel, Haley as the ship’s AI.

I like the approach to first contact in this book. Drop a Commbox onto the planet and wait for the locals to learn English or for the box’s translator to successfully do its job, before landing with guns. Trouble is the latter always seemed to happen, bringing me to an issue I have with most scifi novels. The aliens are not alien enough. They have the same kind of hierarchical structure as on Earth down to Kings, nobles and captains. Yes, they are single-celled, or weird-looking but within minutes of contact they are speaking and acting like Americans even down to idioms and references to American TV shows and history. In Nexus we have an alien captain saying “They’re not going to nickel and dime us to death.” What? And they use pistols that our captain can just pick up and use with a trigger and “it’s safety is off”. Haha, groan.

Overall, Nexus is full of ideas, sex, fights and intelligence that should appeal to most scifi readers.

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