Sunday, June 29, 2014

All About the Wordplay: Lexicon

Lexicon by Max Barry
Penguin, 2013

Max Barry brings wordplay to a whole new level in Lexicon, an action-packed novel exploring the idea of what if words had more power than we usually give them credit for? First, readers meet Wil, a man being ambushed at an airport. He has no idea who they are, what they want, or why he is apparently so special. Next, readers meet Emily, a girl living on the streets making money with slight of hand and card tricks, easily able to persuade people to give up their hard earned money for her games of chance. It's this particular talent that leads to her enrollment at a top-secret school where students are taught how language can actually be used to manipulate minds. As both of these narratives unfold and the stories eventually become intertwined, the adage of "choose your words wisely" takes on a much different meaning because in this world, words alone can kill.

Throughout this book, I found myself constantly wishing I'd paid better attention in my college courses on linguistics - I never appreciated how interesting it is back then! I was on the edge of my seat, wanting to know how Wil's and Emily's lives mattered to each other and what was so dangerous that these "poets" were willing to sacrifice the lives of so many people. While I was able to predict fairly quickly who Wil and Emily are to each other, the numerous twists and turns meant that nothing ended up being exactly as I'd been expecting.

While in most cases narratives coming together usually means more clarity, this time I was scratching my head. I am more than willing to admit that much of this probably had to do with how quickly I was reading (I couldn't slow down!), but I also feel like the mythology/rules surrounding the words became less clear. I'm being puposely vague to avoid spoilers, but I will advise that if you read this, do so slowly to make sure you catch all of the details. I did not, and as a result, the ending was a bit mushy in terms of its cohesiveness to me.

This is absolutely not a YA novel - there's adult language and situations right from the get-go - however in the hands of an incredibly mature teenager who is in college, there's definite appeal. If you like action-packed books with a dash of a nerdy side, then this is absolutely a book worth checking out.

Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading!

Max Barry's Website

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