Friday, April 25, 2014

Review: Lexicon by Max Barry

Max Barry

First line: "He's coming around."

As Lexicon opens, Wil Parke finds himself being assaulted in an airport bathroom. Two guys have cornered him and are injecting something into his eye while asking him weird questions in an attempt to ascertain whether he is the person they are looking for. It is an off balance opening, throwing the reader into the action in a world that sort of looks like ours but clearly isn't, and that off balance feeling continues for several chapters as the readers struggles to piece things together.

The second chapter introduces Emily Ruff, a girl who makes her living running a card trick on the pier. But when a trick goes wrong, Emily is left out in the cold. It turns out Lee, her mark, likes to ask the same questions as the guys in the airport bathroom, and through him she gets a chance to have a new life at a school in Washington, D.C., that teaches students to use words to manipulate people, to "compromise" them and make them do whatever the speaker desires. It is a trick that Lee tried on Emily and the bathroom guys tried on Wil. The idea is that by asking a series of simple questions, the speaker can make a preliminary psychological profile of you that allows him or her to identify what segment you belong to and how best to compromise you. To what end is unclear.

What I Thought: I liked it, but I really struggled to get into it. I like the idea that words have the power to manipulate, which they clearly do. However the words they use in the novel are not real words. They are powerful phonemes that activate different centers of the brain strung together. It reminds me of how people will sometimes post lists of their favorite or least favorite words (serendipity? moist?). Some words just sound wonderful and others do not. Some of it is meaning, but it also the way the sounds flow together. 

If you like science fiction or are looking for a different sort of literary mystery, you should try this book. It reminds me of Jasper Fforde. Also, read the Acknowledgements. You'll be glad you did.

Rating: Read

A couple quotes:

Every story written is
marks upon a page
The same marks
repeated, only
differently arranged. (Epigraph)

"I just read them for fun."
"That doesn't sound like fun. That sounds awful."
"Awful used to mean 'full of awe.' The same meaning as awesome. I learned that from a dictionary."
He blinked.
"See?" she said. "Fun." (p.321)

1 comment:

  1. This sounds like quite the thriller and despite some struggling in parts that beginning has me all kinds of curious.