Holy Jumbled Words Batman! Max Barry’s book “Lexicon” is one heck of a ride into the history, shaping and effect of language in society. Barry has written many other novels including “Jennifer Government”, “Machine Man” and “Company” just to name a few. He seems to fit into that genre of science-y cool dudes that write extra awesome goodness.
SUMMARY: Emily Ruff has a name that has matched her life. She lives on the streets and survives by her street smarts. She has a unique talent for using her words to rope people in and con them into laying down more and more cash at three card monty. This catches the attention of a group of young people one day. However, these young people don’t fall for her tricks. Instead, they are impressed with her abilities and invite her to study at an exclusive schools that teaches the art of persuasion. Emily, being intrigued and having no where else to go, accepts the offer and is transported to an elite school in Virginia. The school and the opportunity seems surreal and like a dream come true. But slowly she comes to realize that this school is different. They teach persuasion, but it is through carefully separating and studying people and then using specially coded words that unlock an ancient vault in their brain. This word vault (for lack of a better term) makes the victim totally subservient and powerless and pretty much end up looking like Jack does in this snippet of Three’s Company:
The staff at the school who wield these magical words are called Poets and in turn all carry the monikers of famous poets like Yeats, Atwood and Eliot.
As Emily’s knowledge of these special words grow so does her risk taking and her desire to use them. She sees the power of the spoken word.
Meanwhile, another story is taking place. A young man named Wil Parke is kidnapped. Why? He appears to be immune to these words and the Poets’ “art” of persuasion. But, most importantly, he appears to be immune to something called a “Bareword”. This is a word so powerful it could be used to rule the world. These Barewords have the ability to topple a civilization or to lift it up to its highest pinnacle. Many examples are given, but the one that rises to the top is the Tower of Babel. And guess who is after this “Bareword” for their own nefarious purposes? Ding, ding, ding – that’s right, the Poets. Wil’s kidnappers want him to help them get the word and secure it from the Poets and their maniacal leader.
Eventually Emily and Wil’s timelines will intersect and that is where things get really interesting.
THOUGHTS: Lexicon is really a book about the power of language and how intrusive it can be in our lives. Just think how many ads are geared to make you act or respond in a certain way. From billboards to Facebook ads, the world is trying to communicate exclusively to us and wanting us to respond in a certain way.
“Lexicon” is definitely one of the smarter books I have read. At times it felt like a mix of the Matrix, Harry Potter and the Walking Dead. It was interesting, and well thought out, to see how the two main characters, Emily and Wil, eventually converge and what that means.
This is a good ole conspiracy story interlaced with a touch of romance and lots of suspense. As a big fan of anything dealing with language and its impact on the human mind, this book definitely held my attention and really got me thinking about who has control over my life and how they got it. Pick this one up for a mind bending, intelligent read.