Lexicon by Max Barry

04e554b590a7440920df75e96ad4e22cHoly 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:jack-tripper

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.

HaPpY ReAdInG!

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Monster

monsterOn a scale of 1 to 5, I’d give this one a 3. But, don’t let that keep you from reading this book! Monster (by A. Lee Martinez) mixes humor, fantasy and fiction all together to create a reality where magic is real but going extinct. Dionysus Monster, the main character of the book, is a monster catcher. Much like a dog catcher, he is called in to catch monsters on the loose. Anything from Yeti to Hydra are his domain. Problem is, he is pretty mediocre at his job and well at his life in general. Once he meets Judy though, things begin to change. Under attack constantly from Judy’s subconscious, Monster must deal with rogue monsters bent on getting him. Judy does not know she is doing this to Monster and no one is even sure how she is doing it. I’ll let you read the rest of the book to keep from spoiling it for you…

Suffice to say, this is a book about growth. It is lame in several areas. The dialogue could use help and the plot is sketchy. But beneath all that, is the story of Monster’s growth from being mediocre and self absorbed to becoming admirable and involved in life.

The most memorable quote from the book for me was “Being a good person is more than just not being a bad person”. Simple yet good advice.

If you’re looking for a quick, easy and fun read, this is your book. I’m looking forward to reading more by this author.

“The Fight”

UBB-TheFightbyLukeWordleyBoxing intrigues me. To me, fighting has always been something I’ve shied away from. I’m definitely not one of those guys who tries to prove himself by being tough or getting into fights. I am a trained blackbelt but even that has never made me crave fighting. In fact, it taught me just the opposite; the very harshness, danger and consequences of using our bodies as weapons.

With that being said though, boxing is a sport of focus. You must learn your opponent and anticipate his next move and yours at the same time. Split second decision making is not only required, it is imperative. In Luke Wordley’s newest book, “The Fight”, the reader sees the positive impact boxing can have on a life.

Sam Pennington is an angry kid who has lost everything. A dead father, a drunk mother and the harshness of moving into public housing has led Sam to his breaking point. It is at this breaking point that he comes to a crossroads. After a particularly brutal fight, Sam is introduced to Jerry Ambrose, a boxing trainer. Jerry takes Sam under his wing and Sam begins to discover a hidden talent and passion for boxing.

The story is redemptive in nature and deals with the core of what happens to our lives when our emotions rule us. It is also a coming of age story for Sam. This is a longer book at 380 pages but the story keeps your attention and drives home some important messages.

All of us has demons and skeletons that resurface from time to time and we all must learn how to deal with them or we will be ruled by them. We all have a “fight” we must engage in. How will yours turn out?

Other “Fight” thoughts:

http://christianbookshopsblog.org.uk/2012/02/25/a-novel-to-fight-over-introducing-luke-wordley-and-the-fight/

https://jimkane.wordpress.com/2014/05/29/my-review-of-luke-wordleys-the-fight/

Anya’s Ghost

Ever read a really weird book? The kind where you get done and go, “hmmm…that was just…strange”. I recently read a book just like this called “Anya’s Ghost”. Written by Vera Brosgol, the book is mainly intended for a younger age than mine. It is a junior literary guild book.

Brosgol was born in Russia and received a Classical Animation diploma. This book shows her talent. Anya’s Ghost is written in comic book style, which means it is animated and broken into block segments (much like a comic book).

The story follows a young girl, Anya, through a typical day. She is an outsider but wants most of all to fit in. She isn’t quite smart enough, quite athletic enough, quite popular enough and doesn’t quite have the money to fit in with the rest of the teenagers she wants to hang out with.

The adventure begins when she accidentally falls into a well and stumbles onto some bones. The bones belong to another young girl who can’t leave unless someone carries her bones out. Anya does and that is where the trouble begins. The ghost helps Anya get what she wants but at a very high price.

This is a fairly quick read and the comic book style is interesting and refreshing. If you are looking for a light read in between some heavier books, check this one out.

Some other voices on Anya’s Ghost:

Amazon – Positive Review here

Amazon – Not so Positive Review here

Read About Comics Review here

As Catch Can

ascatchcanI read this book in about a two day period.  It was a light read and turned out to be pretty good. Told in 1st person by Jack “Keeper” Marconi, a warden at a maximum security prison, the tale includes greed, envy, back stabbing, cold blooded murder and the occasional reference to male prison encounters ( I’ll leave it at that).

Zandri is pretty effective in character development, but his mental visualizations that he leaves you with are what really makes this book stand out. The flashbacks to Attica that “Keeper” has are still seared onto my brain registered under the file for fear.

This is a good, light read for some “in between” time between more though provoking books.

A Handful of Dust

image“A Handful of Dust” is a welcome read for anyone who has felt love and loss. The book revolves around the marriage and subsequent disintegration of Tony and Brenda Smart, two Bristish aristocrats, who live a comfortable live at an estate in the English Countryside called Hetton. Tony’s life is consumed by this family estate and its upkeep and Brenda who longs for a little more in life and a much more urban lifestyle begins to wander and roam. Enter the reactionary agent, John Beaver, to the infidelity concoction and you have a recipe for a failed marriage.

For a little more than half the book, we see how Brenda and John Beaver sneak behind Tony’s back and assume all is well. Brenda even is bold enough to rent a flat (apartment) in London to say she is pursuing her “Economics” studies. As the book progresses, we see the lie begin to take over the lives of the characters and its cover up gets harder and harder to keep until one tragic moment. I won’t give away what the tragic moment is but it seals the nail in the coffin of what you will think of the characters.

The second half of the book, deals with the aftermath of what happens following the tragedy. The book has two endings, each very different than the other, but neither that leaves the reader with a feeling of well being. Instead, a feeling of shock resides from the first ending and a feeling of deserved revenge follows the second.

One good thing about this book is that Waugh was not writing from inexperience. His first marriage ended from infidelity and he bore the feelings and emotions that have been captured in this book. I highly suggest reading the introduction provided with the Everyman’s edition, however it does give the ending away in a round about fashion. “A Handful of Dust” is not just a book, it is a work of humanity and that is what truly makes this book a classic.

Robots everywhere!

Robots are fascinating to me. I am always amazed when I see the next step in mechanical evolution. Robots have always been the stuff of dreams and nightmares. Friendly robots have been a reminder of machines helpfulness and resourcefulness. After all, who could not love the Jetson’s mechanical nanny, Rosie or Johnny 5 from Short Circuit? But then again, Robots have also been the thing of nightmares for humans as well. From the Terminator to the Decepticons, robots can be menacing and apocalyptic.

All these themes mesh together in Isaac Asimov’s “I, Robot”. A classic of the science fiction genre, I, Robot explores the many dimensions of life with robots. The reader starts with clunky, unintelligent, slave like machines and ends with advanced life forms that have become better than human beings.

The story really seems to be about the creation become greater than the creator. Mankind becomes dependent upon its own creation to make life easier. The book brings up valid questions of how far is too far in our quest to create? Also, is technology tameable?

This is a good book that will make you think and realize how quickly our society is advancing. Perhaps this book will not be science fiction much longer…

Happy Reading!