Saturday, March 29, 2014

Lexicon by Max Barry
Released: June 2013

I fell in love with Max Barry's work while reading Syrup almost 10 years ago. I loved his quirky characters and his fresh, dark and twisted writing style. So of course when Penguin contacted me to review Lexicon, it was easy to say yes!

Voted one of the best books of 2013 by a number of different publications, Lexicon is a thriller about the power of words and their ability to persuade. The novel kicks off following Wil Jamieson, a man who lands at an American airport and has completely forgotten his identity. Wil is then ambushed by two men in the airport bathroom who question him about what he knows about a particular dangerous word. After he begins to regain some of his memory, Wil escapes to Australia to learn more about his identity.

Meanwhile, a parallel storyline follows Emily Ruff - a young woman who relies on card tricks to get by living on the streets of San Francisco. Emily's persuasive mannerisms attract the attention of recruiters from a special school located in Arlington, Virginia - a school in which students are taught to persuade others using a series of powerful words.

As the end of Lexicon nears, we learn more about the link between Wil and Emily in a denouement that rings of near-apocalypse. It's also reiterated that love continues to conquer all.

Although I wasn't entirely pleased with the conclusion of Lexicon, I will say that this novel is clever and original, and that it's easy to see why it garnered the attention of critics the world over. The concept of the plot is genius - words really can persuade and influence people when you use and manipulate them in a certain manner, so I loved that Barry was able to turn this concept into a smart novel.

I've always enjoyed Barry's dark, satiric style, which reminds me much of that of Chuck Palahniuk's, of whom I am also a major fan. However, I felt that Lexicon's story fell short toward the end when Emily's falling in love changes her mission. I understand what Barry was trying to do, but there is just too much going on in this book to fully appreciate his message.

Lexicon is intense all the way through, though Barry still manages to throw in some satire here and there - especially in regards to a few deadly and persuasive words: "Vartix velkor mannik wissick!"

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