Author: Max Barry
Genre: Science Fiction/Thriller
Publication Date: June 18, 2013
Format: Hardcover, 400 Pages
ISBN-10: 1594205388 (Penguin)
ISBN-13: 978-1594205385 (Penguin)
Reviewed by: Candy
At an exclusive school somewhere outside of Arlington, Virginia, students aren’t taught history, geography, or mathematics—at least not in the usual ways. Instead, they are taught to persuade. Here the art of coercion has been raised to a science .Students harness the hidden power of language to manipulate the mind and learn to break down individuals by psychographic markers in order to take control of their thoughts. The very best will graduate as “poets”: adept wielders of language who belong to a nameless organization that is as influential as it is secretive.
Whip-smart orphan Emily Ruff is making a living running a three-card Monte game on the streets of San Francisco when she attracts the attention of the organization’s recruiters. She is flown across the country for the school’s strange and rigorous entrance exams, where, once admitted, she will be taught the fundamentals of persuasion by Brontë, Eliot, and Lowell—who have adopted the names of famous poets to conceal their true identities. For in the organization, nothing is more dangerous than revealing who you are: Poets must never expose their feelings lest they be manipulated. Emily becomes the school’s most talented prodigy until she makes a catastrophic mistake: She falls in love.
Meanwhile, a seemingly innocent man named Wil Jamieson is brutally ambushed by two strange men in an airport bathroom. Although he has no recollection of anything they claim he’s done, it turns out Wil is the key to a secret war between rival factions of poets and is quickly caught in their increasingly deadly crossfire. Pursued relentlessly by people with powers he can barely comprehend and protected by the very man who first attacked him, Wil discovers that everything he thought he knew about his past was fiction. In order to survive, must journey to the toxically decimated tow nof Broken Hill, Australia, to discover who he is and why an entire town was blown off the map.
As the two narratives converge, the shocking work of the poets is fully revealed, the body count rises, and the world crashes toward a Tower of Babel event which would leave all language meaningless. Max Barry’s most spellbinding and ambitious novel yet, Lexicon is a brilliant thriller that explores language, power, identity, and our capacity to love—whatever the cost.
Quick & Dirty: Did you know that words could be more deadly than we could ever imagine? Read Max Berry’s book Lexicon to see just how deadly they can be.
Opening Sentence: “He’s coming around.”
This story is about an organization and a school where they teach people how to use words to persuade others to do things just by saying a few things and then telling them what to do. These people are called Poets. When Poets become advanced in their training enough, they change their names to those of famous Poets so no one can use their true names against them. One child with Poet potential is a girl named Emily Ruff who lives on the streets and uses cards to survive. When the Poets find her, her whole life changes drastically. Also swept up in a battle between the Poets is a man named Wil Parke, who has no memory of who he is or why these people who call themselves Poets are interested in him.
I had a very hard time getting through this book. The first thirty pages were very confusing for me. The story begins with a character who we are not introduced to waking up with two guys standing over him with a needle in his eye. After a very heated chase there was some random pages discussing what had happened and then a page about trains and how they make you use smart cards to ride them so the government could track you. I never figured out why this was important and throughout the book there were other random “posts”. If the posts were removed the story would have made it somewhat easier to follow. Also, it was hard to follow at times because they would jump from one time to another; I had to read for a while to understand if the characters were talking about the past or the present.
I believe that Max Berry has a very good concept with this book and when I wasn’t having a hard time following the story, I actually really liked it. It was a bit gruesome in spots but it was action packed and further into the book you learn something important that just makes you say wow, and want to finish the story to see how it turns out. The idea that words can actually be used to take your will from you is a scary but fascinating thought, and I liked how Barry showed how people could learn to persuade others to do things they never would have otherwise, even kill themselves.
The Poets are scary when you think about it. They can be anyone and they can take away your free will. The worst part is that they have trained themselves to have no feelings so they are not bothered when they hurt others. Two of these Poets include Yeats and Eliot. Eliot is on one side of the Poets and Yeats the other. Eliot is a friend of Emily and tries to help her as much as possible. He is also on the run with Wil as they out run Yeats and others who would hurt them. Yeats is the scariest type of Poet. He has totally shut off his emotions, if he ever had them. He wants to rule all of the Poets and the world. To do this he will need both Emily and Wil. Whether he needs them dead or alive though, is debatable.
I really liked Emily Ruff. She was so full of spunk and even though her life was not easy, she did not give up and let it beat her. Instead she learned how to survive on the street and in the world of the Poets. I wanted Emily to receive everything she wanted and get off the streets. Even when no one else thought that she would amount to anything she proves them wrong and perseveres. Wil Parke was a good male lead. At first I wasn’t sure I was going to like him. He seemed too weak, but as the story progressed he became more likeable. His whole life is changed when he is noticed by the Poets because he is special and they want him so they can figure out what makes him special. He is on the run because if he stops running they may just kill him to get what they want. Wil is more special than he or anyone else knows though.
This book was hard for me to get through, but it was worth reading. I do believe that if Max Berry was to remove some of the extra posts and had time stamps maybe this would be a great story to read over and over again.
“I’m Sorry! I won’t tell.” He was halfway across, paused between lanes, his face thick with anger. He waited for a car, threw a glance to his right and ran at her. She screamed, Kassonin!”
His head jerked. He stopped. For a moment he was a child. Then he came back. She saw shock in his eyes and outrage and fear. She was transfixed by his face. Then a car swept him away. She shrieked and couldn’t hear herself over the tires.
FTC Advisory: Penguin provided me with a copy of Lexicon. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.
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