Friday, May 10, 2013

Review: Lexicon

Lexicon by Max Barry, to be released June 18, 2013 by Penguin Press.

Before I went to grad school for library science, I got an undergraduate degree in Linguistics. There was a brief period of time when I strongly considered becoming a linguist. It was only a few weeks long because it is hard to beat back a lifelong dream. Thrillers aren't usually my favorite genre, but I could not resist the linguistic twist.

Bottom Line: Exciting fun book, recommended for most library collections. Will appeal to fans of "smart" thrillers with a bit of a sci-fi element (in movie terms Inception and The Matrix).

In Lexicon, Barry creates a secret organization acting behind the scenes of our own world to control us all. The "poets" use linguistic control, specifically words at the root of language, to manipulate people and events. They maintain a school to train the most gifted students to be future poets, a school of extreme intelligence, competition, and unrest. It's a fascinating concept and the linguist/scifi reader in me really wanted it further fleshed out. We get the sketches of how it is used on a one to one level, but not how it could be implemented on society on a broader level.

The story begins with one normal man kidnapped at an airport parking lot by two poets fighting other poets. His story, the in-fighting, and the fall from grace of one of the most talented students are all interwoven as they all try to locate and control a word with the same power as a nuclear weapon.

Very exciting book. Perhaps I should read more action packed/thriller style books because I could hardly put this down as we raced from one confrontation to another. I would recommend this to anyone who likes smart-action with a slight sci fi bent (think Jason Bourne or Michael Crichton). My only complaint (besides wanting the concept better fleshed out) is that we switched back and forth through timelines (much of the story is told in flashbacks) quickly and I was confused once or twice.

Overall it's a great choice for a summer read, better option for travel then carrying the latest Dan Brown like everyone else. It was the first adult book I read post-Newbery, I actually read it on the plane on the way home from the conference. I happily passed along my advanced reader copy (picked up in January at ALA Midwinter) to several people who all enjoyed it.

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