Lexicon, Max Barry

Oh what a fun book this was. What a completely fun and enjoyable book. Kerry from Entomology of a Bookworm described it as “part X-Men Academy, part ode to the power of language, part action novel,” which is a pretty perfect description of the book.

The beginning: A man called Wil is abducted from an airport by two men he has never seen before, men who are convinced that he knows a secret they desperately need. Meanwhile, a sixteen-year-old street kid called Emily is recruited by a mysterious organization whose members learn to control others with something that looks like a combination of persuasion and magic words.

The end (spoilers in this section only; highlight the blank spaces if you want them): This ending really made me work for the information I wanted, which is another way of saying I wish I’d read a physical copy of this instead of an ebook. I had to flip around to find out what I wanted to know. Turns out it’s a good news/bad news situation. Bad news is, Eliot dies. Good news is, the bad guy gets defeated and the surviving good guys (Emily and Harry) live happily ever after (ish). You can’t win them all.

The whole: I’m struggling to figure out what to say about Lexicon (affiliate links: Amazon, B&N, Book Depository) apart from how fun it was to read. As a straightforward thriller type book, as a delightfully convincing conspiracy theory type book, it is so stylishly, effortlessly fun and cool that I looked forward to my subway rides just because I knew I’d get to read it then.

Balancing two storylines of whose connection the reader is not sure is a challenging proposition, and Barry rises to it wonderfully. At the beginning, Wil’s storyline is nonstop action, with Wil and his captors struggling to get out of one car-chase situation after another. Emily’s storyline gives the reader some breathing space while filling in some blanks about who these “poets” are, what they do, and–eventually–why their organization might be collapsing in on itself. When Wil and his kidnappers have time to slow down a little, Emily’s story picks up, and it’s her fate you’re following most breathlessly.

As an end-reader, it pleased me that Barry tips his hand early about the relationship between Emily’s story and Wil’s, but if you are all about suspense maybe you will mind that. I think even if you figure out early on what’s happening, there’s still plenty of mystery to keep you turning the pages.

Has anyone read anything else by Max Barry? Are his other books as much fun as Lexicon?

Cover report: American cover wins! It does more at conveying the tone of the book, with all the words and the weirdness about words.

12 thoughts on “Lexicon, Max Barry”

  1. Meta comment: spoilery sections show up in the Feedly reader! I don’t mind, but I do the font change too for spoilery things in my posts. Who knew? Wonder why Feedly doesn’t register that?

    1. Ugh, I know. I’m not sure what to do about it. The spoilery sections didn’t show up in Google Reader! I miss Google Reader! I’ve tried to compensate by saying HERE ARE SPOILERS DO NOT READ THEM.

      Hope you noticed the American cover is best here! Not always the British cover wins.

  2. I agree about the cover. The second is pretty standard, but the first leaps out at you. I haven’t heard of the book or the author, but it sounds like something I’d enjoy.

    1. You DO want it in your face. I started reading it like five minutes after I read the review of it on Entomology of a Bookworm, and I was immediately like, I am happy that I am putting this into my brain right now.

  3. I gave Mr Litlove Company by Max Barry a few years back and he enjoyed it a lot. This new one sounds very cool, and like something I will have to get my hands on.

    1. Did he? Because I enjoyed this tremendously — just such a fun book — and I wondered about Max Barry’s other books and whether they were equivalently delightful.

  4. Jennifer Government was a lot of fun too. Am currently reading Company, which I am enjoying. But Lexicon is still my favorite.

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