Lexicon by Max Barry

Lexicon is a tough book to pigeon-hole.  Part thriller, part science fiction, part dystopia and all of it fascinating.  It manages the difficult task of being both wildly entertaining and deeply thought provoking.


Lexicon examines the power of words and language.  The power to influence, persuade and destroy.  It examines how we define ourselves and how our words and language reveal who we are, and having been revealed, make us vulnerable.  The importance of language is as ancient as the existence of the spoken word.  From biblical tales like the tower of babylon, to medieval charlatans to modern times with charismatic cult leaders or great political communicators.  Words can inspire or condemn.


Max Barry imagines a world where powerful people study and unlock the mysteries of language and use it to shape events to their needs.  The most skilled of these people are “poets” who manipulate the unskilled.


The plot is fairly breakneck.  Barry plunges you into the middle of the action leaving you somewhat bewildered as you try to make sense out of what is going on.  The plot jumps forward and backward in time, as well as to the side.  It is not immediately clear how the different storylines are connected, but they slowly converge to a coherent and satisfying conclusion.  The world and the story is revealed, rather than explained.  Strong characters exist throughout, yet uncertainty surrounds each of them as you cannot be sure until the end who they really are, or even if they are who they believe themselves to be.   


Lexicon is both exciting and unsettling.  It is one of those books that worms its way into your mind and lingers there.  It makes you think not only about the story itself, but about what truths it has revealed about human nature.  This is an extraordinary book and is one to be experienced as much as enjoyed.  Highly recommended.

I was fortunate to receive an advance copy of this book.


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