I’ve been struggling all weekend to come up with a passable review of Max Barry’s 2013 thriller, Lexicon.  

The problem isn’t because I didn’t like it – I liked it just fine.  As a matter of fact, I quite enjoyed it and thought it was fresh and original, though a bit confusing at times – it’s a fast-paced thriller told in a somewhat roundabout way, starting in the middle of the story, then going back and forth between the beginning of the story, the recent past, and the present.

And it isn’t because I didn’t really understand what was going on – Lexicon is essentially about the power of words, and how, when used correctly by trained individuals with innate abilities, words can persuade, overpower, control, and even kill people.

I guess the problem is, I’m struggling to describe the book without giving it away, which is quite hard to do.

Imagine that by answering 5 simple questions it would be possible to figure out what type of person you are and how your brain works.  Then imagine that everyone can be classified into certain categories, or segments, and that certain words, when spoken out loud, have the power to basically control certain types of people. Words, that, when spoken out loud, will strip you of your brain’s defenses and leave you open to suggestions and commands from other people.

Now, imagine that there are certain types of people who are naturally talented in persuading other people, and that there is an organization that runs a school that recruits these naturally gifted people to train and discipline them in the arts of persuasion.  Recruits who successfully graduate from this school then go on to become “poets,” even changing their names to famous writers’ names, and using their talents in different sectors of society, from market research for enhancing products and services, to teaching students, to politics and influencing world leaders.

That’s basically what Lexicon is about.  But of course, that’s just the foundation of the story.  The story is really about this one girl the organization recruited off the streets.  They saw potential in the girl who was talented but was undisciplined, given her strong survival instincts from living on the streets of San Francisco.  Though she qualified to enter the special school to hone her talents in the art of persuasion and to learn the secret power of words, she did not exactly fit the mold of the school’s ideal student.

It’s also the story of a man, who, surprisingly, survived an incident that he shouldn’t have, who is now being hunted down by the organization to determine how and why he survived.

That’s about all I’m going to tell you about it.  The rest I will leave to you to find out on your own.  I will say though, that this book will grab you and hook you from the start. Many things are unexplained in this book which leaves a lot to the reader’s imagination.   It will confuse you, but that’s a good thing, because it will keep you reading. Somewhere in the middle, it will confuse you some more, which will keep you reading more, until you reach the end, which will surprise and maybe disappoint you a little, but that’s ok, because by that time you had already thoroughly enjoyed reading the whole thing.

Now, for fun, please answer this quick survey:

1.  Are you a cat person or a dog person?

2.  What is your favorite color?

3.  Choose any random number between 1 and 10.

4.  Do you love your family?

5.  Why did you do it?


Lexicon (2013) – Max Barry

Mulholland Books; 387 pages

Personal rating:  3/5

2 thoughts on “Lexicon

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