Book Review: Lexicon – Max Barry

Lexicon coverTitle: Lexicon
Author: Max Barry
ISBN: 9781594205385
Pages: 400
Release Date: June 18, 2013
Publisher: The Penguin Press
Genre: Literary Fiction
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 4.5 out of 5


Words are powerful. We’ve all been taught this as long as we can remember. But what if words had an actual, tangible power, and you could gain the ability to make people do things against their will, just by knowing the correct words and phrases? Wil Jamieson knows absolutely nothing about this mysterious world of words. He’s introduced to it in the roughest of manners, after being attacked at an airport. But Emily Ruff, recruited off the streets as a teenager, knows exactly how much power words have and knows how to wield them to devastating effect.

Snapshot Review:

Smart, sharp, and witty, Max Barry’s Lexicon is an unexpected thrill ride cloaked in a literary premise. Barry explores the idea of words having power through two very different, but equally interesting, characters; readers won’t be able to put this book down.

Full Review:

It’s hard to find a novel with a unique premise these days, but Max Barry somehow manages to unearth one his his creative literary thriller Lexicon. From the beginning, the idea of it is enough to make any devoted reader swoon: words are powerful. Like really powerful. Like they can kill people powerful. It’s an awesome idea, and one that Barry writes very well. It’s a literary novel, but is never slow or difficult, as so many are. It really is a thrill ride: smart, funny, and entirely appealing.

Lexicon is narrated primarily by two different people: Emily, in the past, and Wil, in the present. Emily is a character that readers will absolutely love. She’s smart, and she knows it. When her story first begins, she’s living on the streets, but she knows she’s too good for that and gets by on her wits alone. Someone comes along, and seeing the promise in Emily, whisks her away to a school in Northern Virginia. There, she begins to thrive, as she learns about words and what they can do to people. Readers see both the good and bad sides of Emily; she’s not perfect, but she is completely believable.

Juxtaposed against the wonderful academic setting that Emily inhabits is Wil’s thriller of a story in Lexicon. Why has he been attacked? What’s his connection to Emily and recent events? This information unfolds slowly, but that doesn’t mean the story lags. Wil jumps from one locale to another as he tries to piece things together and understand what’s going on around him. It’s incredibly well done and keeps the plot moving forward at a breathtaking pace.

While Lexicon is a smart novel, one that will make you think and use your brain on every page, it’s not by any means a difficult read. In fact, it reads like a thriller; you won’t be able to put this novel down as you race through its pages. Combining those two isn’t an easy feat, yet Barry seems to have pulled it off with ease and grace. I’ve heard great things about Max Barry in general, and I’m glad they’ve been affirmed by this great novel. I look forward to going back and reading his previous works as I eagerly anticipate his next release.

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