Book Review: Lexicon

Lexicon, by Max Barry

This is a fascinating book whose depth and dark turns have only been hinted at in previous novels by the author, and it is precisely the sort of book that one would want to see in film as a deep, thoughtful film that relates spiritual and historical themes to contemporary concerns about privacy and free will.  Without a doubt, this book is both relevant in that it deals with serious questions about cover-ups by political authorities as well as the desire of companies to profit from understanding one’s personal motivations [1] and the book is also compelling in that it tells a fascinating tale of people that one cares about dealing with issues of language and communication that this reader at least cares a lot about.  With a discussion of linguistics as well as a look into news articles about the behavior of businesses and political consultants who wish to compromise one’s freedom of thought and choice through targeted appeals that bypass the filters of reason, this book presents a very scary face for the way that people wish to work together and cooperate for common ends and how these desires are easily turned into something dark and twisted by others.

The plot of this book is really a double plot that keeps the reader guessing, perhaps correctly and perhaps not, about where it is going to go looking at two connected people with a complicated sense of identity.  On the one hand we have Emily Ruff, a young runaway who makes her money on a three card monte scam until she gains admission into a school that seeks to train people as “poets” to use their minds as a weapon and to seek to understand how to use language to control ordinary sheeple.  Meanwhile, in the other plot a young man is found that is immune to the control words of others and finds himself in danger as people want to kill him for this immunity to control.  The two plots are connected by love and by mysterious events that occurred in a fictional Australian town called Broken Hill where the use of a “bareword” led to the death of more than three thousand people and the specter of a massive effort to control and destroy humanity on biblical levels, which obviously causes a lot of people to be interested in such matters and drives the plot to its satisfying and surprising conclusion.

What makes this novel so enjoyable is that it brings pleasure on several different levels.  For one, the book has as compelling plot and characters that we care about, all of which makes this novel one worth reading and an easy book to enjoy.  In addition to this pleasure, though, the author has clearly thought seriously about issues of language and communication and how we simultaneously long for and fear love and intimacy and want to influence others while remaining beyond the influence of those who we do not trust.  This book takes that schizoid tendency of our times, along with some very insightful thoughts about language and the workings of the mind, and turns it into a compelling book that even makes a humorous reference to the game based on Jennifer Government.  Readers who enjoy a tale whose importance and whose enjoyment level are both high will find much to appreciate and ponder here and may wonder why it is that the author felt it necessary to thank those people willing to read a book like this in its closing acknowledgements section.  Some thanks are due to the author for having crafted such a thoughtful and excellent book as this one.

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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