Sunday, July 14, 2013

Bookshelf, Library Bag, or Donation Box

In Bookshelf, Library Bag, or Donation Box, our Tators give their verdict on the books they read, whether they're keepers for the shelves, one you borrow from your local library, or just give to your local used bookstore.

Photo credit: Penguin USA
The story begins by following the lives of an unsuspecting man waiting in an airport, Wil Parke, and a young street hustler named Emily Ruff. There's been an incident in the rural Australian town of Broken Hill, where the entire population of thousands have been wiped out. Rumor has it that only one man walked away: the outlier.

At first blush, Lexicon is a novel about the power of words -- the way in which they can be wielded to control people. But not just anyone can use their powers of observation and persuasion this way; only a select few who are admitted into a secret school focused on teaching students to hone their skills through the study of classic literature, psychology, and linguistics even have a chance. They must spend many years of rigorous study, discipline, and constant testing to become masters. The masters of words are called Poets and are named after famous authors like T.S. Eliot, Virginia Woolf, and Emily Brontë. Some work for the school while others work for organizations related to the school but the details of the organization's purpose and true function are unclear.

Lexicon makes for a good summer read. Partly because of the love story, which is the real pulse of the novel, and  the importance of love in our lives -- how it keeps us human. Also, the book is well-paced and most will churn through its 400 pages quickly. There's a nice mix of adventure and introspection that keep the story moving.

With that being said, the novel had a few problems. In Lexicon, words and phrases are means of control and persuasion over others. It was disappointing to discover that these words were just a mishmash of letters -- made up words and phrases. I was expecting something more than that, especially from a book filled with clever nods to classic works and authors. Another factor that made Lexicon a borrow, rather than buy, type of book was that it was difficult to follow, especially in regards to the dialogue in the last third of the book. Often, the dialogue wasn't linear in the typical "person A speaks" then "person B speaks" fashion and made it difficult to distinguish who was saying or thinking what.

If you're looking for a smart, fast-paced summer read with a hint of science fiction, this book is for you. 

Verdict: Library Bag

Learn more about Max Barry and his other books at his websitelike him on Facebookfollow him on Twitter. If you're interested in politics and/or international relations, check out NationStates.

*A copy of Max Barry's Lexicon was provided by the publisher via

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