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review 2016-08-22 01:21
[Book Review] Lexicon
Lexicon - Max Barry

Lexicon is a book about words, about using them to manipulate and control the world around you.  About power, balances, and relationships.

In some ways Lexicon is a light thriller with a unique premise.  In other ways it is a very complex and multilayered story.  Part of my reason for picking it as a book club read was that I knew I would be able to read this quickly, something I generally need in July, and it delivered.

My discussion questions are limited, but ones that are tied deeply to the narrative itself, and questions that are not necessarily insubstantial on their own.

Discussion Fodder

  • What issues does Lexicon bring up in regards to privacy and personal data?  "But what bothers me is how HARD they're all working for that data, how much money they're spending, and how they never admit that's what they want."
  • Words have power, what are the different ways this story explores it?  What ways do they have power in your life and the world at large?
  • How do words shape our conceptions and understanding?
  • Is there a hero of the story?
Source: libromancersapprentice.blogspot.com/2016/08/book-review-lexicon.html
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review 2016-04-08 13:59
Interesting premise but failed execution.
Jennifer Government - Max Barry

In the future, we're all run by giant corporations in a large free market economy. Things like law enforcement are actually outsourced to private organizations. Companies are willing to KILL people (as in, murder them) to hike their sales. People take the last names of the companies they work for (and change them if they change companies). It seems all and well and fine and we get the glimpse of this future when a young woman is killed at the release of a new product.


Then we're off. The story and the ideas behind it were okay. In light of the current election and looking at stories of tax evasion and breaking up big banks and yadda yadda, this seemed like an interesting take on the dystopian future. But it never quite gelled together for me.


The author takes us through various viewpoints, switching them between a bunch of characters (including some minor ones). At first I was willing to go along with it but after awhile it got a bit old for me. It also stunted the character development; as in there was just about none or it was VERY predictable. I very easily figured out the identify one of character's father (which wasn't all that important to the overall plot and it was hinted on early) but the predictable plotlines of these characters didn't make for very compelling reading.


One thing I particularly didn't like was a female character who started off okay, maybe distant to her boyfriend. Then as soon as they physically separate due to the story plot she just deteriorates from there and her former boyfriend ends up with someone else. I felt sorry for her towards the end until she undertakes a really desperate act and it just felt like the author needed her to be a villain of sorts perhaps to make the guy look better in comparison (and to justify his choice).


As a concept it was certainly interesting. I'd say if you were a fan of books like '1984' or 'Brave New World' this is definitely a book to borrow from the library. I didn't regret borrowing it since it was a nice change-up but at the same time I wouldn't rush out to read this either.



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review 2015-05-20 00:00
Lexicon - Max Barry Lexicon is, at it's heart, a story about neurolinguistic programming and what happens when a group of people not only have access to its power, but keep it a secret from the rest of the human race. It's clever, weaving in recent politics and societal trends into the framework of conspiracy, and painting a Darwinian picture of the nature of such a society within society.

The neurolinguistic aspects of the story hark back to Neal Stephenson's brilliant Snow Crash, but this is a very different beast. Absent the futuristic dystopia, any reference to a cyberpunk like "cyberspace", this is a novel set very much in "contemporary" times with contemporary technology.

Absent too is much of the wry humour of Stephenson's Snow Crash, making this a much darker and far more brutal novel than the former.

That said, it is a thought provoking page-turner that grabs the reader with the initial questions and doesn't let go, dragging us through an adrenaline filled present interspaced with chapters of a fascinating past, and challenging us to guess how we got here from there - until all threads are tidily, and satisfactorily, resolved in the climax and denouement.

There is great tragedy in what is in some ways an epic, blood-stained love story, contrasted against another, very sad one.

In short, brilliant. Read it.
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review 2015-04-23 15:19
Lexicon - Max Barry

Read this and thought to myself: what an underwhelming ending, which has been happening a lot lately with my recent reads. But let me just talk about the rest of the novel.

I wasn’t a huge fan of the main characters when I first met them, but both started growing on me as the narration began revealing their motives. I didn’t particularly care about one of the main antagonists until much later when it was pretty obviously revealed that they are, in fact, behind it all. What was great about the book was that it was told by a dual perspective and the reason I know it was written well was how I didn’t want to stop reading from either character’s perspective once I began their chapter. 

I read this book quite quickly once I finished exams, because there are many chapters that end with this cliffhanger-y, mind-splosions. Basically leaving you with this general feeling:


I had no attachment for the love interest, and I think the author meant for it to feel very distanced and as part of the lexicon coding the organization members’ use. Basically it left you feeling untrusting of just about anyone, not knowing who is honest and who is loyal to whom. If you enjoy books that make you suspicious of everyone, have a ‘big-brother is watching’ vibe, then this book will certainly satisfy!

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review 2014-09-08 10:28
Lexicon - Max Barry

Max Barry is now one of my "I think I'll read everything he's written" authors.


I've been reading science fiction for decades, so I know how rare it is to come across a book like "Lexicon" which has not just a new ideas, but a clever, well-thought through plot, written by someone who is skilled at dialogue, characterisation and action scenes and  who can unfold the story in a way that engages the reader's intellect and emotions.


The basic premise of "Lexicon"  is that words have the power to control how we think and behave and that this power can be shaped into a weapon by those with the right skills.


The characters constantly explain how influence and manipulation work: get someone to pay attention to the wrong thing, play on their emotions to shape their perception of good and evil, understand their personality and then pry their psyche apart. Despite this, it took me several chapters to realize that Max Barry had been manipulating me from the first page onwards.He did it by controlling the order in which I received information, who I received it from and the emotional terms used to convey it. At least twice in the novel I had to reset what I thought I knew to be true. Barry didn't cheat. All the information correctly to understand what is going on is there but my own assumptions make me see one thing and read another.


A book that is about weaponising  words is likely to appeal to those of us with a recreational addiction to fiction. We KNOW words have power, so we are ripe for the ideas in this novel. If, like me, you've been trained in NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming), public speaking, influencing skills, psychometric assessment and you read tarot cards and palms as a party trick, then the early parts of this book are frighteningly familiar. The book takes what I know I can do and then asks me to imagine what a motivated person, with REAL talent, no social ties, no inhibitions and the support of an organization with generations of research at their disposal, could achieve.


"Lexicon" is filled with coercion, violence and killing from the first page. Max Barry doesn't pull his punches but he doesn't turn the violence into pornography either. He makes it too real and too repulsive for that.


His main evil-incarnate character is suitably chilling but I could write that off as stereo-type. Elliot and Emily I got to know and like and care about, so what they did, to others, to each other and to themselves had much more impact.


My only niggle with the book is the last chapter. It's not where I would have gone with this. It felt like the kind of thing Hollywood might have changed in the movie version to ensure they stayed firmly in the summer blockbuster segment. But then, I'd never have thought up something as clever and powerful as "Lexicon" in the first place, so I'll go with Barry's judgement.


I listened to "Lexicon" as an audiobook, which, I think, made the book even more exciting. Zach Appleman did a splendid job as the rugged, world-weary, Elliot. His American accents are perfect and he at least managed to sound like he'd been to Australia.  Heather Corrigan was marvellous at evoking Emily's vulnerability and her strength but her attempts at Australian accents ranged from unconvincing to inappropriately hilarious. Nevertheless, both narrators kept me listening, often on the edge of my seat.

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