Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Lexicon by Max Barry

Title: Lexicon
Author: Max Barry
Genre: Thriller/Science Fiction/Fantasy

Maturity Rating: 13+
*Graphic scenes, but more than manageable for high level teen readers*
Overall Rating:

My Quickie Synopsis: Wil Jamieson finds himself in the center of a war that he cannot comprehend; there are people who can wield words as weapons, bending the world around them to their will. Caught in a tug of war between the two factions, Wil must fight to survive and uncover his hidden past before it's too late.

Enjoyment Factor: 

This is one of those books that grabs you by the collar on the very first page and dares you to look away. It's pretty balls-to-the-wall from the get go. It's uncomfortable. It's fantastic. It's bizarre. It's thought-provoking. There's a reason why the likes of TIME Magazine and NPR are shouting its high praises as one of the best reads from 2013. And yes, I know. It's 2014, but that doesn't make this book any less stellar. You know how in high school, or college (if you took certain liberal arts courses) you had to read books and write book reports? Yeah, this is a book that makes me want to write a book report. There's so much to discuss and I'm already having a hard time not jumping right into any highfalutin BS that you didn't come here to read. The premise is extraordinarily smart and edgy and it makes sense. Words have always held power, but their power is much more immediate and tangible in Mr. Barry's imagined world.
Start to think about why words, even images, affect you the way that they do.
But let's step aside from the intellectual side of Lexicon for a moment, shall we? I want to point out that Mr. Barry presents a highly entertaining read. You don't have to dig deeper to find the "greater meaning" of the book to enjoy it. It's an action-packed roller coaster ride of adventure and even if you only give it a surface read, it more than blows away most expectations for a good sci-fi thriller.

Technical Rating: 

Character Building:
I am not entirely certain how I feel about the main characters. I'm not sure whether my indecision is due to weak development, or just a general sense of unease about their attributes. That being said, the reason why I ultimately downgraded this particular rating had nothing to do with the protagonist(s) of the tale. The antagonist felt grossly glossed over. The announcement of the villain felt underwhelming in many ways, and truth be told, it detracted from the story.

Plot Strength:
For the most part (I'm talking a solid majority kind of part) I loved the plot. However, there are a lot of vague concepts that are never fully explained. I'm going to go ahead and say that the fuzzy "what the what?" feelings that Lexicon provides are purposeful; I think one of the main points to the tale is that you'll never fully understand every how or every why. Just like it's nearly impossible to wrap your mind around the why and the how of words affecting people the way that they do. Sure, you can give a technical explanation by going into the details of the brain and its mechanics, but after a certain level, you'll be left grasping at straws. Anyway, I'm starting to get into that highfalutin BS I promised I wouldn't get into, so let me just say why I didn't give this category a full star: the ending. It's such a cop-out! I actually felt a little shortchanged. Here I was, completely invested in what was going on, even though at times the story crumbled under its own weight. And then, BAM! A watered down ending that felt like Mr. Barry just wanted to be done with writing.

Terrible ending aside, I think the sincerity was spot on. The way the plot was set up, I could see the events as having plausibility. And the characters felt like they belonged in that crazy world with their super secret war raging.

I caught a couple of strange typos, but I'm going to chalk it up to E-book conversion. 
By the way, I haven't made any serious note about this, but I do generally read books in some kind of e-book format. At the moment it's just the more economically sound decision!

As I said before, Lexicon was a roller coaster ride, and the pacing reflected that. It picked up where it needed to and slowed down when it was appropriate for the tone of the events.

My Icing on Top:
So this review had been finished. And then it didn't save properly and I lost about half of it; I just can't catch a freaking break! I do feel slightly bad about getting back to re-writing it so long after the fact, but I owe you all quite a few reviews at this point! Anyway, go read Lexicon if you're looking for your summer fix. It's an intelligent story that will have you glued to the pages (or screen) until the very end. And if you're the type that likes to discuss the deeper meanings of books, hit me up! I'd love to discuss this with you :)

Check out my informal review on Goodreads!

Happy reading!


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