Lexicon by Max Barry

lexiconLexicon by Max Berry

Published June 18th, 2013 by Penguin Press

Buy this book at: Amazon / Books A Million / Book Depository / B&N


Disclaimer: The publisher provided me a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.  Thank you Penguin!



At an exclusive school somewhere outside of Arlington, Virginia, students aren’t taught history, geography, or mathematics—at least not in the usual ways. Instead, they are taught to persuade. Here the art of coercion has been raised to a science. Students harness the hidden power of language to manipulate the mind and learn to break down individuals by psychographic markers in order to take control of their thoughts. The very best will graduate as “poets”: adept wielders of language who belong to a nameless organization that is as influential as it is secretive.

Whip-smart orphan Emily Ruff is making a living running a three-card Monte game on the streets of San Francisco when she attracts the attention of the organization’s recruiters. She is flown across the country for the school’s strange and rigorous entrance exams, where, once admitted, she will be taught the fundamentals of persuasion by Brontë, Eliot, and Lowell—who have adopted the names of famous poets to conceal their true identities. For in the organization, nothing is more dangerous than revealing who you are: Poets must never expose their feelings lest they be manipulated. Emily becomes the school’s most talented prodigy until she makes a catastrophic mistake: She falls in love.

Meanwhile, a seemingly innocent man named Wil Jamieson is brutally ambushed by two strange men in an airport bathroom. Although he has no recollection of anything they claim he’s done, it turns out Wil is the key to a secret war between rival factions of poets and is quickly caught in their increasingly deadly crossfire. Pursued relentlessly by people with powers he can barely comprehend and protected by the very man who first attacked him, Wil discovers that everything he thought he knew about his past was fiction. In order to survive, must journey to the toxically decimated tow nof Broken Hill, Australia, to discover who he is and why an entire town was blown off the map.

As the two narratives converge, the shocking work of the poets is fully revealed, the body count rises, and the world crashes toward a Tower of Babel event which would leave all language meaningless. Max Barry’s most spellbinding and ambitious novel yet, Lexicon is a brilliant thriller that explores language, power, identity, and our capacity to love—whatever the cost.


Rating: 4 star



The cover of this book drew me in immediately. It intrigued me because it was at once so obscure but also so promising. When I read the synopsis I knew this was a book that I needed to read. As a reader the idea that words have actual physical power is an interesting one. I can honestly say that I have never read another book with a similar premise. This book was awesome. If that’s as far as you get into reading this review, go buy this book, it really is worth it.

If you expect all your books to give you the answers up front, then this probably isn’t the right book for you. I didn’t really know what was going on or where the plot was going for at least half of this book. But I also didn’t really care. All of the action that was going on was so engrossing that I didn’t mind being completely lost at all. Then once the answers started coming together my mind was blown, it was so….twisted, so devious, so awesome.

I had something of a love/hate relationship with the characters in this book. Emily was fantastic, I felt an instant connection to her. She was a great character because she was so relatable that you just want to love her. But as the book progresses you wonder if you might have been horribly misled into rooting for the wrong person all together, and then you come back again to loving her. Emily twisted up my brain a little bit and I liked it. On the other side was Wil, I didn’t really like Wil. I thought that I would like Wil because he has no memory of anything that’s happened to him except that a bunch of people are after him for something inside his head. That idea interested me but ultimately Wil was just bland. He didn’t really do anything and questioned everything at the most inopportune time. When people are running you down with guns is not the time to ask questions about who they are and what they want. By the end of the book I had come around with Wil and started to like him very much. He surprised me in the end and I enjoyed that too.

The plot of this book is just…wow. I won’t say too much about it because I don’t want to give anything away. The idea behind this book was sound. Everyone knows that words have power, it’s the very reason that we have language in the first place. But to imagine that words have actual physical power to compel people into doing what you want was fascinating. It unfolded in ways I never expected and I have to admit that I was stunned by the last quarter of this book. Too many times I sat there thinking, “What the hell was that! I didn’t…really she…but no then he…no way!” Ironic that a book about the power of language left me speechless.


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