review: Lexicon by Max Barry



Lexicon: a novel by Max Barry is the story of Emily, of love, of words, of a prep school for the brilliant and persuasive. Lexicon is another slap to the brain by Max Barry that has me still thinking about it a week after I turned the final page.

Emily is a homeless street performer who is found and picked up by recruits from a secret prep school outside Washington, DC that turns teens with powers of persuasion into adults with the ability to control government leaders, lovers, doormen, and everyone in between. They get what they want and all they have to do is know the right string of non-nonsensical (to us) words that will work on any given person. They analyze people, then compromise them using lethal words. Emily learned how to do that, then was punished for using it for personal gain. What happened next makes up a seriously twisted story that only Barry could produce.

Max Barry wrote one of my favorite effed-up books Machine Man. No, for reals, the book is twisted. Charles uses his own body as a the guinea pig for developing the most advanced prosthetic limbs. Lexicon follows suite in that Emily uses her power for herself, and behaves compulsively in doing so, so consumed by her love for Harry. It’s both fascinating and terrifying, because she is, for all intents and purposes, a normal person. She finds a power and uses it to her advantage. We all do that. But hers, and the power all of “the poets” have is so much more powerful than anything we regular folks could deign to conceive.

Recommended for: 
I had to re-read a few passages because I couldn’t easily follow some of the explanation of the Poets’ abilities. Therefore, this novel isn’t for quick readers who want to plow through a story. It takes time, because you need to read every word. Max Barry packs so much into each sentence; skipping one could ruin the story.

Other books by Max Barry, or The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes for it’s similar creepiness and descriptive storytelling.

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