Lexicon – Max Barry



If SFX magazine gives a book 5/5, I tend to take note. SF needs an exciting kick up the backside and, based on hype, I thought this could be it.

Book Description

Words are weapons, and one man is immune in this dazzlingly original thriller from the author of Jennifer Government.


The novel’s other thread follows a young man named Wil, who awakes on the first page with a needle in his eyeball and two men threatening him. One of the men, Eliot (T.S Eliot) tells Wil he was a part of an organization called the Poets who wield words as powerful forms of control. He also tells him a Poet called Virginia Woolf, who unleased something called a bareword, killing thousands in a small town in the Australian outback, wants him dead because the bareword had no effect on Wil. The second follows Emily, a street magician, who is enrolled in a school for promising young students ran by the Poets, where they are trained to control people’s minds and actions with particular combinations of words. Early on this takes a Derren Brown style, with Emily using her words and actions for powers of persuasion and influence, but as her powers grow she learns just how dangerous words can be.

There are a few really good points to this book. I thought at first I had another Harry Potter on my hands, with a fun magical school for Emily to attend, but the book distances itself from any thought of magic and focuses on the persuasion aspects. Also the book is brilliantly structured, with really good tension building jumps back and forth. T S Eliot’s character is a great action thriller loner type, with some depressing skeletons in the closet but unfortunately, for interesting points about this book, I run out here.

I did enjoy it, but for me it’s nothing to get too excited about. I didn’t really relish the company of any of the characters and the plot twisted in predictable ways to form an unfortunately predictable outcome. It’s a shame really, I could have fallen victim to Lexicon’s hype but I think I’ve just read too many books of a similar standard and a great idea doesn’t always translate into a great book.

I encourage you to go out and try this one for yourself though and I’d love to hear what you think.

Lexicon is published by Mulholland and is available now.


Filed under Book Reviews

9 responses to “Lexicon – Max Barry

  1. I read Company by Max Barry last year and it was a great idea that just didn’t translate in to a great book as well. Perfectly readable, vaguely enjoyable but completely forgettable. I was disappointed. Have you read Jennifer Government? Is it good?

    • More of the same here. I don’t like how this has been hyped as the savior of SF. It’s not even close to good enough. I’ve not and wont if i’m being honest 🙂

  2. Have just put in a request to my local library. I love the idea. Will let you how I go.

  3. I love the concept of this book and I’ve wanted to read it so badly for a while now, but this is not the first ‘meh’ review I’ve seen of it. I just read “The Word Exchange” which was also a hyped science fiction story about the power of language/words, and that wasn’t that great either. =/ I love the concept though!

    • The concept is great and its a good book, just not the saviour of SF. The reason why the industry loves it is unfortunately the subject matter. Wordy’s love words 🙂 Give it a try though I’d love to hear what you think

  4. I read this one a while back. It was a decent, fun romp, but some of the back & forth narrative timelines threw me off – it was an ARC so perhaps they’ve tweaked the formatting. I’ve also got The Word Exchange on my TBR pile, so I’ll be interested to see how that goes after Kali’s comments above!

  5. The more I read the more I realised what an enormous task he’d given himself and how far he was falling short of it. It felt like about three different books to me – grungy action with lots of gore, true romance with handsome paramedic, and true geek with big chunks of information download – “meaning is an abstraction of characteristics common to the class of objects to which it applies” and so forth. This isn’t a genre I normally read though, so maybe I’m just hopelessly out of touch with the norm.

    • I 100% agree with you. I like the idea but the execution wasn’t great. For SF I would say it is standard. Glad you got your own perspective on this though. I know a few people that love it.

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