Week 28: Lexicon by Max Barry

I posted an image to my previous blog post from The Hundred-Foot Journey that said “cooking is not a tired old marriage, it is a passionate affair.” For me, reading is the same way, and I am embarrassed to say it has been about three weeks since I posted my last review- needless to say I have a lot of catching up to do. NO, I haven’t stopped keeping up with the one book-per-week challenge. I got dat shit on lock. No, I wasn’t rendered comatose by a failed ALS ice bucket challenge and unable to continue. I wouldn’t dump a bucket of ice on my head if Lou Gehrig himself asked me to. I simply hit a slump in my reading where my recent book choices have just not been as fantastic as they used to. Every week up until the last few have been absolutely fantastic, and I have recently been dragged back to a cold world where sarcastic critics and imperfect writers exist, and that has been pretty uncool. This week, I encountered a novel that was ambitious, seemingly up my alley, but in my groundbreaking yet humble opinion fell short of its potential.

 The word Lexicon is a word that basically means all the words a single person is able to pull from their own brain and use knowledgeably, sort of like their own personal vocabulary. One thing I liked about this novel is how cleverly the title was chosen. In this book, the number of words you know, and how good you are at using them, might just save your life. Sounds interesting right?

Somewhere in the world, much in the way that Hogwarts is hidden from the public school system, there is a secret school that is teaching their students far more important things than math, biology, or dare I say it, physical education. These students, called Poets, are being taught to persuade. The underlying premise of Lexicon is that there are hidden words in language that can be used to unlock the minds of us muggles and control our thoughts- but first a Poet needs to discover what type of personality category a person falls into. Max Barry decided that the best way to decode the human mind into various types is by asking questions like, “What is your favorite color?”“Pick a number between 1 and 100”, or my personal favorite, “Are you a dog person or cat person?”

See my problem here? While the cover sleeve of the novel promises things like “the science of breaking through an individual’s psychographic barriers with coercion as a science”, instead a poet’s worth comes to be decided by the amount of jibberish in their vocabulary- a bunch of bullcrap that is akin to calling Virginia Woolf’s personality charming. What’s even worse is that you find out later in the novel that there is a “word of power”, one word that is more powerful than the rest of the flibberty-jibberty and causes anyone, even the Poets, to lose control just by reading it. In the world of video games, this is what is known as “game-breaking”. This is when one weapon or spell is all-powerful, and everything else ceases to have a point- except taking that shit right back to Gamestop for your money back. I first heard about Lexicon on the “Our Employees Recommend” shelf at Barnes and Noble and was intrigued by the synopsis, resulting in a purchase. I have yet to track down and use my arts of persuasion on the Barnes and Noble employee who nominated this novel for me, but needless to say I’d use a few words along the lines of “You probably shouldn’t recommend books anymore”.

Thank you for reading what I have to say about books! A brief apology to anyone who was not a fan of my cynical side, I am fully aware that I probably sound like a man who was just forced to watch The English Patient while eating a burnt pizza. I can promise you that my reading selections in the weeks to come have greatly improved.


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