by Max Barry
I like books that make me think, and Lexicon not only had me thinking throughout the time I was reading it, but when I wasn't reading it, I couldn't get the story out of my head. It's quick intelligent, and the speculative version of reality it presents is as intriguing as that of movies such as The Matrix and Dark City, and books by such minds as Neal Stephenson and Jasper Fforde's.
Most of the book is told as two alternating storylines. The first involves Emily Ruff, a street-smart runaway living on the streets of San Francisco who makes her living running a Three-card Monte hustle. Emily's ability to read people and know how to set them up for the fall attracts the attention of an organization that seeks out children who demonstrate an aptitude for persuasion and trains them to tap into the relatively unknown power that words can have over the human mind. Once trained, these individuals have the ability to use words to quickly tear down other peoples' mental defenses and control them.
The second storyline involves Wil Parke, who on page one is ambushed in an airport bathroom by two men. These men accuse him of being a key player in a war he knows nothing about. They call him an "outlier" who is immune to the powers of an organization run by Poets, who control people with their knowledge of certain words. Wil has no idea what any of what they're saying means, but in an act of self-preservation, he agrees to accompany them to a town in Australia called Broken Hill. Broken hill has been uninhabitable for over a year now, ever since a rogue Poet unleashed something that has taken over the will of every person who has stepped foot in the town.
As the two storylines ultimately converge, Barry methodically reveals the intricacies of his highly-developed and cerebral plot, all while keeping the action going at a breakneck speed. There are plenty of unexpected reveals and enough surprises to keep you unsure of what is truly happening until the end.
I do have a complaint though, and it's why I'm not giving it all five stars. I never felt like any of the characters warranted my allegiance. Neither of the protagonists in the different storylines endeared themselves to me as I read the book. At various times their fates were uncertain, and while I was enjoying the story, I never really cared what happened to them.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆