Lexicon by Max Barry

Lexicon Max Barry


Even though I saw Lexicon all over the place, I really didn’t pay it much mind until I read the glowing review that Kerry at Entomology of a Bookworm posted, and then I couldn’t wait to read it. And you know what, she was right – I flew through it, and it was fantastic.

I’m really lousy at summing up books, so here’s the description from the book jacket:

At an exclusive school somewhere outside of Arlington, Virginia, students aren’t taught history, geography, or mathematics—they are taught to persuade. Students learn to use language to manipulate minds, wielding words as weapons. The very best graduate as “poets,” and enter a nameless organization of unknown purpose.

Whip-smart runaway Emily Ruff is making a living from three-card Monte on the streets of San Francisco when she attracts the attention of the organization’s recruiters. Drawn in to their strage world, which is populated by people named Brontë and Eliot, she learns their key rule: That every person can be classified by personality type, his mind segmented and ultimately unlocked by the skilful application of words. For this reason, she must never allow another person to truly know her, lest she herself be coerced. Adapting quickly, 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 Parke is brutally ambushed by two men in an airport bathroom. They claim he is the key to a secret war he knows nothing about, that he is an “outlier,” immune to segmentation. Attempting to stay one step ahead of the organization and its mind-bending poets, Wil and his captors seek salvation in the toxically decimated town of Broken Hill, Australia, which, if ancient stories are true, sits above an ancient glyph of frightening power.

A brilliant thriller that traverses very modern questions of privacy, identity, and the rising obsession of data-collection, connecting them to centuries-old ideas about the power of language and coercion, Lexicon is Max Barry’s most ambitious and spellbinding novel yet.

This was a fast-paced, entertaining read, and I LOVED that it was a thriller that focused on language and the power of words, how they affect us on a neurological level. How fun is that? (Pretty fun.) And with the Snowden leak and the NSA in the news every other day, the spin that Barry put on date-collecting and privacy concerns was really relevant and interesting. It also kept me on my toes – throughout the whole book, I was never quite sure who I was supposed to be rooting for, who the good guys and the bad guys were.

I’m hesitant to say much more than that, because the summary really tells you all you need to know and I think it was fun going into it and not quite knowing what to expect. Lexicon is a mind-bending thriller about language, privacy, and a secret organization dedicated to being the most persuasive. You won’t be able to resist this book once you start it.


Sarah Says: 4 stars



  1. I am so pleased Kerry recommended this book — I loved it too, and it was exactly the reading experience I needed at the time. I’m curious to read more by this author now! If his other stuff’s as fun and engaging as Lexicon was, he could quickly become a favorite.


  2. This sounds absolutely fascinating. I love the idea of personality type classification, even horoscopes interest me. The idea that we are limited (or empowered) by things we have no control over boggles my mind. And if we were chosen for a school based on those abilities…

    So I’ll have to get this one. A character named Bronte seals the deal.


    1. Kerry makes the comparison of this secret school to the school of Professor Xavier for future X-Men, and it’s definitely kind of similar… except maybe a tad more sinister. It was pretty fun overall.


  3. Wasn’t it fabulous?! Barry gave you no time to catch your breath- bam, you were up to your neck in the story. I loved that it was about the power of words because it is true (even though I was secretly hoping they’d be used for good!).


  4. You have me interested with the data-collecting reference. I just wrote a paper about data-collection, wiretapping, national security, and why Snowden is a traitor so I think I will LOVE this book. Thanks for that comment, because without it I may have skipped it!


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