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Lexicon

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3.91 of 5 stars 3.91  ·  rating details  ·  13,750 ratings  ·  2,266 reviews
At an exclusive school somewhere outside of Arlington, Virginia, students aren't taught history, geography, or mathematics--at least not in the usual ways. Instead, they are taught to persuade. Here the art of coercion has been raised to a science. Students harness the hidden power of language to manipulate the mind and learn to break down individuals by psychographic mark ...more
Hardcover, 390 pages
Published June 18th 2013 by Penguin Press HC, The (first published 2013)
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This question contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
Ashwillread I was confused about this too. I'm thinking: Eliot sees the waiter's necklace when he and Harry/Wil were sitting in that restaurant and this makes him…moreI was confused about this too. I'm thinking: Eliot sees the waiter's necklace when he and Harry/Wil were sitting in that restaurant and this makes him think of the necklace that Yeats got off of Emily when he made her sleep. So I'm assuming he's thinking about how Campbell came out ready to kill him when Campbell went into the hospital. Which means the original bare word must be at the hospital, so I think he goes on that hunch? But I'm not sure if that actually works out time wise...? (less)
This question contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
Mo Shake Yes it was just to distract Harry so he could knock him out. Eliot confesses to doing this a few pages later.

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Kemper
“Vartix velkor mannik wissick! Vote for this review and then email me your credit card numbers!”

If you followed my instructions, then this is the greatest book ever written. If you didn’t, then it’s a decent thriller with a clever sci-fi hook to it that doesn’t deliver on its full potential.

Lexicon tells two parallel stories. In the first one, Wil is an Australian who is abducted at an airport by a mysterious man called Tom who tells him that he is being pursued by a powerful and dangerous group
...more
Jim Loter
Were I 20 years younger I would have read this and then immediately rushed to grab books on Peirce's semiotics, Searle's speech-act theory, and Wittgenstein's philosophy of language to produce a conference paper titled something like "Locution, Linguistics, and Lexicon: Words and Gender Power Dynamics in Max Barry's Fiction." But I'm not a graduate student anymore so I can read books for pleasure now!

And, boy, did I enjoy this book. It's as if Barry is one of the "poets" from the novel and he ha
...more
Joel
I feel somehow wrong giving a so-so review to a book that I enjoyed and read really quickly, but part of me wishes there was just a little more "oomph" to this book. Barry does a nice job with the structure, giving us pieces that fit together more and more clearly over time (though some of the twists are easy to guess, I was genuinely surprised more than once in the book) and flesh out the world of the Poets in some really nice ways.

But honestly, there should have been more. What's here feels li
...more
Amanda
3 1/2 stars.

Are you a cat or a dog person?

In the world of Lexicon, your answer reveals everything they need to know about you. Who are "they"? They are the poets, people who are hardwired to resist persuasion and to use language as a weapon against the rest of us. Studying linguistics, personality and psychology, poets have the ability to subvert free will and compel us do as they wish. The most powerful poets are given pseudonyms that appropriately demonstrate their mastery over language and,
...more
Amy Warrick

So anyone whose mother ever taught them 'sticks and stones may break my bones..." knows that words DO hurt and they influence people and the pen is mightier than the sword and yadda yadda so Mr. Barry is not exactly breaking new ground here...we are READERS, Mr. Barry, who are reading this book, so, you know, give us some credit. Words be some pow'ful shit.

Anyway, the premise of the book is interesting - persuasive young people are taught mysterious words to use on a variety of personality ty
...more
Regan
3.5? 4?

i really really enjoyed the first 2/3 of this book. However, I sorta got lost at the end of the story....
Susan Tunis
Out of context

Several years ago, I heard author Chuck Palahniuk read a story so disturbing that a woman in the audience fainted. She wasn’t the first. Palahniuk summed it up thus: “The power of words.”

I couldn’t help but think of the above as I delved into Max Barry’s fifth novel, Lexicon. I’ve been a fan of his work since Syrup, so I’m old school. I tend to think of Barry as a satirist first and foremost, so I was surprised when Lexicon opened very much like a thriller. Readers are thrown strai
...more
J.
The best way I could describe it would be The Magicians meets The Circle. I was fascinated by the whole concept of understanding how language can affect people and the neurolinguistic elements had me wanting to re-up my lapsed Psychology Today subscription. The twists were about 80% predictable in the story though as you realize that certain characters are actually other ones well before the reveal happens. All the time spent in Australia had me feeling parched, and I don't know if that's a good ...more
Rose
Words hold power. Words can harm. Welcome to the world of word wizards. I have just discovered a new favorite author and plan on reading all things Max Barry.

Many genres blended into one ultimate mind bending, super smart and fun, exciting thriller. I love psychology, and how this explains what real wizards are. Just highly enlightened persons who can read all your weaknesses through just a few questions, body language etc and takes it to a whole new level to learn how certain words will persuad
...more
Ben
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mike
So what is a word? Sort of a funny question on its face. Words are one of those basic facts of life we don't really notice apart from the brief span of time we are learning to read. Words just exist as a sort of background noise of our lives, part of the scenery.

But words are so much more powerful than that. When you read a word there is a discernible change in your neural chemistry as your brain reads and processes it. The very same brain that controls movement, identity, motivations, passions.
...more
Hunger For Knowledge
3.5 stars.

Nothing is alive in there.
Just a word.


I was mighty excited when I heard there is a new Max Barry book out for me to read. I remember running into one of his books, Jennifer Government, when I was a lot younger and absolutely loved it, despite of it being so out of my then comfort zone. I had no choice other than buy Lexicon as soon it was available, and am glad I finally got the time and mojo to read it.

Poets: masters of manipulation who use the secrets of language to wrap others to th
...more
Mike (the Paladin)
Hummmmmmm........interesting read. I must admit that what we have here is a fairly unique plot line. It's not TOTALLY unique (what is) but it's very, very close.

This is a good thing.

(view spoiler)

We open up here following a couple of story lines that will as we foll
...more
Kristin  (MyBookishWays Reviews)
You may also read my review here: http://www.mybookishways.com/2013/09/...

There’s something intriguing yet downright terrifying about a group of people that can employ mind control just with the use of a few nonsense words, but that’s the basis of the superb Lexicon.

When the book opens, Wil Parke is being held down by two men and having a needle driven through his eye at an airport bathroom. He has no idea why, only that he needs to get away. The snippets of their conversation that he can grasp
...more
Dan
Max Barry has done it again with a rip-roaring sci-fi tale of love, language, control, freedom, paranoia, thought, and violence in his latest novel Lexicon.

Imagine, if you will, a secret agency, who's sole goal is to figure out the easiest way to control you. Now imagine if they had come up with a process that was not only insidiously easy, but near-infinte in its reach as well. Like Internet level reach. Now imagine that their way of controlling you was through simple words or sounds. Pretty sc
...more
Angela
More like 1.5 stars?

As a lover of language - how we use it to not only communicate but change the world around us - this book was immediately interesting to me. Words are important, a sentiment uttered more than once in this book and implied throughout. To put it bluntly, words mean things, and should be chosen with care and respect.

Perhaps this is a case of this book just not being for me. It's possible that what I was hoping for and what I got were simply on widely separate ends of the spectr
...more
Dean
Right out of the gate.
This book starts at a pace that I had not seen in previous Max Barry novels.
It moves so fast and furious that I dare you to put the book down for at least an hour once starting and then further dare you after that.
I admit it, I am a Max Barry fanboy.
I have been in love with his work since his first novel and have found his content piercing as it pertains to taking on societal constructs, daring in statements about conventional mores, blatant in his disdain for the "mega-cor
...more
Michael
In 2019 something terrible happens in the small Australian country town of Broken Hill with the entire population dead. The official government line is that it was due to an environmental disaster with the location cordoned off from the public. There are few who know the truth of what really happened. Emily Ruff a former runaway street hustler is one of them. Recruited into a secret society calling themselves poets who are masters of persuasion through a language known only to them. Emily was a ...more
Jen
Lexicon

From Book Description: Lexicon is a brilliant thriller that explores language, power, identity, and our capacity to love—whatever the cost.

I'm not sure about the novel actually exploring language--in spite of the book's premise. Language/Lexicon is only explored in the sense of the power words can yield, but not in any particular detail. Nor can I truly get into the power of nonsense words that aren't magic. That distinction is emphasized but not really clarified. Frrrrkkkiki. Or whateve
...more
Mike Carey
I really loved this book. I was able to blag an ARC copy from the publisher, so I don't know what if any changes were made in the final published version, but I suspect they were few and small.

The basic premise is a familiar one in some respects - a cabal operating behind the scenes to manipulate people and governments using their mastery of persuasion. They are experts in devising and applying techniques for bending and subduing the will of those around them, and their greatest weapon is the hi
...more
Todd Moody
I've been a Max Barry fan since he was Maxx Barry. I loved Jennifer Government, and I've made it a point to read every book he's written. Max's infectious, dark humor has always been a hallmark of his work, but the tone of Lexicon surprised me. It feels like an older, more mature brother of his other works. It's a blisteringly brilliant book. I was a fan before this novel came out but this new book puts Max into a different tier.

Be careful...reading Lexicon will compromise you, turning you into
...more
Erin
I thought I would love this book - I've read and enjoyed Barry in the past and based on the description it sounded like a thriller for word nerds - perfect! And it wasn't a bad book at all and there was some snappy conversation (I enjoyed the exchange where Eliot tries to explain the bareword to Wil), it just never really grabbed me - I couldn't connect with Emily, Eliot or Harry and didn't understand their motivations or the reason for the existence of the Poets. Plus, it was way more thriller ...more
Joseph Delaney
I left my kindle on a plane at Dubai and with it the books I’d already downloaded and intended to read. When I got home I had to search through my pile of unread paperbacks to find something.
‘Lexicon’ by Max Barry looked to be the most promising.
So that was the book I read and it proved to be excellent. This is probably the best book I have read in the last twelve months.
It is a thriller with chases and lots of action. There is a high body-count and characters you warm to and don’t want to die
...more
Annmarie
A rocketing page turner of a rather original sci-fi-ish thriller. It's about a secret society that uses persuasion words as killing weapons, in a neurolinguistic way, with antecedents going back to the Tower of Babel. The most gifted of these persuaders are called "poets" and take the aliases of famous poets. The book starts off with a bang as carpenter Wil Parke wakes up to find he's in an airport with a needle in his brain, being interrogated by a couple of guys who ask him questions like "Wou ...more
Jennifer
This started out as a 5-star book for me and ended up as a 3-star, so I'm splitting the difference. (I sort of wish I could give it 3.5, but there you are.) I absolutely love the premise of this book, which is a thriller about a secret organization of people who call themselves "poets," who are trained to use words literally to control other people's thoughts and actions. It's not as far-fetched as it sounds; it's based on linguistic research about the effect of language on the brain -- how usin ...more
Vegantrav
This book has a very promising premise: a secret organization that trains its members to manipulate others with extremely persuasive linguistic techniques--techniques that, to an outsider, would appear magical. The Holy Grail of this organization is the bareword, a word which, when heard or read, basically places the hearer or reader under an irresistible hypnotic spell.

While I found the book, overall, to be an enjoyable read, it did not really live up to my expectations due to some problems wit
...more
Rose
Aug 19, 2013 Rose marked it as did-not-finish  ·  review of another edition
Read up until 7%.

I gave this one a second chance after trying to get into it a first time but failing. The second try wasn't better. The story starts and moves way too fast and while it is already confusing as it is, the writing style isn't helping either. I just can't see myself reading this until the end, considering how much time it took me only to get through 30 pages with no desire to find out when, how or even if it all will make start to make sense at some point.
Miquel Codony
(3,5)

¿Habéis leído “El Predicador”, de Garth Ennis y Steve Dillon? Tremendo cómic. En él Jesse Custer, el predicador que da título a la serie, es parasitado por una entidad de naturaleza divina que le otorga el don de hablar con La Voz de Dios: con ella, su autoridad es absoluta y resulta imposible desobedecer sus deseos. A una premisa similar, sin los aspectos religiosos y con un planteamiento más cercano al thriller y a la ciencia ficción que a la fantasía urbana gamberra de Ennis y Dillon, re
...more
Marvin
Were this was the first book in a series, as opposed to a standalone entry, I might've rated it a little higher. But it's not, so I won't.

I'll say up front that I don't have a problem recommending Lexicon, as it's an easy, quick* read, that won't annoy you with what it does. I ultimately liked it, though my review may make it seem otherwise. Simply put, I just didn't enjoy it nearly as much as I did the idea of it.

Lexicon takes place in the modern day United States and Australia, and in this wor
...more
Cynthia
What a ride. This is the first Max Barry I've read though I tried to read his "Machine Dreams" and found it too visceral. Barry provides an interesting premise; words and their usage, and fleshes his story out with interesting characters and a fast moving plot. The story is science fiction but you'll quickly forget that because it seems so believable.

Streetwise 16 year old Emily Ruff is picked off the Vegas strip by recruiters from an odd school. Due to Emily's intelligence and cunning she's fou
...more
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“People resist a census, but give them a profile page and they'll spend all day telling you who they are.” 29 likes
“every story written is
marks upon a page
The same marks,
repeated, only
differently arranged”
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