Lexicon is a great book. That doesn't make it perfect, but it gets five stars from me.
It's a big-screen story in a lot of ways, with a lot of the set-...moreLexicon is a great book. That doesn't make it perfect, but it gets five stars from me.
It's a big-screen story in a lot of ways, with a lot of the set-pieces, stunning plot-twists and big reveals that are so common in film and television. But the nature of novels means that the author can broadcast a mental x-ray directly from their character's heads into the reader. That means some tricks incredibly difficult to pull off in prose because they rely on keeping things secret until just the right moment. But somehow Max Barry manages to execute exactly those kind of surprising twists and turns multiple times on a number of different levels while keeping his characters feeling authentic and engaging along the way.
Lexicon weaves its linguistic conspiracy back through history t0 create a plot with elements reaching back thousands of years. It's a neat trick, and when it doesn't feel forced it's almost as if you're really walking around inside the book's alternate reality rather than just being a passenger riding through a sideshow in another world.
But it's the fact that this is a story about weaponized language that makes everything in Lexicon tick. It challenges us to accept that that we don't just hear words, we consume them, process them, and build (and control) our true selves through them.
It posits that our "self" is constructed from and by our perception of language, and that it can be the source of our triumph and our downfall, both as individuals and as a species.
It's a thrilling conceit, although it never gets quite meta enough for my taste. Still, most of the time it works, despite some gigantic coincidences (that could have been easily revealed as fait accompli), along with some fuzziness about the motivations of some of the characters.
Those quibbles aside, Lexicon is a book that does some amazing things and tells a thrilling story at a breakneck pace. In parts it filled me with the same excitement that I feel when I'm watching a compelling television series like Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones.
If you'e looking for something simultaneously smart and escapist, Lexicon is a great story to spend some time with.(less)
There's a lot to love in this book. Actually, there's way too much.
This is a book so packed with big ideas and that moves at a such a breakneck pace...moreThere's a lot to love in this book. Actually, there's way too much.
This is a book so packed with big ideas and that moves at a such a breakneck pace that Huw, the main character (a hapless hero that reminds me nothing so much as a latter day Heinlein hero in the "Friday" mold), seems to have been fired straight from the barrel of some kind of narrative cannon and rips through breathless escapade to the next at a rate that's often disconcerting when it isn't confusing or annoying.
Meanwhile, the actual character arc trails just slightly behind our protagonist, just about managing to catch up by the story's end.
The world is interesting, but it all ends up feeling like a three day excursion to Paris: you're definitely in the city and you've seen the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre, but somehow after you've left it doesn't feel like you've really been there.
Nothing in the story ever got room it needs to breathe, and the ending manages to unearned when it actually isn't. It's a neat trick, but not one I'd ever like to use myself.
It's never a bad book, and even though it's exploding with good ideas, it ends up feeling a bit disappointing the whole way through, even though what's inside is exactly what's advertised on the cover.(less)