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3.91  ·  Rating details ·  36,238 ratings  ·  4,202 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
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Elsof Ellen Page as Emily
Chris Helmsworth as Wil
Anthony Hopkins as Yeats
Omar Epps as Eliot
Ellen Page as Emily
Chris Helmsworth as Wil
Anthony Hopkins as Yeats
Omar Epps as Eliot
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Average rating 3.91  · 
Rating details
 ·  36,238 ratings  ·  4,202 reviews

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“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
Jim Loter
Oct 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Oct 12, 2013 rated it liked it
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
Aug 29, 2020 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: fans of Blake Crouch
Recommended to carol. by: I don't hold it against you
Sadly disappointing and messy for a book about the mind-altering power of words and their impact on personal lives.

Barry does the dual timeline, dual narrative technique, so your enjoyment may vary based on tolerance. The current timeline is from a man, Wil, who is kidnapped as he is leaving the airport to meet his girlfriend, while a past timeline is from a young woman, Emily, who is recruited off the streets for her talking talents to apply for a ‘magic’ school.

As enticing as that may sound, i
Lindsey Rey
Jan 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This was my jam! Recommended for fans of The Magicians, Vicious, and The Night Circus.
✘✘ Sarah ✘✘ (former Nefarious Breeder of Murderous Crustaceans)
💥 January 16, 2020: only $1.99 today! 💥

P.S. I read this book three and a half years ago and still haven't written an actual review for it, so go me and stuff! But hey, I said I'd write it by 2068, which gives me 48 more years to think about it, so yay and stuff!


Simple as that.

Max Barry. You either get him, or you don't. So to those poor souls who happen to think his books are total crap *waves enthusiastically at Dan*, I say: I am so sorry. Please try not to feel too bad abou
Apr 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sci-fi, 2020-shelf
I'm coming to this party VERY late. So many people have either loved this or hated it because of the hype, but honestly?

I enjoyed the effortless storytelling, the core ideas, the wonderful characters, and the deep emotion it evoked in me.

I mean, you either believe in the power of words or you don't. That's basically what separates those who love this book from those who don't... And I'm a dog person. My favorite color is green. My Facebook profile is useless for data collection because I filled
Jun 02, 2014 rated it really liked it

Emily Ruff, a 16-year-old con artist, is happily working her card tricks on the streets of San Francisco when she meets 'T.S. Elliot.'

The 'poet' soon carts her off to a special school in Virginia where she'll learn to use words to "persuade" (i.e. control) people. All graduates of the school take the names of well-known poets before they're let loose to fulfill the school's agenda - which seems to be to control the world.

Unfortunately for Emily she breaks some rules before graduation and is ban
Amy Warrick
Jul 17, 2013 rated it it was ok

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
Jul 31, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: blog
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,
A stand alone Sci-Fi / Thriller published 2013.

This was my first time reading this author and wasn’t sure what to expect. My expectation will be much higher for my next read.
Lexicon was to be an addictive read with its strange mix of sci-fi, thriller and romance.

We, as readers, all know the power that words hold over us but imagine a world where words have the power to control the human thought process, words so powerful that once spoken people, en masse, would be compelled to do the speakers
Jul 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: books-owned-read
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
Apr 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Nov 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Holy cow Batman! This was a really terrific story. Just very different. I'm not a huge reader of science fiction or dystopian-type novels, but I love it when I come across a good one. "Lexicon" is definitely a good one.

I actually had to read my way almost 20%-25% into the book before I was totally hooked. I found the beginning a bit confusing, but I sensed it was going to pay off if I just kept reading and it totally did.

Great concepts about language, persuasion, how language can be used as wea
Manuel Antão
Jun 11, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2013
If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

My first Max Barry. Maybe my last...

Suspension of Disbelief necessary to read the book.

The characters are overall pretty weak. The rest of the novel is not solid enough to compensate for this shortcoming. The particular of the central plot device is also way, way over the top.

This is one of those books where the sum does not equal some of the good of its parts. The idea is brilliant, the writing is somewhat solid, but the execution is
Really intriguing premise. The notion that there are words that automatically affect people based on personality types etc. A very interesting and sideways look at language. I really enjoyed the book. A very fast paced and interesting read. This was really more speculative fiction than science fiction with all of the action taking place in the very near future, no magic or fabulous technology or aliens in this tale. More of an alternate world tale where words have power. A secret organization is ...more
Olive Fellows (abookolive)
Sep 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sff
Good lord was that a wild ride.
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.

I'm not even quite sure what I was expecting of this book anymore, but it does start out running - and you better be prepared to chase after to keep up. You're thru
Darth J
Mar 15, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
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
Kristin  (MyBookishWays Reviews)
You may also read my review here:

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
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 fol
Jul 07, 2013 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nov 05, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Deborah Ideiosepius
I finished this completely engrossing book a while back but have been struggling to come to terms with how to review it. First of all I LOVED it utterly! I was sucked in to the story and the characters from the get go, I have no criticisms at all, about anything in this book (and people who no my reading habits know how rare a complete absence of criticism is). It is addictive, I loved reading it, was almost late for work once because I did not want to put it down, was happy coming back to it... ...more
Stephanie Swint
Jan 17, 2015 rated it liked it
Max Barry combined Poets and secret agents in ‘Lexicon.’ Words can persuade us, lead us in the direction people want us to go. All a Poet has to do is ask you a series of five questions. The answers will let them know what words and sounds will bend you to their will. Ancient stories about the Tower of Babel hold more truth than we give them credit for. Wil Jamieson is at the center of a search for a word, the Bare Word. He doesn’t know it but when Elliot finds him in a bathroom, sticks a needle ...more
i reread this book to find out if it's as disappointing as i remember.. yeah it is

this book suffers from the same reason i dislike interstellar.... a very cool concept trampled by ~~~the power of love~~~

but good god the potential this book had 😭


It may sound like I hated the book judging by my last status update. I didn't. I actually loved it but I'm really disappointed by the ending. It's not really that bad IMO but certainly not my piece of cake.

Lexicon has it all. Great idea, action-packe
May 05, 2014 rated it really liked it
Well then. That was unexpected. This book and I didn't communicate very well. By which I mean that every time I thought something about it, I was wrong. I thought that this would be a more straightforward dystopia, with the government monitoring and controlling the people through mind-control words... only it wasn't really that. But it is kinda... in the more super secret organization way.

And in the beginning, it felt very trope-y. Teenaged orphan is told that she may have special abilities and
Honestly, I can't say I enjoyed reading this much. I have no idea why I read to the end, especially as it was one of my 2015 reading resolutions to quit more books that I wasn't enjoying, so I can read more books that I will enjoy, but I guess I've still got to work on this resolution in 2016. This is why my "abandoned-or-should-have" shelf is so much bigger than my "did-not-finish" shelf...

Anyway, so why didn't this work for me? It's kind of ironic that for a book about the "power of language",
Jun 18, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: science-fiction

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
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