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The Word Exchange

3.33  ·  Rating Details ·  2,869 Ratings  ·  792 Reviews
A dystopian novel for the digital age, The Word Exchange offers an inventive, suspenseful, and decidedly original vision of the dangers of technology and of the enduring power of the printed word.

 
In the not-so-distant future, the forecasted “death of print” has become a reality. Bookstores, libraries, newspapers, and magazines are things of the past, and we spend our ti
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Hardcover, 384 pages
Published April 8th 2014 by Doubleday (first published 2014)
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Dave I bet that was intentional! There were so many words that were not common everyday words and I did the same thing -- I looked them up and now with…moreI bet that was intentional! There were so many words that were not common everyday words and I did the same thing -- I looked them up and now with phones and tablets I didn't have to drag in the Oxford dictionary. I felt set up and as the story progressed, I noticed the 'bigger' words were left behind and I was no longer tied to my device. (less)

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Dan Schwent
Mar 16, 2014 Dan Schwent rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014
When her father disappears just days before his life's work, the third edition of the North American Dictionary of the English Language, is set to debut, she has no idea of the rabbit hole she'll soon be going down. People are forgetting common words and coming down with what is called the word flu. Is there a connection between the word flu and her missing father?

I got this from Netgalley. My initial impression was that the book was overwritten by someone who was into literary fiction and "slum
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Carol.
Mar 16, 2014 Carol. rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Carol. by: NetGalley

Corporate conspiracies?
Word flu?
Budding romance between two star-crossed lovers?
Reading as a solution to impaired communication skills?
Occasionally astonishing writing?

Sounds tempting, right?
Unfortunately, it was implemented with portentous statements every other page(1), a heroine bordering on TSTL(2), thesaurus-based writing(3), footnotes(4), and frequently poor writing(5).

Synopsis
Ana is an employee at the New York office of North American Dictionary of the English Language (also called "the
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Erica Ravenclaw
Mar 17, 2014 Erica Ravenclaw rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, netgalley
☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

No spoilers! Definitely colorful language abound! I received this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

 photo anigif_enhanced-buzz-3826-1395697360-17_zpsb2790463.gif


I was not expecting this. The Word Exchange has challenged everything I know about what defines a good book, beaten the absolute shit out of my standards, and spit them back out at me. I stand before you a little befuddled and completely in awe of Graedon's ability to redefine something about myself I once thought of as unyielding. There are few books that I can confidently coin as
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Snotchocheez
May 25, 2014 Snotchocheez rated it it was amazing

4.5 stars

As much as I enjoyed last year's Dave Eggers' cautionary tale The Circle, about a Google-like company smothering all of our personal freedoms, I couldn't help but think that Eggers could've went a little further in the future and turned it into a truly dystopian masterpiece instead of the gonzo-journalism-disguised-as-a-novel it turned out being.

Enter The Circle's evil, precocious younger sister, Alena Graedon's rather stunning debut The Word Exchange, a novel that isn't afraid to make
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Ash Wednesday
Mar 16, 2014 Ash Wednesday rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone! (see review why!)
2.5 STARS
Words don’t always work. Sometimes they come up short. Conversations can lead to conflict. There are failures of diplomacy. Some differences, for all the talk in the world, remain irreconcilable. People make empty promises, go back on their word, say things they don’t believe. But connection, with ourselves and others, is the only way we can live.

I’m half tempted to recommend this to all my friends right now. Just to see how far they would get before calling it quits.

Word Exchange ha
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jo
Jan 05, 2015 jo rated it liked it
Recommended to jo by: Snotchocheez
let's get the misconceptions out of the way: this is not an alt reality book, this is a dystopian book. it is narrated in alternating chapters by two characters, both in the first person. this does not make things confusing. it is not a difficult book and the vocabulary is rich but perfectly comprehensible. it is beautifully written (having listened to the audio version i can't vouch for the punctuation, but what i heard was beautiful: beautiful sentences, beautiful words). one of the characters ...more
April (The Steadfast Reader)
A million stars. So much to say about this book.
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Originally posted here: The Steadfast Reader - Fabulous Friday: The Word Exchange

Guys, GUYS! If you read one new frontlist book this spring let this be it.

Graedon does magical things with words. This book is both beautiful and terrifying all at once. I can hardly believe that this is a debut novel. For a very serious bibliophile and someone with a casual intere
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Jessica Woodbury
On Twitter I described this book as a mashup between a David Mamet movie and the Dictionary. It's not a perfect description, but it gives you a glimpse of the weirdly wonderful world of THE WORD EXCHANGE.

First off, I have to applaud Graedon for inventing one of those near-future scenarios that actually feels real and terrifyingly possible. The evolution of smartphones to the "memes" of her book seems like something that could really happen (and it honestly wouldn't surprise me if it did).

Then t
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Mona
Jun 18, 2014 Mona rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Worthy But Flawed First Novel by a Young Writer

I liked this more than I thought I would.

At first I thought it was too, too trendy and clever. But, gradually, the story drew me in and I ended up enjoying the book.

The main character is Anana (variously nicknamed "Ana" and "Alice"). She is a young woman who lives in NY City in the near future and works for her father, Douglas Samuel Johnson, at the NADEL ("North American Dictionary of the English Language"). Everyone at NADEL (including Ana) calls
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Deborah
Mar 27, 2014 Deborah rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: abandoned, netgalley
*My copy was received from NetGalley as an ARC.*

I can only review the first 30% of the book. It became so mind-numbingly boring that I had to abandon it at that point. A description of the book says: "A gorgeous genre mashup that offers readers the pleasures of noir, science fiction, romance and philosophy. It's an unforgettable joyride across the thin ice of language."
-Karen Russell, author of Swamplandia! and Vampires in the Lemon Grove.

Genre mashup, yes...gorgeous, no; the ice of this langua
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Dusty Craine
Apr 11, 2014 Dusty Craine rated it did not like it
The Word Exchange by Alena Graedon is a book that I have very mixed feelings about.

Let us start by imagining a world where our cell phones anticipate what we need before we need it. We begin to wonder what our grandparent’s birthday is and it springs to life with the information we need. All it required was a thought. That word on the tip of our tongue appears on the screen just before we need it so you can complete your thought without missing a beat. If you can imagine that, then you can imagi
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Erin
Mar 16, 2014 Erin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: arc-review
ARC for review.

A thriller of lexicography that will appeal to language lovers this book follows Ana, a young woman in search of her father. He disappeared under mysterious circumstances just before the launch of the final edition of his world-renowned dictionary (a victim of our digital age which, in this book, is a few steps further along the interactive road). Plus, a potentially fatal "word flu" has appeared and maybe Ana's missing father holds the key?

At first I thought this would be an exa
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Sara
Jul 31, 2014 Sara rated it really liked it
A very good, quirky story. A bit crazy at times, but that was the fun. And I still don't think I got all the "Alice" references - the rabbit hole, the looking glass, that type of thing.

This is a world that diverged from our own not that long ago. It diverged when this world created smartphones that can read your mind. They are called Memes. They will order you a cab if you're too drunk to drive. They will order you a drink when you're really explaining you want coffee (but really want a drink),
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Chris
I received a free copy of this book through the First Reads program at Good Reads. I also was given an eARC by NetGalley.

While I appreciate these freebies, I shouldn't have clicked those buttons to put myself in the running for them. I started this book tonight, and was quickly going, "eh..wtf?"

It's just...no...

Earlier this year I read a book called The Book. It was a dystopian near-future tale about electronic reading devices replacing real books and eventually controlling what we think, etc. I
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Pamela
Aug 14, 2015 Pamela rated it did not like it
Shelves: gave-up-on
Here's how this book goes:

Pages of Pretentious Blathering

Hegel...Hegel...Hegel...Hegel...Hegel...Hegel...Hegel

Pages of Hipster Angst

Teeniest Tiniest Hint of a Plot

More Pretentious Blathering

More Hipster Angst

Great Huge Chunks of Hegel

More Hegel

Imagined Angst

Unimportant Hipster Stuff (meals, music, whatever)

Hegel Again

Oh Wow! A plot point!

Hegel. Hegel. Hegel.

Hipster Musings.

Hipster Thoughts on Hegel.

Hegel's Thoughts on Hipstery Things.

Wait! Is this a plot point?? No. Never mind. It's just blob of
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Jessica
Mar 31, 2014 Jessica rated it did not like it
I found that it had a lot of great writing, but it was covered up with awkward writing. The world building lacked, but I liked were it was going, I just needed more from it. I couldn’t get pass the footnotes and I didn’t know a lot of the words so I had to keep looking them up, which takes a lot of time ( that I could have used to try and enjoy the novel). I also think that it was over all too long and I just could get into it.
Lyn (Readinghearts)
Mar 21, 2014 Lyn (Readinghearts) rated it liked it
Recommends it for: a select group of readers
Recommended to Lyn (Readinghearts) by: Netgalley
I received a copy of The Word Exchange, the debut novel from author Alena Graedon, from the publisher through Netgalley in exchange for my review. This book has been called "the dystopian novel for the digital age" and "inventive" and on some levels I agree with those descriptions. I loved the idea of The Word Exchange, which is set in the near future and deals with the constantly forewarned death of print media. Anana Johnson and her father Doug are working on the multi-volume third edition of ...more
Q2
Apr 05, 2014 Q2 rated it it was ok
I have to preface this review by saying that a) if I get a book to read before publication (through NetGalley, like this one, or anywhere) I want to give it a real chance, finish the whole thing, etc. and b) the idea behind this book is one I’m thrilled about. With this book, I found it tremendously difficult to even finish.

The Word Exchange has a fascinating premise. Ana lives in a world where helpful technology has infiltrated our lives, our psyches, and our choices so fully that it is starti
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Tori
Mar 20, 2014 Tori rated it did not like it
Shelves: advance-reads
I was so excited about this book. I love words... and books... and technology.

"A dystopian novel for the digital age, The Word Exchange offers an inventive, suspenseful, and decidedly original vision of the dangers of technology and of the enduring power of the printed word. "

The premise is that printed words are obsolete. A virus finds it's way into the smart-phone like devices people are using in the future. It causes people to start using wrong words and then transforms into a sickness that
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Celeste_pewter
Jun 26, 2014 Celeste_pewter rated it did not like it
This is one of those novels where the author is just too clever for their own good. It's a mess of ideas, with a whiny heroine and a creepy alternating narrator.

I almost never give one stars, but dude. I have no idea how this book was even purchased by Doubleday and made it to print.
Katie/Doing Dewey
Apr 07, 2014 Katie/Doing Dewey rated it it was amazing
I loved this book so much, I’m not sure I can add anything new to the many rave reviews I’ve already read. Everything about it was fantastic. The plot was action packed and full of surprising twists and turns. The futuristic world the author imagined didn’t seem like a stretch, but was still completely mind-blowing. Despite the dangers of the technologies so readily adopted in this future world, some of the conveniences and entertainments sound like a dream. The author’s imaginings actually remi ...more
Marvin
Apr 04, 2014 Marvin rated it it was ok
Shelves: science-fiction
The Word Exchange is about a future in which the printed media is practically obsolete. Everyone communicates by a device called a meme, which is not really explained until about a third of the way through the book. In this world, people was being affected by something called a "word flu" in which the inflicted loses the meaning of words, automatically substituting nonsense words. The incubation time needed for this flu to arrive seems be the duration of 50% of the book. Eventually this virus le ...more
Ali's Books
Apr 08, 2014 Ali's Books rated it really liked it
4.5 STARS!!!

Xet this meting book! I wot believe I emkl word flu!!

Wow! This book is one that will really leave you thinking!! Not to mention, it’ll make you wish you were holding a “real” book and not your kindle or nook. This book can be downright frightening because you can so easily visualize something like this happening! Got word flu???

This book was just so incredibly interesting! It’s not one of those books that just sucks you right in and never let’s go, but it’s more of a gradual thing. Y
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Chaitra
I wanted to like this. I really did. For short bursts of time, it even engaged me. But then the idiotic heroine did something particularly idiotic that she had done before which proved its idiocy, but will she learn? It's kind of hard to get on board a really long, rather pointless adventure if this lady will behave like the dystopian equivalent of the horror movie dumb blonde who just couldn't leave whatever well enough alone.

Had she been, like her horror movie equivalent, killed right after h
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Heather McCorkle
Unfortunately that's it, I can't go on. While at moments this book is brilliant with an underlying idea that could make it the next big thing, those moments are overshadowing by a lack of forward motion. After 44 pages of information dump and back story, I couldn't go on. Too many years of working in the industry and having it drilled into my head not to do these things, made this book too hard to read. Clearly I am not the intended audience. Did not finish so no rating.
John
An Exchange Best Ignored - A Pale Reflection of Gibson and Shteyngart

For those who think speculative fiction can be written well by those who have degrees from notable MFA writing programs and have secured grants to write at notable literary retreats like Yaddo and the MacDowell Colony, but lack some familiarity with speculative fiction, fellow Brunonian Alena Graedon’s “The Word Exchange” will be hailed as a great instant literary classic, a brilliant exploration of the power of words and how t
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Ken-ichi
Oct 31, 2014 Ken-ichi rated it liked it
This is a premise in search of a plot, but it's a good enough premise to warrant a read. The constant, explicit foreshadowing was extremely annoying (e.g. "'[...] things are likely to get worse before they get better–if they get better.' How prophetic those words have come to seem." p. 208), as were the aphasic passages by Bart. Yes, it made me feel how disconcerting it would be to talk with someone suffering from aphasia, but it also made me feel like one chapter of such gibberish would have co ...more
Meredith
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mrdavidpeat
Dec 02, 2015 Mrdavidpeat rated it it was amazing
Shelves: novels, paper
Having recently read (and been unnerved by) The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains The Word Exchange was the perfect fictional thought experiment to investigate some of the worries expressed by Nicholas Carr.

Briefly, the book explores our increasing dependence on technology and imagines a point where our linguistic abilities have begun to atrophy to the point where we need to look up even commonplace words. This on its own might be enough to worry the Luddites or those with more
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Joanna
Word flu. Hmmm. Many times while reading this I was struck by the little uncomfortable truths about the willingness of people to allow our devices to take over more and more of our lives. It's so easy. I used to resist programming "contacts" into my phone because I didn't want to lose the ability to remember the numbers of my favorite people myself. Now, like most of my friends, I would be lost without that contact list. It would be difficult to recreate. (Note to self: make a hard copy in case ...more
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Alena Graedon was born in Durham, North Carolina, and is a graduate of Carolina Friends School, Brown University and Columbia University’s School of the Arts. She has worked at Columbia, Knopf, and the PEN American Centre.

The Word Exchange, her first novel, was completed with the help of fellowships at several artist colonies, including MacDowell, Ucross and Yaddo.

Translated into eight languages,
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More about Alena Graedon...

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“Why do you think people stopped reading? We read to connect with other minds. But why read when you're busy writing, describing the fine-grained flotsam of your own life. Compulsively recording every morsel you eat, that you're cold, or, I don't know, heartbroken by a football game. An endless stream flowing to an audience of everyone and no one.” 8 likes
“In Japanese, koi no yokan means the ineluctable feeling you have, upon meeting someone for the first time, that eventually the two of you will fall in love.” 4 likes
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