Max Barry’s Lexicon is a fast paced thriller with enough twists and turns to give you whiplash. The female protagonist, Emily, is a young girl living on the streets that has developed the art of persuasion; she uses her words to swindle people out of cash. When she is scouted by an exclusive society called the Poets, Emily leaves behind everything she knows to enter a world of words. At a school for young adults like herself, Emily is taught that every person fits into a personality category called a “segment”. By reading people and determining which segment they belong to, they can be effectively controlled with a specifically designed lexicon. Emily is a quick learner and all seems to be going well, until disaster strikes.
Years later in Broken Hill, Australia, thousands of people die and the entire area is quarantined. While the rest of the world believes it to be a chemical disaster, the Poets believe someone has placed a bare word there–a word that, just by looking at it, can make you do anything the wielder says. Now, every Poet organization in the world is looking for this bare word in hopes of harnessing its power.
Lexicon is littered with literary references throughout its often sarcastic and surreal narrative. Barry creates a perfect explanation for how advertisers target an audience and might have pegged how politicians sometimes get the better of us. Definitely check this title out if you liked 1984 and Fahrenheit 451; it’s a great addition to dystopian literature.