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LEXICON by Max Barry Kirkus Star


by Max Barry

Pub Date: June 18th, 2013
ISBN: 978-1-59420-538-5
Publisher: Penguin Press

Modern-day sorcerers fight a war of words in this intensely analytical yet bombastic thriller.

Barry (Machine Man, 2011, etc.) is usually trying to be the funny guy in the world of postmodern satire, with arrows keenly aimed at corporate greed and how to make it in advertising. Apparently, our Australian comrade has changed his mind, racing up alongside the likes of Neal Stephenson with this smart, compelling, action-packed thriller about the power of words. In a deft narrative move, Barry parallels two distinct storylines before bringing them together with jaw-dropping surprises. In the first, a carpenter named Wil is jumped in an airport bathroom by a pair of brutal agents who kill his girlfriend and kidnap him for reasons unknown. In a storyline a few years back, we meet a smart, homeless grifter named Emily Ruff on the streets of San Francisco. After a run-in with a mark, Emily is invited to train under the auspices of a mysterious international syndicate known as “The Poets.” The shady peddlers of influence and power force Emily to study words as if they were a source of incredible power—and in the hands of gifted prodigies like Emily, they are. What could have been a sly attempt to satirize postmodern marketing and social media becomes something of a dark fantasy as couplets intended merely to influence become spell-like incantations with the power to kill. Back in America with Wil and his new captor, Elliot, we learn that Wil is the sole survivor of a terminal event in rural Australia and is being relentlessly pursued by Woolf, the perpetrator of the attack in Oz. In the background, the cult’s mysterious leader, Yeats, pulls strings that put everyone at risk, and no one turns out to be who we imagined.

An up-all-night thriller for freaks and geeks who want to see their wizards all grown up in the real world and armed to the teeth in a bloody story.