Lexicon by Max Barry

Written By Max Barry
Science Fiction, Thriller
Published June 18th 2013
400 Pages
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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 psycho graphic markers in order to take control of their thoughts. The very best will graduate as 'poets', adept wielders of language who belong to a nameless organization that is as influential as it is secretive.

Whip-smart orphan Emily Ruff is making a living running a three-card Monte game on the streets of San Francisco when she attracts the attention of the organization’s recruiters. She is flown across the country for the school’s strange and rigorous entrance exams, where, once admitted, she will be taught the fundamentals of persuasion by Brontë, Eliot, and Lowell, who have adopted the names of famous poets to conceal their true identities. For in the organization, nothing is more dangerous than revealing who you are: Poets must never expose their feelings lest they be manipulated. Emily becomes the school’s most talented prodigy until she makes a catastrophic mistake: She falls in love.

Meanwhile, a seemingly innocent man named Wil Jamieson is brutally ambushed by two strange men in an airport bathroom. Although he has no recollection of anything they claim he’s done, it turns out Wil is the key to a secret war between rival factions of poets and is quickly caught in their increasingly deadly crossfire. Pursued relentlessly by people with powers he can barely comprehend and protected by the very man who first attacked him, Wil discovers that everything he thought he knew about his past was fiction. In order to survive, must journey to the toxically decimated town of Broken Hill, Australia, to discover who he is and why an entire town was blown off the map.

As the two narratives converge, the shocking work of the poets is fully revealed, the body count rises, and the world crashes toward a Tower of Babel event which would leave all language meaningless. Max Barry’s most spellbinding and ambitious novel yet, Lexicon is a brilliant thriller that explores language, power, identity, and our capacity to love, whatever the cost.
You're bound and gagged in an airport by two men, clearly mistaking you for someone else. You feel a pressure within your eye, as they perform a procedure while you're coherent and awake. They taunt you with ridiculous questions, do kidnappers usually perform questionnaires? Before you know it, your girlfriend is dead, a bloodied girl in a blue dress utters a few words causing self destruction and you're in a car with a man named Eliot, who may or may not be taking you captive only to shoot you when the car finally stops. Wil isn't the quiet handyman from Melbourne, who is he?

Emily is an entertainer. She's a street artist, of sorts. She's homeless and survives on the streets by luring punters into betting on her card game. When she is picked up off the street by a perverted young man, coercing her to perform oral sex as part of a test, and then proposed an offer too good to refuse. She finds herself at The Academy.

The Academy trains potential Poets, those who use a single word to manipulate the minds of the weak and willing. One single word can destroy a civilisation, as apparent in Broken Hill, Australia. A town of over three thousand people, now deceased and decaying in the quarantine zone.

When a death at The Academy sends Emily to Broken Hill, where Wil and Eliot's journey is headed. But Emily arrives to a bustling town, a weekly wage courtesy of a local clothing store, a partner that she's very much in love with, and a settled life in a small town. It isn't until years later when the agency calls, Emily is forced to leave it all behind. Wil and Eliot arrive long after the destruction, with Wil the only person immune to the imposed quarantine. There is something in the town, something the Poets want to protect, and Wil is betting his life on finding exactly what that was that caused the loss if thousands of innocent lives.

When the past finally catches up with present, the conspiracies, the theories, the information they don't want you to know will make one thing abundantly clear... We're screwed.

Kelly's Thoughts

Lexicon was a thrilling, mind altering novel that will leave you wondering what the hell were you thinking? It strangely embeds itself into your subconscious and leaves you feeling tired and on the verge of tears. But it was mind blowing. It honestly gave me a headache and I felt like I had sat through a three day long interrogation. I'm questioning if there were some form of subliminal messaging between the lines that I failed to notice, that could be one way to explain the feeling of mental violation.

Lexicon is an intellectual investment, it nearly drove me insane...

And that's a feeling I could become accustomed to.

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