Max Barry’s Lexicon became a must buy after I heard the author read part of its frenetic and humorous opening at last year’s Melbourne Writers Festival.
The novel has a wonderful premise. It is set in a world where poets and the words they use can be deadly weapons. Poets use their words to compromise people and force them do their bidding. But it is not as easy as just saying a few words, a poet first has to establish the personality traits of their victim to know which words will control them.
The story begins with Wil Parke having a needle shoved in his eye by two thugs who have dragged him into an airport toilet. He has no idea what they want from him, but decides he better keep still. Meanwhile, Emily Ruff , a young hustler, is accosted by one of her potential marks. He compromises her and she winds up in the poet’s training academy.
Their stories unfold in alternating chapters, as the stakes increase. It is clear that at some point their stories will have to connect, but that connection does not come as a revelation, it is more of a slow reveal that occurs as the novel charges from one tension filled page to the next. It’s a page turner, with two engaging central characters whose plight embraces a reader’s empathy.
Lexicon was voted the fourth favourite science-fiction/fantasy book on Goodreads last year. It was also included in a list of the best books of 2013 that you have never heard of in, an article in the Melbourne Age. It recently won the Aurealis award for best Australian science-fiction novel.
Lexicon is a great science-fiction/fantasy novel. One of the best written by an Australian. Its original premise takes readers on one fantastic road trip to a totally satisfying conclusion. The novel had me wanting to visit Broken Hill before the poets arrive.