Book Review: Lexicon

In a previous article, we listed five books on The Motley Experience’s “wish list”. One of these books was the highly acclaimed novel by Max Barry, Lexicon.


This is a science fiction novel that reads as a thriller. The premise of the story is based on an organization of people that are talented in the art of persuasion and linguistics, called “poets”, and what happens when they attempt to teach an undisciplined girl from the streets, Emily Ruff, their methods.

Their title as poets comes from their ability to manipulate words to unlock another person’s mind to being open to persuasion. Think Jedi mind trick. This art form is not new, rather it dates back to the beginning of man. Old stories and myths of magicians and sorcerers, even biblical stories such as the Tower of Babel, are based on the acts of these persuaders.

Without spoiling too much of the novel, the majority of the story follows the (mis)adventures of Emily Ruff, renamed Virginia Woolf, on her quest of trying to learn as much as she can about persuasion. This, as well as other conflicts and storylines in the book, centers around the discovery of a bareword; a word so powerful and ancient, that those who see it are completely and entirely at the whim of the possessor. That is, except for one person, or outlier, who seems to have some sort of natural resistance to persuasion tactics.

The novel is easy to read and is fast paced. Some of the plot twists can be a tad bit predictable. However, as a whole, Lexicon is a wonderfully exciting book that will captivate your imagination…. or persuade it at the very least!

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