“That’s bullshit! I loved Cecilia!”
“If you say so.”
“I’m being lectured about love by a robot! I’m broken? You’re broken! Tell me what you think love is! I seriously want to know!”
“Okay,” Eliot said. “It’s defining yourself through the eyes of another. It’s coming to know a human being on a level so intimate that you lose any meaningful distinction between you, and you carry the knowledge that you are insufficient without her every day for twenty years, until she drives an animal transport at you, and you shoot her. It’s that.”
Wil watched the road awhile.
“I”m sorry I called you broken,” Eliot said.
“Everyone’s broken,” Eliot said, “one way or another.”
Reading the descriptions of Lexicon, and there have been a lot of them because this book was everywhere a few months ago, I thought it would be the kind of book that would be difficult to get into. I was pleasantly surprised when it wasn’t, not even a little bit. It grabs you and speeds along from page one as you slowly piece together this strange world where words have an almost magical power.
And that’s part of the fun – piecing together the story and how it will fit together in the end, so I won’t tell you too much. There is a mysterious school and a sinister organization run by “poets,” people who take on the names of famous poets throughout history who wield the power of words. Poets must control every aspect of their personality so they can’t be controlled or “compromised” by their words. Showing emotions, desires, wants reveals your inner thoughts and feelings. There is a poet named Eliot who is on the run along with Wil, a man who can’t be controlled by the words, which makes him dangerous to the poets. Finally there is Emily, a drifter and con artist who has nothing to lose and so attends the school, even though she thinks it must be too good to be true, but who does the worst thing you can possibly do there: she falls in love.
Lexicon feels fresh and different, it feels like a smart book that doesn’t take itself too seriously. I think if I had any complaints about the story it’s that sometimes the world-building felt a little bit on the weaker side, especially if you’re used to reading more complex science fiction and fantasy. I really wanted to know more about the intricate structures of the organization, how the words worked, and what other sinister acts the organization was getting up to. Max Barry is an author I can’t wait to read more from, though. It sounds like his other books, like Jennifer Government and Machine Man, have that same combination of plot-driven satire with sci-fi elements. I certainly wouldn’t complain if he decided to write another book set in the world of Lexicon. Just throwing that thought out into the world!