‘Lexicon’ explores the power of words

Posted Sunday, Jun. 30, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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More information Lexicon by Max Barry Penguin, $26.95

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Max Barry, whose Machine Man came out in 2011, says on his website ( maxbarry.com) that he ignored Twitter and Facebook in order to give his total attention to finishing his newest, Lexicon. It’s his fifth, and the concept is a heady doozy of a thriller about the power of words.

There’s a secret society that uses words as weapons. This elite group recruits people who already are adept at persuasion and sends them to an exclusive school in Virginia where they perfect the mastery of manipulation. Called “poets” (they adopt the names of famous poets to hide their identities), their ultimate goal is to use the all-powerful “bare word” to control all personality types (and there are 218!).

The main character is Emily Ruff, a street-smart teenager who is recruited into the group (her code name: Woolf) and makes a disastrous misstep: She falls in love, a no-no for poets. In a parallel storyline, there’s Wil, who gets caught between rival factions, and it’s game on — or game over?

— Celeste Williams

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