I just finished the audiobook version of Lexicon by Max Barry. It made my drive to Pennsylvania for the next residency in my MFA program a riveting adventure instead of drudgery.
I’ve been a Max Barry fan since he was Maxx Barry. I loved Jennifer Government, and I’ve made it a point to read every book he’s written. Max’s infectious, dark humor has always been a hallmark of his work, but the tone of Lexicon surprised me. It feels like an older, more mature brother of his other works. It’s a blisteringly brilliant book. I was a fan before this novel came out but this new book puts Max into a different tier.
Be careful…reading Lexicon will compromise you, turning you into one of his proselytes for this heart-stopping thriller. It’s a profoundly intelligent tale that covers a global conspiracy to use words as keys to unlock the human mind.
The novel follows a young street hustler drafted into a secret organization, made into a weapon by careless inattention, and a seemingly innocent bystander, the only survivor of a horrific disaster. Usually his barb filled prose are more than enough for me but he goes for a different approach in this book. The normal tongue-firmly-planted-in-cheek style is set aside for a more serious tone, elevating Max Barry into the upper echelons of science fiction writers. He has obviously done a lot of historical research to ratchet this story up several notches and combined with the philosophical undertones, it really messed with my head. Barry jumps back and forth through the timestream, which serves to maintain a blistering pace and keeps you guessing who is one whose side and what’s going to happen next.
Equal parts smart, funny, and action-packed, it also has a heart, and a very satisfying finish. Barry has upped his game to the next level and I’m starting the bandwagon right now for Hugo. This novel is going to linger in my psyche for quite a while.