Lexicon by Max Barry (2013)
I wish I could have finished Lexicon in one sitting. The sci-fi thriller from Max Berry (Jennifer Government) is engrossing and fast-paced. Lexicon set in a world where a small group of people have learned a secret vocabulary that allow them to “persuade” others to do or believe anything the persuaders (called Poets) tell them. The story follows Wil, possibly the only person immune to their persuasion, and Emily, a young woman inducted into their ranks. Much of the plot revolves around a horrific accident in a which a single word lead to the deaths of every person in a small town.
I enjoy stories with strong female characters, and Emily is excellent: resourceful, brash, and quick-witted. She’s badass, but not in an annoyingly one-dimensional way. Barry also allows her to be vulnerable. I can’t say as much for the male characters. With the exception of Eliot, the Poet who befriends Emily and attempts to rescue Wil, they’re still interesting, but less nuanced.
I’m also a sucker for stories set in magical schools (Harry Potter, The Magicians). The chapters covering Emily’s education were especially interesting.
While most of the plot works well, I found the ending unconvincing. There was one major loose end left unaddressed. (It’s hard to say more without spoiling it.) However, I would still recommend Lexicon. I don’t read a lot of thrillers or science fiction, but I think it will appeal to those who enjoyed Lev Grossman’s The Magicians, which introduces readers to a magical world and then reveals the horrors possible when that magic is misused.