Lexicon by Max Barry
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This book is a tremendous amount of fun, which is a good thing, because if it wasn’t so much fun, I would have put it down halfway through and never finished it. The action is fun, the rules of the “magic” (actually science, but it’s the kind of science fiction science that, to this author, counts more as magic) are creative and interesting, and the characters are, if not always sympathetic, basically likeable. The main villain is well-crafted and extravagantly hideous of soul. In all the glossiest ways, this books holds its own, and, as you can see from the other strong reviews this book has already received, will not disappoint most people.
But it disappointed me, a little. I feel like everywhere the author’s trying to be a little elliptical and occult by alluding to things instead of painting them outright, he just comes across as lazy to me. Or no, not lazy, but like those illustrators who either can’t draw hands, or hate drawing hands, so everything they draw, they just draw it so the hands hidden. It’s not that he leaves important plot-dependent questions unanswered, but he does still leave enough ancillary questions unanswered that I was a bit frustrated and wanted more. But who knows, maybe this is just meant to be the first in a series of books about the so-called Poets who shape people’s minds with the power of words, in which case all questions will be answered later, and all will certainly be forgiven.
Another thing that disappointed me more specifically was how shallowly this story skimmed over words, the history of language, the neuroscience of linguistics, and basically all the really interesting and deeper history and science that could have been folded into the texture of this book’s “magic”. I wouldn’t be so picky about this, but, you know, I just felt like the author didn’t have patience for this part, which was aggravating as hell. As in, why write about this if you don’t want to actually get into it all that much? Other reviewers have made comparisons to Snow Crash, which makes total sense, right? Because that was also a book about software that could crash the brain. Except Snow Crash was about that and a lot of other things, but it still went into much more depth on the topic than Lexicon ever did, and that was the only thing it was supposed to be about.
I don’t like to write bad reviews, and I don’t mean for this to be a negative review, because despite my nitpicking, I did have fun reading this. It just didn’t have a lot of depth or surprises. It didn’t make me ask any questions about anything deep, and it didn’t challenge me, but sometimes, that’s exactly the kind of book you want to read, right?
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