Review of Lexicon by Max Barry (original and action-packed thriller)

Review of Lexicon by Max Barry

Sticks and stones break bones.

Words kill.

They recruited Emily from the streets. They said it was because she’s good with words.

They’ll live to regret it.

Wil survived something he shouldn’t have. But he doesn’t remember it.

Now they’re after him and he doesn’t know why.

There’s a word, they say. It shouldn’t have got out. But it did.

And they want it back…


Rating: 5/5

If Max Barry’s name hadn’t been on the front cover of this book, and I had to guess who’d written it, I would’ve guessed say Stephen King. 16158596

King could have written Lexicon. It has his sharp, witty writing style, crazy characters and unique plots. Some of the details and quirks in the writing are also reminiscent of King. But Barry holds his own, and delivers one of the most unique thrillers I’ve read.

Lexicon’s plot focuses on words literally being used as weapons. There are certain people who can words to force people to do things, anything–kill, carry out orders, pretty much anything. It’s a crazy and unique concept.

But it’s not the only focus of Lexicon. The narrative is split into two different narrators. Emily Ruff and Wil Jamieson. At first, it’s hard to see how the characters connect. But as the story unfolds and multiple twists change the direction of the plot, things start to come together.

Lexicon comes together like it was carefully planned from beginning to end. The world building can be a little confusing at times, despite that it takes place in our world, but the history of the ‘Poets’ as the people who can use words are called is only a small part of the story. The focus is largely on Emily and Wil, and their separate stories–at least until their stories meet.

This thriller pretty much delivers on all fronts. Fast-pace, villains, some solid action set-pieces and chase sequences, conspiracies and plenty of twists in the plot.

Like most thrillers it ends in a gripping showdown. But Lexicon isn’t predictable. Barry keeps things as original as the core idea of words as weapons and things don’t unfold as you predict they will.

With solid characters and a cool premise, as well as all the usual thriller elements, Lexicon is one of the best sci-fi (or fantasy; it’s hard to choose which genre it’s closest to) books I’ve read.

Highly, highly recommended.


Has anyone else read Lexicon, thought it was a great thriller? Can anyone recommend any similar books?

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About Sam Whitehouse

Sam spends most of his time in a different world to other people. If it isn’t one he’s created himself, it’s one he’s reading about. In the rare moments when this isn’t the case, Sam can either be found addicted to a sci-fi or crime show, re-watching Marvel movies, finishing up an assignment for his final year of studying Creative Writing at Sheffield Hallam University, or trying to get the dozens of ideas for stories in his head under some kind of control. Sam has lived in the same small village in Yorkshire, surrounded by countryside on all sides ever since he could remember. His childhood saw him get into plenty of scrapes climbing trees and crossing rivers and generally believing he was Indiana Jones. Sam gives credit to his Grandad for him wanting to be a writer, and his bedtime stories for keeping Sam’s imagination stoked. But credit must also go to Steven Spielberg, J K Rowling and Stephen King, who have provided plenty of inspiration over the years, too. Sam writes what he reads, and that is pretty much anything—save romance. Fantasy, thrillers, or crime: once an idea takes root, he can’t stop until the world, characters, and plot are on paper. A huge Marvel fan, Sam one day hopes to pen a screenplay for one of their movies, or direct one, or do anything at all related to one. Until then, he’ll stick to his own fantasy worlds and wait for Marvel’s phone call.

Posted on 07/02/2015, in book review, books, reading and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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