Friday, March 27, 2015

Lexicon: Words are Weapons

Lexicon:  A Novel 
Words are Weapons
by Max Barry
Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (April 1, 2014)
ISBN-10: 0143125427
ISBN-13: 978-0143125426

Available at Amazon

Emily Ruff thought she'd found a quick way to get off the streets and get ahead in the world when the chance at a new life was presented.  She needed the challenge, a chance to learn to focus instead of living by her wits, and she wanted the opportunity, but she never expected to become one of the most dangerous people on the planet, the holder of a power so enormous that no human should be allowed to have it, a power that others would kill, again and again, to possess.

Surprisingly, the key to this power is language.  Legend tells us there was one language, broken at the Tower of Babel, with different cultures spun off in all directions, people choosing, based on separate languages, new paths, thinking in new, individual, ways.

As communications technology has advanced in our day and age, the world has become a much smaller place and differences seem to be coalescing.  Along with the physical improvements in communications, however, have come advances in cognitive research, creating new tools capable of fully examining our innermost workings, tools that use language to trigger interest in buying, to change our opinions of politicians, to change our long held habits, all the while gathering ever more data about what we think, how we tick, and who we are. These are the issues Lexicon explores.

A bit of a sci-fi, a bit of a political thriller, and a bit of a who-done-it, Lexicon is at its core a lot of thought provoking material to chew on, geared to getting us to think.

Are we now prey to scientific and political manipulation that we don't even see?  Emily's predicament is not likely to show up in our day to day reality, but as her story is told, Lexicon asks the question "As science and technology study all our personal and survey data, analyze our preferences and catalog our weaknesses, who will use this information and how?"  The author forces us to look at aspects of our world that intentionally slip beneath the radar.   I recommend this book as a fast-paced thriller with strong characters, but also one with real impact that will help keep us thinking for months to come.

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