A few months ago, I was perusing the shelves at Vroman's Bookstore in Pasadena and sitting on a display of new paperbacks, I came across Max Barry's Lexicon. Lexicon was prominently displayed and caught my attention with the notation that it was one of Time Magazine's Top Ten Fiction Books of the Year and an NPR Best Book of the Year. "Well, if NPR liked it... "
Thrillers are not my normal go-to genre of fiction. Whether it's a movie or a book, they are a hard sell for me.
Lexicon starts out intriguing enough, with a man, Wil Parke, coming to consciousness after being kidnapped and waking up to discover that he is in the middle of a medical procedure. No, they're not stealing a kidney. His captors tell him not to move, as there is a needle in his eyeball! Whoa!
The story bounces between Wil Parke and homeless teen, Emily Ruff. Emily has been living on the streets of San Francisco, using her abilities of persuasion to work as a scam artist, when a mysterious man approaches her and offers her the opportunity to train at highly secretive organization.
Lexicon never drops in intensity or intrigue. For a majority of the novel, it is hard to see where the two stories are going to intersect, but they finally do in a surprising and blood-soaked conclusion.
As gripping as the first third of the book was, it failed to keep my interest. I started it two months ago and I've read several books before finishing Lexicon. This was a huge hurdle to my enjoyment of the story. There are a lot of characters and a lot of plot. It's not the type of book that should be read over a long time span.
My boredom with it, was due to Barry's focus on plot over characters. There was so much action, that there was never a chance to develop a relationship with the characters. I didn't connect with them or care about them. They were flat. The plot is well planned and interesting, but if I don't care about the characters, the plot becomes fairly irrelevant. This isn't a horrible book by any means, I just found it lacking depth.
There is a great deal of creativity with word play and with authors. It's a thriller aimed at literary geeks. In the end, I felt like Lexicon was the love-child of Michael Crichton and Jasper Fforde. Not quite my cup of tea, but I know people who would probably very much enjoy Barry's novel.