Book 51 of my 2014 Reading Challenge
The Word Exchange by Alena Graedon
Summary (via the book jacket)
In the not-so-distant future, the forecasted “death of print” has become a reality. Bookstores, libraries, newspapers, and magazines are things of the past, and we spend our time glued to handheld devices called Memes that not only keep us in constant communication but also have become so intuitive that they hail us cabs before we leave our offices, order takeout at the first growl of a hungry stomach, and even create and sell language itself in a marketplace called the Word Exchange.
Anana Johnson works with her father, Doug, at the North American Dictionary of the English Language (NADEL), where Doug is hard at work on the last edition that will ever be printed. Doug is a staunchly anti-Meme, anti-tech intellectual who fondly remembers the days when people used email (everything now is text or videoconference) to communicate—or even actually spoke to one another, for that matter. One evening, Doug disappears from the NADEL offices, leaving a single written clue: ALICE. It’s a code word he devised to signal if he ever fell into harm’s way. And thus begins Anana’s journey down the proverbial rabbit hole...
My OpinionWhat a fascinating and frightening premise.
There were 26 chapters, one for each letter of the alphabet, which made it very easy to track my progress. It was a slow start for me, a little wordy (heh), but from chapter 'H' on I was hooked and couldn't put it down.
It's the kind of book I can't say much about in a review because it's difficult to sum up or avoid spoilers, but I would love to talk about with someone that has read it. I will say two reasons I liked, not loved, it is because Anana was the kind of girl that got in her own way at times (she was even described by another character as one where the "clues must be very obvious in order for her to find them"), and some of the plotlines wrapped up a little too neatly through what I refer to as "off camera" situations, where the reader doesn't see the action but instead has it summed up as complete in a sentence or two after the fact.
It's classified as sci-fi which may cause some readers to skip it and that would be a shame. If you enjoy biotech mysteries or smart suspense (slowly unraveling threads, only to have something new pop up when you think you have everything under control), I would recommend this book.
A Few Quotes from the Book"It may seem to some readers that the dystopian future we're imagining is exaggerated or, at the very least, a long way off. We can only hope, for all our sakes, that they're right. Because if not, then these and all words may very soon lose their meanings. And then we'll all be lost."
"Words are living legends, swollen with significance. We string them together to make stories, but they themselves are stories, encapsulating rich, runny histories."
"Words don't always work. Sometimes they come up short. Conversations can lead to conflict. There are failures of diplomacy. Some differences, for all the talk in the world, remain irreconcilable. People make empty promises, go back on their word, say things they don't believe. But connection, with ourselves and with others, is the only way we can live."