Max Barry

About the Author:
Max Barry is an Australian who pretended to sell high-end computer systems for Hewlett-Packard while secretly writing his first novel, Syrup (1999). In fact, he still has the laptop he wrote it on because HP forgot to ask for it back, but keep that to yourself. He put an extra X in his name for Syrup because he thought it would be a funny joke about marketing and failed to realize everyone would assume he was a pretentious asshole. Jennifer Government, his second novel, was published in 2003 with no superfluous Xs and sold much better. Max's third novel, Company, was published in 2006, and his fourth, Machine Man, in 2012, was based on a real-time interactive web serial written and delivered in real-time one page per day from this web site. It made more sense than it sounds. Max's fifth novel, Lexicon, was named one of the Best 10 Books of the Year by Time Magazine. Max also created the online political game NationStates, for which he is far more famous amongst high school students and poli-sci majors than his novels. He was born March 18, 1973, and lives in Melbourne, Australia, where he writes full-time, the advantage being that he can do it while wearing only boxer shorts. (Maxbarry.com)

Stick and stones break bones. Words kill.
They recruited Emily Ruff from the streets. They said it was because she's good with words.
They'll live to regret it.
They said Wil Parke survived something he shouldn't have. But he doesn't remember.
Now they're after him and he doesn't know why.
There's a word, they say. A word that kills.
And they want it back . . .
(Barnes and Noble)

Discussion Questions:

  • Is Lexicon the ultimate ode to the phrase "The pen is mightier than the sword"?
  • In what ways are words used as weapons, in the novel and in your own life?
  • What did you think of the characters' adoption of famous poets' names? Which name would you choose for yourself?
  • If you could use words to unlock and control a person's mind, would you? What would you have them do?
  • Who do you like better — Wil or Emily? Why?
  • What were the most disorienting aspects of this book?
  • How did the book's physical violence compare to the havoc words wreaked?
  • In your opinion, what are the most powerful words in the English language?
  • Can words be intrinsically good or evil?