Book review: Lexicon shows us deadliness of poetry

In Max Barry's fun and thought-provoking Lexicon, readers are thrown into a compelling world of confusion and control where "poets"force people to obey their commands.

Max Barry
Mulholland Books

Are you a cat or a dog person?The Australian author Max Barry explores the concept of how simple questions and character traits can allow a certain few gifted people to ascertain which "category" a human's personality falls into and how that information can be used to manipulate them in his fourth novel, Lexicon.

We are thrown straight into Barry's compelling world of confusion and control when we encounter Wil waking up in a Portland International Airport bathroom as two "poets" try to extract vital information locked in his brain.

These poets, going by such names as Plath, Yeats, Eliot and the wonderfully complicated Woolf, use certain words and phrases that can "compromise" people, forcing them to obey commands, sometimes with deadly consequences.

Wonderfully crafted, dark yet humorous, fast-paced and tragic in turn, the experience leaves the reader as confused and hungry for more information as Wil as he travels across the United States and back to Broken Hill in the Australian Outback, the scene of a horrific yet mysterious massacre, to which he holds the key, all the time pursued by the sinister poets.