The Word Exchange by Alena Graedon

8 Apr

Thanks to NetGalley for giving me a chance to read this incredibly satisfying book before it was published!

“The Word Exchange” follows the story of Anana as she tries to locate the whereabouts of her recently disappeared father, Doug. Anana works with her father for the North American Dictionary of the English Language (NADEL) which is about to release the final print edition. Final? That’s because most print is dead. Everyone relies on their Meme for information. Their Meme, a tablet like device that not only gives users text and information but also orders taxis when users think they need one, diagnose user’s maladies (doctors are almost all out of work now), and other (unsettling) features. Anana, like most everyone else, loves her Meme. Doug, and his colleague Bart (who happens to be in love with Anana–but she doesn’t know it) don’t. In fact, Doug still uses email!! And still has pens and paper! While Anana searches for her father, a global pandemic breaks out: people are forgetting how to speak and depending more and more on the popular “Word Exchange” program that, for a fee, will define words for you.

 

This book was awesome. “The Word Exchange” belongs alongside “Super Sad True Love Story” by Gary  Shteyngart and “Lexicon” by Max Berry. Equal parts secret society mystery and commentary on the nature of language and the future of society if we continue to depend on our devices to interact with each other and the world around us. This book was thrilling! The character of Anana is the type of female character I enjoy. She’s flawed, does all the things you know she shouldn’t (so many times I just wanted to scream at her for not listening to instructions!!) but because of her decisions takes us on a wild ride. Bart (or Horse) is a character that speaks for those who are in love with the written word, those who are reluctant to accept new things just because they are new. In the end, the characters in Graedon’s book are familiar to all readers and lovers of the written word. Anana and Bart (Bartleby–a great and useful reference in the book) both contract the word flu and through them we experience what it would be like to slowly lose language. Both narrate the book in different chapters (each chapter is a letter of the alphabet and is accompanied by a definition which relates to the chapter) and the breakdown of their language becomes apparent very quickly. It was fun to highlight all of the “nonwords” that they both start using but scary at the same time. The Word Exchange is a program that I could easily see becoming a reality in the far future–so many people seem convinced that words can change meaning when and how they want. Even if a word flu isn’t possible–the ultimate dependance on smart devices and the demise of print (even email!) is a sobering concept and this book will surely light fires in readers everywhere. A smart and entertaining book, I will be purchasing my own physical copy to read and enjoy again.

One Response to “The Word Exchange by Alena Graedon”

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  1. Dystopia – Society that is Undesirable or Frightening | BLOGSUNNYSIDE - April 17, 2014

    […] The Word Exchange by Alena Graedon […]

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