Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Gibson meets Fforde

The Word ExchangeThe Word Exchange by Alena Graedon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Dear reader, I wanted to hate this book—in addition to the first person narration, it’s a concept book! Word flu. Alice in Wonderland. And a nerdy romance. I thought it was all going to be too twee. Here’s part of the setup:

“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.”

The publisher wants to call it a thriller, hoping to capitalize on the similarity of theme to Lexicon, I guess. Think more along the lines of Gibson’s Pattern Recognition as written by Jasper Fforde, and you’ll be closer.  There’s a likability and camaraderie that shines through, instead of tension. This is no one’s idea of science fiction, and it’s not reality, either. Hello, speculative fiction: near-future, possibly; parallel earth, possibly; parable of a pandemic, metaphor of society, possibly. Here we go. Let’s call speculative fiction what highlights the possible, and science fiction what makes the possible probable.

There are faults in the book (slow start, inelegant transitions, horrible footnotes), but Miss Em has forgiven all because of the love of language, the weft and weave of words—the virtual bricks of the memory palace we call reality—the lilt and tilt of Graedon’s words and thought. In other words, I ended up having fun, and look forward to playing again. Recommended.

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