Book Review – The Word Exchange

The Word ExchangeThe Word Exchange by Alena Graedon
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I was given this book in exchange for an honest review.

This book takes the reader into a world where a virtually paperless society becomes so dependent on electronic devices that people begin to forget words, and language begins fading into the background. People are constantly connected to their personal device, called a Meme that “senses” what one needs — when you’re hungry, when you might need a cab, etc. Thus, the decline of people’s ability to actually use and recall words, and an increase in dependence on their device for even the most basic tasks. This ultimately leads to dependence on The Word Exchange. Now, instead of committing words to memory, one can simply depend on their Meme to look up the definition on The Word Exchange for a small price. Ultimately, the devices and the humans become biologically merged, and a virus that destroys people’s speech ensues. The word flu.

The idea is very creative. This, I love. However, the book is not easy to read. First, there’s the use of big words that I often had to look up. Of course, the irony of this also was not lost on me — it solidified one of the main points of the book – that we are losing valuable language skills. That’s why I found it odd that the author chose to have most of her characters use the F-word, one of the most absurd and offensive words of the English language.

The other issue I had with this book was the overabundance of research facts; i.e. references to German philosopher Hegel, the history of pneumatic tubes. There was just too much of it throughout the book, and did nothing to move the plot along.

And finally, it was the lack of page-turning conflict and too many unlikable characters that left this book flat for me. The sense of danger was hung before the reader like a dangling carrot, but it never materialized. The main character, Anana often felt she was being followed, but nothing much ever came of it except for once when she fell down some steps. My favorite part of the book, was the mysterious Creatorium that Anana discovers in the basement of her workplace. It was creepy, strange, ominous. But, even here, she gets by a large guard by saying she has to go meet her boyfriend.

So, this is what my three-star rating means. I liked the book, because the story was creative, and I could tell a lot of work went into it. Alena Graedon is no doubt a talented writer. There just wasn’t enough there for me to become emotionally involved with the characters or their lives.

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