Sunday, March 1, 2015

The Word Exchange by Alena Graedon

I've been reading a lot of books about the future. First there was The Circle by Dave Eggars, then I read Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel, then California by Edan Lepucki, and now there is The Word Exchange by Alena Graedon.


Set in the not too distant future, Anana works at the last dictionary publishing house, run by her father. Dictionaries, most paper published books and other forms of print are almost completely obsolete. People rely on their electronic devices, called Memes, for all communication and information.

As the book opens, the third and final edition of the dictionary is due to be released in a few weeks. But then Anana's father, Doug, disappears. Punctual to a fault, Anana worries that there has been foul play when her father doesn't show up to meet her for dinner. She is right to be concerned.

Not only has her father disappeared, but people seem to be coming down with an illness, the symptoms of which include headache, fever...and aphasia. Somehow this "word flu" is being transmitted through the Memes.

The story is a thriller as Anana tries to find her father. It's a cautionary tale, as she discovers the dangers of dependence on devices. It's also a tribute to a love of words.

I really loved the idea of this book. But I felt as though Graedon had to spend a lot of the time, and by "a lot of time" I mean "most of the book", explaining this world where a disease could be transmitted through a device. There were lots of convolutions, some of which I enjoyed (the Creatorium - notice how that's spelled?), but overall I didn't feel engaged by the story or the characters. Disappointing.

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