At an exclusive school somewhere outside of Arlington, Virginia, students aren't taught history, geography, or mathematics - at least not in the usual ways. Instead, they are taught to persuade. Here the art of coercion has been raised to a science. Students harness the hidden power of language to manipulate the mind and learn to break down individuals by psychographic markers in order to take control of their thoughts. The very best will graduate as "poets": adept wielders of language who belong to a nameless organization that is as influential as it is secretive.
Whip-smart orphan Emily Ruff is making a living running a three-card Monte game on the streets of San Francisco when she attracts the attention of the organization's recruiters. She is flown across the country for the school's strange and rigorous entrance exams, where, once admitted, she will be taught the fundamentals of persuasion by Brontë, Eliot, and Lowell - who have adopted the names of famous poets to conceal their true identities. For in the organization, nothing is more dangerous than revealing who you are: Poets must never expose their feelings lest they be manipulated. Emily becomes the school's most talented prodigy until she makes a catastrophic mistake: She falls in love.
Meanwhile, a seemingly innocent man named Wil Jamieson is brutally ambushed by two strange men in an airport bathroom. Although he has no recollection of anything they claim he's done, it turns out Wil is the key to a secret war between rival factions of poets and is quickly caught in their increasingly deadly crossfire. As the two narratives converge, the shocking work of the poets is fully revealed, the body count rises, and the world crashes toward a Tower of Babel event which would leave all language meaningless.
©2013 Max Barry (P)2013 Penguin Audio
I'm a PhD student in Linguistics in California, and I like to be positive (but my reviews maybe don't support that statement). I <3 books!
Yes, the plot was great. The author made sure there was always something I didn't know, keeping me guessing what was next.
Worst accents ever (except "Jennifer Government" was even worse). SO painful.
What's the audo equivalent of a page-turner? Not sure. But that, even with the terrible fake accents.
Mind Control Organization
A memorable moment for me was when I realized who was the antagonist from the beginning of the novel. It was a surprising perspective change.
If you can be categorized, you can be controlled.
If someone were to describe this book as a powerful organization that can control people by saying phrases imbued with power, you might assume that this is a fantasy book about witchcraft. But the author has made what could be described as fantasy into a believable science-fiction story through the progressive development of the science involved. Coolio!
I have been a voracious reader since I was a child.
The synopsis looked great and I was very happy with both the male and female narrators (though the woman did an Australian accent terribly, it wasn't too distracting). But the storytelling was a letdown. Crazy, gritty chase and destruction scenes played out for far too long. Instead of going on and on about them, the author should have taken more time to develop the story surrounding what these students were learning and why. The sci-fi nerd in me wanted more details about the mechanics of mind control, and fewer high speed chase scenes. This could have been a great novel.
Max Barry is back in top form. This entertaining musing on the power of words may go to extremes to get it's point across but in a world drowning in con men disguised as salesmen this is exactly the modern parable we should celebrate.
Maybe, I usually don't come back to fast paced thrillers like this but it felt like there was something more going on that I missed.
Eliot was the most interesting to me but just because he felt like he had the most history and internal conflict throughout the story. But he also doesn't go through as dramatic and interesting an arc as Emily does it's kind of a toss up.
Corrigan's Emily and Appleman's Eliot too difficult to compare. I'll go with Corrigan's Emily just because I feel she really brings some sympathy to a character who needs later on down the line.
It's difficult to share without giving a lot away, but suffice it to say I really enjoy Max Barry's romances in his books.
This is a magic system that really means something besides creating cool fight scenes. It gives a real image to the power of words and knowledge. The most powerful characters in this story are those who know how to read people and how to exploit that. Intelligence and charisma really are dangerous tools in this world just like they are in ours. Dang, I love this book.
Heather Corrigan's voice is hypnotic. I'd listen to her read the phone book!
It was too long to listen to all at once, but I pretty much listened to it whenever I could and didn't want to put it down.
I liked the structure of the book, the parallel stories that came together and moved apart. I also enjoyed the way one's frame of reference for certain characters or institutions would be fundamentally changed as the book progressed. That increased the roller coaster sense of being on a wild ride with the narrative.
Good story and characters. Very good performance.
The book would be 1/3 to 1/2 shorter if the "f" word were removed.
This is my first Max Barry book, and I was very impressed. A very engaging story, good writing that held together, good narration. It was one of those audio books where I could not wait to get into my truck to listen to it. Well done!
I kept being reminded of the Don't think of an Elephant short book about how language is manipulated to get people to think certain ways and I've run across some of the tidbits regarding linguistics and language development etc elsewhere and there could have been even more of that for me and it would have been fine. what there is is not heavy handed and is well enough layed out.
Here we have a well thought out story and even though it at times follows standard plot lines it is researched enough without being pedantic to keep drawing you further along. It is fast moving, entertaining and goes a step beyond "subliminal seduction" entering into some horrific moments. A chase novel that moves back and forth from present to past and slowly brings past up to rejoin. This is done well though it isn't spelled out immediately and could cause a moment's confusion but it works fine except maybe for a bit at the end where the time frames are too close. there are a couple of things I'd like to have seen explained or at least not ignored since to me you have to at least acknowledge where this "base word" came from whether you go into much detail or not. But at least theres some thought behind this and it's not a Stephen King evil spirits to explain it all type cop out.
But all in all fun and as i said with some food for thought. & on a side note, If i'm not mistaken this is the same publisher as the Pynchon Bleeding Edge debacle and these narrators (rotating male and female, which is excellently done) even do a good job with Australian accents and so the ? again surfaces, How can they get this audio so right, and the Pynchon so abysmally wrong?
Say something about yourself!
This is Max Barry's take on the theme of how language affects thought with a special focus on language as a code for hacking the brains of other people in order to control them. There are many interesting ideas here, although the fiction does tend to outweigh the science most of the time and the book slips into the fantasy zone on occasion. Nevertheless, the story is strong enough to counter the hand waving going on, and you can't help caring about Barry's very complicated and compelling characters. I would recommend Neal Stephenson's "Snowcrash," and Samuel R. Delaney's "Babel 17" as earlier novels on this same theme. If you read them first, you will actually catch some of the subtle nods to these stories in Barry's book.
Report Inappropriate Content