Author/Publisher: Max Barry/Penguin Press
Released date: June 18th, 2013
Grade: 2 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: Pawl Schwartz
This book hooked me on the premise. An X-Men style school for those who are especially gifted with words and resisting persuasion that turns students into near superhumans who can weaponize language. NLP taken to its logical extreme? Well, that’s what I thought. But the actual end result is far less interesting.
I won’t waste your time with a longwinded review on what I thought would be a candy-quick read. The book takes a left turn to focus on the Tower of Babel story and a secret ancient language that used to be universal. The teachers at the school, called “poets” when they master language control, are constantly working on uncovering this ancient language and its “bare words,” because anyone who so much as views one will have no more will or volition outside of what is asked by the one who holds the word.
The rest of the book is spent explaining how there are about 200 different personality types and how each poet must use quick personality tests on each subject before they can figure out what syllables/words will work to control them. This seems a little messy and far from superhuman. The explanation of this process takes up too much time in the book. The character needs to learn the fictional process, not the reader. Easy mistake.
After all these explanations, there is little room for storyline, save a simple one that offers no twists or turns, and left me feeling like I was just slogging through the book, waiting for the inevitable ending that is made clear by twenty pages in. I know this book sounds cool, but seriously, don’t do it. If you find that curiosity still burning hot when it comes out in paperback, buy it then. It physically pains me when anyone has a bad time with a book.