Thursday, April 17, 2014


The Word ExchangeThe Word Exchange by Alena Graedon
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I don't read too many science fiction books, but the premise of The Word Exchange was too tempting to pass up. While I was reading, news articles and stories constantly popped up in the media that reinforced the possibility of Alena Graedon's imagined future being much, much closer than one would like to admit. And although you can read a hardback, I was given an electronic copy, which made the experience rather eerie.

Called “a dystopian novel for the digital age”, the story takes place in the not too distant future when print in all its forms has pretty much disappeared. People rely on an advanced type of cell phone called a Meme for all types of communication, but these devices are so closely attuned to their owners that they can sense needs and can provide an answer, a word, hail a cab, or order take-out before being instructed to do so.

Anana Johnson's father has disappeared leaving her one clue: ALICE. Doug Johnson has been close to publishing the very last print edition of the North American Dictionary of the English Language (NADEL). The search for her father intensifies as a pandemic called “word flu” takes over the city and people lose not only words but ultimately the ability to speak.

The book is divided into 26 dictionary entries and the tale is told by two characters as journal entries. In fact, everything about The Word Exchange is clever and inventive. Unfortunately I didn't feel any real connection to the characters nor was there any real sense of dread communicated even when situations might have demanded it. The work seems more of an intellectual puzzle.

Although I finished the book, it took me much longer than it should have. It just seemed to drag on. I found it tedious to check foot notes on my Kindle.

Title: The Word Exchange
Author: Alena Graedon
Genre: Speculative, Dystopian Fiction
Publisher: Doubleday
ISBN: 0385537654
No. of Pages: 384 pages
Copyright: April 8, 2014
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Source: NetGalley

BOTTOM LINE: I am sure there is an audience for this book, but it's not me.

DISCLOSURE: Invited by NetGalley to request and receive this title for an honest review.

Alena Graedon was born in Durham, NC, and is a graduate of Carolina Friends School, Brown University, and Columbia University’s MFA program. She was Manager of Membership and Literary Awards at the PEN American Center before leaving to finish The Word Exchange, her first novel, with the help of fellowships at several artist colonies. Her writing has been translated into nine languages. She lives in Brooklyn. (Source: Random House)

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