The Word Exchange
written by Alena Graedon
published by Doubleday
Why did I pick this book: I was pre-approved via NetGalley to review this book. (I received a copy of this book for review purposes.)
Did I enjoy this book: Not really.
I should probably preface my comments by admitting I’m not a huge fan of dystopian novels. Had I known this book was . . . oh gosh, not sure how to describe it . . . out there? I probably would’ve turned down the request to review.
So you won’t be surprised to learn I don’t like the story at all. Let me start with memes. They are like smartphones that do everything automatically making everyday thoughts and plans unnecessary. At least, that’s what I think they are.
I’m very pro-technology. My kindle is sitting next to me; my ear buds are plugged into my iphone while I type on my laptop. Yet I consider myself to be pretty extroverted. If you’re letting technology take over your life, stop it. It’s that simple. That’s why I couldn’t buy into the basic premise of this novel.
I’m not sure how to ease into this next paragraph so I’ll just come out and say, footnotes have no place in fiction. That’s a sentence I never imagined I’d have to write. But here it is. If I have to stop reading to look something up it kills the flow of the story; which BTW was painfully slow.
In the About the Author section it says, “ . . . her first novel, was completed with the help of fellowships at several artist colonies.” Despite my best efforts, I can’t figure out what that means. But if you’re considering writing a novel and a fellowship of artist colonies offers to help: run.
Would I recommend it: If you live in an artist colony, maybe. Everyone else, no.
About the book – from Goodreads: A dystopian novel for the digital age, The Word Exchange offers an inventive, suspenseful, and decidedly original vision of the dangers of technology and of the enduring power of the printed word.
In the not-so-distant future, the forecasted “death of print” has become a reality. Bookstores, libraries, newspapers, and magazines are things of the past, and we spend our time glued to handheld devices called Memes that not only keep us in constant communication but also have become so intuitive that they hail us cabs before we leave our offices, order takeout at the first growl of a hungry stomach, and even create and sell language itself in a marketplace called the Word Exchange.
Anana Johnson works with her father, Doug, at the North American Dictionary of the English Language (NADEL), where Doug is hard at work on the last edition that will ever be printed. Doug is a staunchly anti-Meme, anti-tech intellectual who fondly remembers the days when people used email (everything now is text or videoconference) to communicate—or even actually spoke to one another, for that matter. One evening, Doug disappears from the NADEL offices, leaving a single written clue: ALICE. It’s a code word he devised to signal if he ever fell into harm’s way. And thus begins Anana’s journey down the proverbial rabbit hole . . .
Joined by Bart, her bookish NADEL colleague, Anana’s search for Doug will take her into dark basements and subterranean passageways; the stacks and reading rooms of the Mercantile Library; and secret meetings of the underground resistance, the Diachronic Society. As Anana penetrates the mystery of her father’s disappearance and a pandemic of decaying language called “word flu” spreads, The Word Exchangebecomes a cautionary tale that is at once a technological thriller and a meditation on the high cultural costs of digital technology.