I just finished a novel recommended to me by a friend, and I’m compelled to add my name to the list of hearty advocates. It’s not terribly common for me be as compelled to finish something as I was with this one, and I can absolutely say that you should go read it now. That book is Lexicon by Max Barry.
This was the first of his novels (five at the time of this writing) that I have read, and from start to finish it was the kind of writing that makes me feel a little foolish for trying to sit down and write things of my own. I reached the end and said to myself, “Damn it. That was good. Why would people want to read this thing I’m working on again?” This kind of experience has the potential to make your own writing pursuits seem silly by comparison, but I’ve learned (or compelled myself to believe) that in fact it should be a very positive experience instead.
Lexicon is, in my opinion of course, very well thought-out. It feels extremely well-plotted, the characters reasonably complex, and the pacing is such that I never felt that I was in a lull. The premise was definitely compelling, and while there were certainly plot points I anticipated, I was never sure that it was intended to be a twist at all. Maybe I was in fact only just keeping up.
The writing itself was just right for the context. Barry has a style that is unstilted and no more complex than it needs to be, but just as compelling as it should be. There were multiple times that, for example, I simply felt the vulnerability of a character, having been drawn into the situation naturally and unwittingly. Perhaps there would be things I would want to see differently if I decided to pick apart each tiny piece in detail – but I see no reason to do so. I enjoyed the read immensely.
And that’s the key point for me, when something like this makes its way through my reading list. I’m so accustomed to combing through my own writing with a magnifying glass that I forget this feeling. Sure, it’s necessary on your own work. It’s your own responsibility to make it as good as it can be. But it’s easy – pardon the slight cliché – to compare your blooper reel to everyone else’s highlights. This novel represents a huge amount of stellar effort, and we get to see the polished product. That says nothing about what your own writing could become itself, only that you recognize what you love and want it to become.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a few drawing-boards waiting for me to get back to them.