Friday, 16 October 2015

The Word Exchange by Alena Graedon

Set in a dystopian future, The Word Exchange explores what a fully digitalised world would be like and the consequences that come from relying heavily on devices and electronics.
I've struggled with how to write this review, as I have such mixed feelings on the book and I don't want to share too much in depth information on the plot, so I decided the easiest way to share my thoughts would be to split it in to two - the things I liked, and the things I didn't like. I'm starting with the things I didn't like, because ending on a positive is nice, right?
Things I didn't like
Disconnection from characters.
I felt no connection with the characters in The Word Exchange, none whatsoever. Well, unless you count wondering where Doug is as a connection. We learn a lot about the characters in the book, but I didn't feel a depth to them.
Not fearing what will happen to Anana.
Multiple times throughout the book Anana, the main character, finds herself in a number of compromising and life threatening situations, but I didn't feel gripped by these because I knew Anana was safe and well by how the book is told - with Anana herself referencing things from the future.
Bart's journal inserts.
I fully understand why Bart's journal was written the way it was, with word flu being present throughout - so words muddled and such - but from a reader's perspective, it was really annoying to read. So much so that at one point I was close to just putting the book down.
Fanciful writing.
Sticking with the writing in the book... There was a lot of words used within this book that I had to look up. I don't know if I need to expand my vocabulary a little, but on a number of occasions I thought the author was getting fancy with her choice of words. I understand, with the book predominantly focusing on words, that the author would need have a competent knowledge when it comes to words, however having to keep looking up words whilst reading takes away from that reading experience.
The length.
As I mentioned in my most recent It's Monday! post, I just barely finished this book in a week. Although that is pretty typical for me, it was by putting reading as a priority in my spare time that made that possible. The Word Exchange felt incredibly long, and I do think it could have been chopped down by a good few pages and still have the same effect, if not better because it wouldn't seem like a chore getting through the book. Honestly, I thought it was never ending. It didn't help that Goodreads informed me this book was 320 pages long, when in actual fact it is longer than that.
Things I did like
The general premise.
The overall premise of The Word Exchange is possibly one of my favourites from the year. As I touched upon at the start, the book explores what is almost a fully digitalised world with a Meme being your constant companion - not only does it work as a traditional mobile device (communication tool) but it also understands you as a person, reading your mind and being one step ahead of your wants/needs. As with any technology, there is always going to be updates, except the Meme update sends the world in to chaos.
The concept really makes you think about your usage of technology and the ways in which you rely on it, and that comes from someone who really isn't clued up on technology and electronics - I don't own an iPhone like a large portion of the world's population, in fact I don't even have a smartphone, and those are by choice so the reliance on a Meme within The Word Exchange really makes me think about where the world is going - even though the story is fictional, a fully digitalised world is something that could very well come about sooner than we think.
I think the premise alone would make The Word Exchange a really good book club read.  
The mystery of Doug's, a lexicographer for the North American Dictionary of the English Language, disappearance.
Doug's disappearance is the main story running through The Word Exchange, and I was hooked by it. He seemingly upped and disappeared, with virtually no trace, and Anana (his daughter) alongside colleague and friend, Bart, unearth a number of clues leading to the ultimate conclusion. The way everything pieced together worked really well in the way of a mystery.
References to Alice in Wonderland.
Although only a little thing, I really liked all the references to Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Although only filtered in here and there, they play in large part in Doug's disappearance and give the book that special touch.
All loose ends tied up.
With any book, I like everything to be tied up neatly in a bow at the end, and Alena Graedon does that in The Word Exchange - I had no unanswered questions. I do think this is one of the reasons why the book felt quite long though.
Reading through my review, I think certain aspects would make more sense to those who have read the book themselves, but hopefully it provides a good insight in to The Word Exchange. I'm not entirely sure if the positives outweigh the negatives for me when it comes to this book, but I would recommend The Word Exchange if you were looking for a slightly different dystopian type novel.
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4 comments

  1. ugh i have a hard time with books if i dont feel a connection with characters ;/

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    1. I know where you're coming from, I often do as well. As was the case with The Word Exchange.

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  2. I enjoyed this book, but I don't think I ever reviewed it. Not that I've read your review, I don't have to - you put all my thoughts into words! :) The premise of the book is what intrigued me and what kept me reading, and it really does provide an interesting commentary on where our world is heading. But I know I didn't love this book as much as I expected to, and I really think it's the lack of character connection that does it. I was interested in knowing what happened to them, but not as fully invested as I probably could have been. Good review, Jade! :)

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    1. Yes, I agree Julie - I think there could have been a little more emphasis on the characters as they were key to the story being told, as well as the way it was told. Thanks! I'd have loved to hear your thoughts on The Word Exchange, especially with the way in which you format your reviews.

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