The Word Exchange, Alena Graedon

“Language is our servant, submissive to the master of reason”

“We read to connect with other minds.”

In the not-so-distant future, the forecasted ‘death of print’ has become a reality, as we spend our time glued to handheld devices called Memes, which have become so intuitive as to hail us cabs and even create and sell language on the marketplace, called the Word ExchangeWhen Anana’s father disappears and the pandemic ‘word flu’ that causes a decay in language spreads, she is only left with the code-name given to her by her father: ‘Alice’, and so her journey down the proverbial rabbit hole begins…


For anybody that knows me I think it’s obvious why this book caught my eye: I really like dystopian novels, and the publishing industry – and so the future of print – is something I’m especially interested in. And this real and potential idea in our current society is handled so wonderfully in this novel.

The book was gripping from the beginning. Even the quotes in the preface set the scene further, along with the chapter headings of dictionary definitions. Moreover, the nature of dystopia means the reader is introduced to a new world and gradually learns more as it develops – such as the customs, traditions and laws – which I like.

It is written from two points of view, Ana’s and Bart’s, looking back on this time. The first-hand perspective allowed the word flu and the consequent corruption of words and language to be presented through the writing, and although it often made it harder to understand, it is also extremely effective in presenting the setting and circumstances. Bart’s moments of reflection often involve intellectual discussions on language and Hegel. I feel this would usually seem contrived and pretentious however it is actually very relevant to the novel and characterisation of Bart. (Plus it was pretty interesting too.)

Overall I really liked this book; I was hooked throughout, and as the revelations continued it became even better.

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