Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Episode 82: Rave Review: Lexicon

Play Now!

Recordings can be persuasive, sometimes in ways that give us goosebumps. Persuasive, sure…. But what if what we hear or see can work on our brains far more effectively than we know?

In this Episode 82: Rave Review: Lexicon, I share a bit of speculation in that direction from Max Barry's excellent book, Lexicon. This sub-category of episode, the Rave Review, was something, as I explain in the episode, that I was going to revisit regularly when I couldn't think of anything else to do. Which, weirdly, almost never happened. From now on, I promise, I'm going to share reviews of more entertaining media which all hold advertising as a key element driving the plot.

I read a bit of detail from a Smithsonian article about recovering antique sound recording; and from Barry's book. From the Smithsonian piece, I play a bit of recovered audio.

Musically, I play Wurlitztraction's "Talk Riddles, Listen In Dreams," and Podington Bear's "Firefly." Bernie Sanders and KMFDM open the show, and I close with Mistle Thrush.


  1. I second your recommendation! Lexicon is a pulpy thriller that shares some of the premise of Snow Crash in a far less satirical setting. I really enjoyed that book.

    (And boy oh boy do the bits that you excerpted seem even more prescient today than they did in 2014!)

    If you (or anyone reading these comments) is interested in other speculative fiction where the speculative element hits on similar themes, I'd consider the short story To Market, To Market: The Rebranding of Billy Bailey by Cory Doctorow. Or the novel Feed by M.T. Anderson.

    1. Hey, L33t!

      Exactly right on Snow Crash. I was constantly thinking of it as I read Lexicon, mostly realizing that Barry did a better job with the topic. With all the weirdness Stephenson creates—what with the collapse of government, the Garbage Patch, smart wheels, and the Autonomous Nation biker with a sidecar nuke—it's easy to forget that the title for the book was the effect of the ancient language.

      As to prescience, wait until I get to that section in the 'cast. You've probably stumbled upon the founder of the company to which I'm going to refer already, but still. Scary.

      And I will definitely put those books on my list. (I've only read one by Doctorow, For The Win, elements of which eerily resembled another Stephenson book, Reamde. Those two have to stop hanging out together.)



    2. Just finished Feed. Great recommendation! I'll throw that one in the future RR pile!


  2. Definitely enjoyed this episode! I was going to raise the comparison to Snow Crash, too, but l33tminion beat me to it.
    I seriously think the book excerpt here, along with some of your other highlights, would make a good portion of a portfolio if you ever wanted to seek voice acting work. I enjoyed the emotions and the snarky tone you infused into the main character while he was also panting from walking fast.
    And the satire segment at the end here was also one of your better satires. I got a real chuckle out of the idea that the farther you pull the string back, the more episodes your doll recites!! :-)

    1. Oh, someday I'd love to actually _read_ this book, but like so many of us these days, I don't have time to sit down and read hundreds of pages of physical paper. The best I can do is listen to it as an audiobook while doing something else, like driving, or the dishes. Do you know if this novel has an audiobook out?

    2. I seriously think the book excerpt here, along with some of your other highlights, would make a good portion of a portfolio if you ever wanted to seek voice acting work.

      Thanks, Man! I appreciate the compliment.

      I did take a few voice classes at the local extension a few years ago. We started by getting scripts, which were almost all ads. While I did well compared to most of the others in the class, a future selling stuff, well, as you might imagine, just wasn't for me personally.

      And the satire segment at the end here was also one of your better satires.

      Ah, shucks! Actually, I was going to scrap the "hear my voice" stuff that I opened with, simply because the link to the other content was a bit tenuous; but then I thought of the doll thing and chuckled enough to myself to keep it in.

      Do you know if this novel has an audiobook out?

      I'm the wrong guy to ask, sadly. The largest purveyor of audiobooks is also one of the biggest advertisers on podcasts, in case you hadn't noticed. Even though lots have raved to me about their service, I refuse to even consider their product solely on that basis.

      If it makes you feel any better, Lexicon is not onerously long. A quick read.

  3. > "scripts, which were almost all ads"

    Wow, that's a bit frightening. On further thought I'm sure (like graphic designers) most people go into the career hoping to read dramas and voice cartoon characters, and end up taking ad gigs to pay the bills. A person can theoretically, however, make a few bucks on the side by reading only non-advertising material. Several of the better regular podcast shows, like Drabblecast and Escape Pod, pay their voice readers a nominal fee.

    As for the audiobook of Lexicon: merely knowing whether the book exists allows me to search, shall we say, nefarious sources for the audio file. I don't patronize Audible (anymore; I took a brief trial membership and paid for it awhile, but it was an expense I cut when money got tight.)

    There are other, non-nefarious sources. For example, many people would be surprised but local libraries are stocking up on audio books (as well as music on CD and movies on DVD). And that's "free" (your tax dollars at work).
    Many libraries are now using a system called Overdrive which lets you check out electronic materials such as audiobooks on your hand-held screen devices and laptops. If your library participates in Overdrive, you can check out electronic materials from libraries all across America. Pretty neat sharing system. Presuming you already have a library card.
    (which is typically free) Overdrive is free but it's kind-of a pain in the neck to register -- go to your local library and bring a hand-held device and ask them if they participate and how to do it.

    Turns out there's an OverDrive entry for "Lexicon", so if anyone reading this has Overdrive capability, you can check out the audio book, free and legal:

    1. Neat! I see the audio downloads on the library website. Just haven't taken that particular plunge.

      Oh, and just started Feed based on your recommendation. So far, pretty good.

    2. Thank l33t for "Feed", I haven't read it... ;-)

    3. D'oh!

      Oh, I could tell you why
      The ocean meets the shore!
      I could think of things I never thunk before!
      And then I'd sit and think some more!...

      If I only had a brain!

      My bad.