When Technology Kills Language: The Word Exchange by Alena Graedon April 9, 2014 – Posted in: Of Interest: Featured Books / Reviews – Tags:


Sometimes the word is the thing. The bridge. Sometimes we only know what we feel once it’s been said. Words may be the daughters of the earth instead of heaven. but they’re not dim. And even in the faintest shimmer, there is light. – Anana Johnson

Alena Graedon’s debut novel is a powerful harbinger of the dangers of turning too much of our lives over to technology and the barons who control it. Called “a dystopian novel for the digital age,” the book grapples with the immense toll technology is taking on our language, our thoughts and our ability to communicate.

Set in New York in the not-too-distant future in a world nearly void of printed material, the book centers on  Anana Johnson who works with her father Doug at the North American Dictionary of the English Language (NADEL).

Doug, a classic luddite, is hard at work at preparing the final edition of NADEL when he disappears.

The NADAL was the last of its kind. All other U.S. dictionaries had had of course been folded into Synchronic, Inc.’s Word Exchange by then–all language reference “tools” consolidated in one digital “marketplace.”

And what has taken the place of print? The void is filled with handheld devices called Memes that double as communication devices and as a predictors of need. The device can also spread disease and is responsible for unleashing the “word flu,” a malady that eats away at your language skills.  Before you know it gibberish has infiltrated your speech.

To recover one has to have visit a marketplace called the Word Exchange where you can fill in the linguistic holes by buying words; think of it as buying a vowel on Wheel of Fortune gone wild.

So the race is on, for Anana to find her dad and for Doug and his colleagues to come up with a cure.

The book is also steeped in the literary with Lewis Carroll and Samuel Johnson (the father of the dictionary) references throughout and the novel culminates in Oxford (the home of the English Dictionary).

The Word Exchange is published by Doubleday

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