A fiendishly clever dystopian novel for the digital age, The Word Exchange is a fresh, stylized, and decidedly original debut about the dangers of technology and the power of the printed word.
In the not-so-distant future, the forecasted “death of print” has become a near reality. Bookstores, libraries, newspapers, and magazines are essentially things of the past, as we spend our time glued to handheld devices called Memes that not only keep us in constant communication but have become so intuitive as to hail us cabs before we leave our offices, order takeout at the first growl of our stomachs, change traffic lights and interface with home appliances–even create and sell language itself in a marketplace called the Word Exchange.
Anana Johnson works with her father, Doug, at the North American Dictionary of the English Language (NADEL), where they are hard at work on the final edition that will ever be printed. Doug is staunchly anti-Meme and fondly remembers the days when people used e-mail to communicate–or even actually spoke to one another, for that matter. One evening, Doug disappears from the NADEL offices, leaving behind a written clue: ALICE. It’s a code word he and Anana devised to signal if one of them ever fell into harm’s way. And thus begins Anana’s journey down the proverbial rabbit hole . . .
Joined by Bart, her bookish NADEL colleague, Anana’s search for Doug will take her into dark basements and subterranean passageways, the stacks and reading rooms of the Mercantile Library, secret meetings of the mysterious “Diachronic Society,” meetings with executives of the corrupt corporate behemoth Synchronic, and ultimately the hallowed halls of the Oxford English Dictionary–the spiritual home of the written word. As Ana peices together what is going on, and more and more people succumb to a pandemic “word flu” that causes decaying language, Alena Graedon crafts a fresh, cautionary tale that is at once a technological thriller and a thoughtful meditation on the price of technology and the unforeseen, though very real, dangers of the digital age.