The Word Exchange

Hardcover | March 10, 2016

byAlena Graedon

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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 reality. Bookstores, libraries, newspapers and magazines are a thing 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 take out at the first growl of a hungry stomach, and 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 Doug is hard at work on the final edition that will ever be printed. Doug is a staunchly anti-Meme, anti-tech intellectual who fondly remembers the days when people used email (everything now is text or video-conference) to communicate--or even actually spoke to one antoher for that matter. One evening, Doug disappears from the NADEL offices leaving a single writen 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 (who is secretly in love with her), Anana's search for Doug will take her into dark basement incinerator rooms, underground passages of the Mercantile Library, secret meetings of the anonymous "Diachronic Society," the boardrooms of the evil online retailing site Synchronic, and ultimately to the hallowed halls of the Oxford English Dictionary--the spiritual home of the written word. As Ana pieces togehter what is going on, and Bart gets sicker and sicker with the strange "Word flu" that has spread worldwide causing people to speak in gibberish, Alena Graedon crafts a fresh, cautionary tale that is at once a technological thriller, and a throughtful meditation on the price of technology and the unforeseen, though very real, dangers of the digital age.

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From the Publisher

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 reality. Bookstores, libraries, newspapers and magazines are a thi...

ALENA GRAEDON was born and raised in Durham, North Carolina, and is a graduate of Brown University and the Columbia MFA program. Alena has worked as an editorial assistant for Knopf, Manager of Literary Services at the PEN American Centre, and is a MacDowell Colony fellow. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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Format:HardcoverDimensions:384 pages, 9.5 × 6.4 × 1.36 inPublished:March 10, 2016Publisher:Doubleday CanadaLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0385680139

ISBN - 13:9780385680134

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Editorial Reviews

A Kirkus Reviews Best Book of 2014 “A wildly ambitious, darkly intellectual and inventive thriller about the intersection of language, technology, and meaning.” —Kirkus (starred review)“A remarkable first novel, combining a vividly imagined future with the fondly remembered past to offer a chilling prediction of where our unthinking reliance on technology is leading us. And, as you’d expect, Graedon’s word choice is exquisite.” —Booklist, starred review“Spectacular, ambitious debut. . . . Graedon deploys all the hallmarks of a futuristic thriller, but avoids derivative doomsday sci-fi shtick. Instead, her novel is rife with literary allusions and philosophical wormholes that aren’t only decorative but integral to characters’ abilities and limitations in communicating, and it succeeds precisely because it’s as full of humanity as it is of mystery and intellectual prowess.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review“A worthy project for adult language lovers or dystopian and near-future fans.”—GeekMom“The Word Exchange is hard to put down and harder not to think about. It is extremely ambitious in its scope and it realizes those ambitions to a large degree.” —The Record (Kitchener-Waterloo)"Alena Graedon's spectacular debut is a story for our age of  'accelerated obsolescence.' A genuinely scary and funny mystery about linguistic slippage and disturbance, it's also a moving meditation on our sometimes comic, sometimes desperate struggles to speak, and to listen, and to mean something to one another.To borrow Graedon's own invention, The Word Exchange is 'Synchronic' -- a gorgeous genre mashup that offers readers the pleasures of noir, science fiction, romance and philosophy. It's an unforgettable joyride across the thin ice of language." —Karen Russell, author of Swamplandia!, and Vampires in the Lemon Grove“Imaginative, layered, and highly original, The Word Exchange is an engagingly creepy story of technology gone wrong and a clever meditation on the enduring mysteries of language and love.” —Karen Thompson Walker, author of The Age of Miracles "Speaking of words—if you love them, too, you have to read The Word Exchange, by Alena Graedon. . . . For someone who works with words and lives under the spectre of the death of print, this debut novel is both frightening and full of hope. . . . A love story, for people, for words. A fabulous, challenging book." —The Sydney Morning Herald"Wow! This highly addictive future noir is also terrifyingly prescient. Set in a parallel New York filled with language viruses, pneumatic tubes, and heartbreak, Alena Graedon's book is luminous and haunting at every turn. I will never look at words in quite the same way—and neither will you."—Reif Larsen, author of The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet