Max Barry wrote the novels Syrup, Jennifer Government, Company, Machine Man, and Lexicon. He also created the game NationStates and once found a sock full of pennies.

  • Syrup: movie tie-in
  • Jennifer Government: US hardback
  • Company: US hardback
  • Syrup: US hardback
  • Jennifer Government: German large paperback
  • Company: US paperback
  • Syrup: US paperback
  • Jennifer Government: Italian paperback
  • Company: German paperback
  • Syrup: Australian paperback (Scribe)
  • Jennifer Government: Spanish paperback
  • Company: Dutch paperback
  • Syrup: Chinese paperback
  • Jennifer Government: Dutch paperback reissue
  • Company: Brazilian paperback
  • Jennifer Government: Brazilian paperback
  • Company: Polish paperback
  • Syrup: Australian large paperback
  • Jennifer Government: Taiwanese paperback
  • Company: Spanish paperback
  • Syrup: US Audio
  • Jennifer Government: Swedish paperback
  • Syrup: Australian small paperback
  • Jennifer Government: Swedish paperback
  • Syrup: German large paperback
  • Syrup: German small paperback
  • Syrup: French paperback
  • Syrup: Israeli paperback
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Wed 25

Whatever Happened to Paul Neilan


Do you know what happened to Paul Neilan? You blurbed his book (deservedly, as it was absolutely brilliant), but then he disappeared.


That is a good question. I have no idea. I mean, I can guess: He probably fell into that bottomless abyss of despair and self-loathing where novels live sometimes. Again, just a guess. But it seems to me that any time you try to write a novel, you are a lot more likely to psychologically self-destruct than succeed, so probably that.

I mean, I’m not projecting or anything. This has nothing to do with me. And I’m not saying writing is hard; I mean, you just have to type stuff. How hard is that. I’m just saying maybe Paul found it tough to juggle the competing demands of blogging for eager readers awaiting his new novel and working on a literary hellspawn trying to devour his soul. So he probably pulled the plug on one or both, at least for a while.

If you are out there, Paul, I hope you’re still writing, and not worrying about how long it takes, and chasing the things that make you happy. Also hurry up, man, I need a new book.

Tue 17

Will the Real Lee Bob Black Please Stand Up


Hello Mr.Barry, I was required to read your book Lexicon in my college literature class and enjoyed it very much. However, I’m forced to create a presentation about Lee Bob Black. So my question is: Who the hell is Lee Bob Black? All I’ve found is his website with a bunch of links to his blog. Which would have sufficed if my teacher didn’t think you were this ingenious wordsmith wizard or something. She thinks you made him up basically. Something to do with marketing and illusion. Can you help me out? Is Lee Bob Black a persona you made up or are we digging a dry well here? Thanks. Maybe.


Lee Bob Black is an actual person. Sorry. That website with his work on it is completely legit, not a carefully constructed piece of reality augmentation for the book. There are a few pieces of reality augmentation floating around, but Lee isn’t one of them.

Basically I needed a lesser-known poet. In the book, people get poet names based on rank, so Woolf and Eliot and Yeats are serious headkickers, while Lee Bob Black could be a younger guy working the streets. The real Lee I had met in St. Kilda sometime around 2001 when his friend graffitiied my house. Artists. Anyway, we got talking and then he moved to New York and we lost contact, but I remembered his great little poems.

At some point I emailed him:

You are in my novel-in-progress. I needed the name of an obscure real-life poet and you sprang to mind. I was intending to change it, but since here you are, I will ask if I can use it. Context: there are characters in the book who adopt the names of real poets, and the one who uses your name is cool but sleazy. So do not feel compelled to say yes.

I’m a little shocked by that now because I wouldn’t describe the character as “cool but sleazy.” He’s outright despicable. He does things that you wouldn’t want to be associated with in any way. But Lee, not knowing this, was delighted and honored. And I was happy, right up until the book was published, when I suddenly realized I had done a terrible thing and Lee was going to freak right out when he read it.

At a reading in New York, I looked into the audience and surprise! There he was. I had to stop and check whether he was about to serve me with legal papers. But no. He was incredibly gracious about it.

I understand your teacher thinking Lee Bob Black must be fictitious, because no author would be stupid enough to name that character after a real, living person. But actually I am that stupid.

Thu 12

My review of The Girl With All The Gifts

Writing I noticed people are “following my reviews” on Goodreads. This is great but must be unsatisfying because I don’t write any. I don’t think I should review books unless I love them, since that feels too cruel to an author who surely doesn’t deserve it, because writing books is hard, man, respect. And if I do love the book, I don’t want to say anything about it that might be a spoiler, because the book is so wonderful, you should just read it without knowing anything. It’s a pickle.

Anyway. “The Girl With All The Gifts” by Mike Carey is my favorite read of 2015. In lieu of saying anything about it, I will tell you thoughts I had while reading it. Also I will list my thoughts out of order, not chronologically. Enjoy.

“That’s cool.”

“That’s really cool.”



“Oh it’s that kind of book.”

“I wonder what happens next.”

“That character dynamic is backward.”

“I was wrong.”

Buy from Buy from an indie bookstore

Tue 27

Robots Wrote My Book

Writing Last week I did an interview on Reddit and was asked about my new novel, “The Ascension’s Mirror.” This was a surprise because I didn’t know I wrote that. But Goodreads had it listed, saying I was the author. There was also a reader review:

I’m a big fan of Mr Barry’s work and was happy to see this new offering. I’m having a little trouble getting through it, because of the language. He is replacing words and phrases. For example “She laughed at my futile endeavours in the direction of identify some type of popular flooring with her,” means (roughly) She laughed at my attempt to seek common ground with her, or something like that.

I’m hoping that it will eventually be worth it. . . .

There was a second novel by me, “Cry in the Redemption,” which I definitely didn’t write, either. Both were for sale on Amazon as Kindle books.

At first I thought there must be another Max Barry out there, writing books. I know there are a few Max Barrys around, such as Better Max, and some other Max who can’t remember his email address, so I’m always getting notes from his grandmother and warnings from his ISP. Seriously, Max. Get it right. The other day your boss sent me a stern note, asking why I hadn’t responded to his earlier note. The reason your life is in tatters is because I get all your important emails.

But no, other Maxes were not writing novels. In fact, no-one was writing these, I realized, because the writing is not just awkward but nonsensical. From its official description on Amazon:

We can’t inform oneself considerably unless be mindful just after oneself examine this. They are waiting around for us towards adhere our necks out and deliver a miscalculation, and your self may well accurately contribute them in direction of us. Your self include been warned.

This reminded me of a piece of text run twice through Google Translate, once to turn it into a different language, once to turn it back. I’d heard of web sites doing this to steal content, because the end result is different enough that it doesn’t look so much like plagiarism.

I asked my agent about this, and they asked Amazon, and within a day the books were gone. Poof!

So apparently this happens: Bots auto-generate novels under the names of real authors and put them up for sale in the hope of confusing readers. Which is kind of cool. Not for us, of course. Not for humans. But I always knew the robot apocalypse was coming, and have been looking forward to seeing what shape it takes. I didn’t think they’d be writing novels.

P.S. The real question is what the original text was. The bots auto-translated something. I don’t know what, though.

Thu 22

Where My Hair Is


wear is ur hair


Good question, Anonymous. Good question. When I was 23, a hairdresser said, “If we cut it shorter, it’ll cover the thinning area,” and I said, “WHAAAAAAAAAT thinning area,” and he was embarrassed. I never thought about it before, but that must be a tricky part of the job: telling men they’re balding.

Anyway, it was a shock to me, because I had thick, luscious curls. They are possibly more luscious in retrospect than they were in reality. I now imagine women weeping as I swept past. But yep, 23 and they started to go. So I started cutting my hair short and then shaving it. Occasionally I encounter someone who thinks men shave their head just for the look of it, not because they have to, and this makes me laugh until I start crying. No. That does not happen.

The best thing about having no hair is how awesome it is at venting excess heat when exercising. I don’t know how you hairful people work out, I really don’t. It also saves a lot of time that I would otherwise spend worrying about how my hair looks. And I can pass for a criminal just by not shaving for two days. The worst part is having no hair.

What I like about marathons is how three days later some parts of your body stop hurting.

Me on Reddit now, answering questions:…

I’m on Reddit today @ 4PM ET (USA) AMA

Attempting my first ever marathon on Sunday. Feeling totally confident at this stage. Nothing can go wrong.

Fri 09

Details, Details


SPOILER WARNING: Mild spoilers about Lexicon follow

Hello Max,

I am currently enjoying reading Lexicon, however my pedantic nature forces me to question the storyline at page 190-191 where Emily sleeps with Harry then he is not there next morning.

How does she get home?

How does she get home in such a way that she has difficulty finding her way back?



I’ll be honest, Graeme: You are my nightmare. When I’m trying to move the story along while developing character and a satisfying emotional arc, blah blah blah, there is always a little voice in the back of my head that says, “You didn’t explain exactly how she got home.” Henceforth I will call that voice Graeme.

How did Emily get home? I don’t know. I never thought deeply about it. I presume it was somehow. She’s not that far from home; she is resourceful; she has feet; I just figure she gets it done.

But I know this isn’t a satisfying answer, because all stories are real, and real things have facts. So here is THE ACTUAL ANSWER that I just invented:

Her shoes were useless, of course, two-inch heels, so she carried them. She didn’t know the area but followed the dirt road in what she hoped was the right direction. It was an hour before she reached anywhere she recognized, which was another hour away from town. It would be less if a car passed by, but that would also mean she was recognized, and never live it down. So she walked with her head down. She was never going to see him again. She had already decided that.

Now I want you to bear in mind, Graeme, that rural roads are like rivers. There’s a main road, from which smaller roads branch out. If you start on a small road with a vague idea of the right direction, you can follow it back upstream until you reach the main road and there you are. But going the other way is more difficult, because you have to remember which branch to take. Right? And it’s dark when she returns. I hope we can agree on this.

I try to provide the minimum amount of detail necessary when writing. I think that’s my job: to figure out how to have the greatest effect in the fewest words. Because what amazes me over and over about novels is how much of the story is provided by readers. The page holds only the tiniest details, yet we conjure whole worlds. That’s the only reason novels work.

I don’t think they work when the author tries to explain every little thing. Or when they describe physical objects to death. I can’t stand that. It actually feels a little insulting, like they don’t trust me enough to share the story. Just tell me there’s a broken glass, dammit. I can do the rest.

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