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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 taxis before we leave our offices, order takeout 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 an intellectual who fondly remembers the days when people used e-mail to communicate - or even actually spoke to one another. One evening, Doug disappears from the NADEL offices, leaving a single written clue: ALICE. It's a code word he and Anana devised to signal if one of them ever fell into danger....
Joined by Bart, her bookish NADEL colleague (who is secretly in love with her), Anana's search for her father will take her into dark basement incinerator rooms, underground passages of the Mercantile Library, meetings of a secret society designed to save the written word, the boardrooms of the evil online retailing giant Synchronic, and, ultimately, to the hallowed halls of the Oxford English Dictionary - the spiritual home of the written word. As Anana pieces together what is going on, and Bart falls victim to the strange 'word flu' that is spreading worldwide, the very future of language is at stake....