Friday, August 14, 2009


Codex by Lev Grossman
trade paperback, 348 pages
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, copyright 2004
ISBN-13: 9780156028592

Synopsis from cover:
Edward Wozny, a hotshot young banker, is about to leave for vacation when he is sent to help an important yet mysterious client. His task: search the family library for a precious, centuries-old codex that may not even exist. Enlisting the expertise of medievalist Margaret Napier, Edward is determined to solve the mystery of the codex and to decipher the parallels between the codex legend and a computer game that absorbs him in the dark hours of the night.
Weaving the medieval and the modern aspects of its plot in a chilling twist, Codex is a thriller of the highest order.
My thoughts:

After seeing some rave reviews for Grossman's new novel, The Magicians, I decided to read my used-bought-on-clearance copy of his book Codex. Based on Codex it's unlikely I'll be reading any more of Grossman's novels. Now, it's not awful, but it's nothing special. The writing is OK. The parts of the novel dealing with the mystery of the codex certainly had the potential to be very intriguing, but that potential along with character development was really never fully realized. We all know I can forgive many things if the action and mystery part of the novel is great. It isn't. The parts concerning playing the computer game "MOMUS" were painful to read. I might have still given Codex a recommended rating if it were not for the ending. The end of the book is awful. It's totally abrupt and incomplete. Nothing is resolved. It's like Grossman had a deadline so he just ended the book. In some way I think Grossman had a movie scenario in mind when he wrote Codex. The script writer would still have to work on a better ending. On an interesting side note, apparently, according to a reviewer on Amazon, "Grossman attempted to up his Amazon rating for his previous book by writing fake five-star reviews, then wrote an article for Salon about it." Interesting.
Rating: so-so for this reader

(Possible spoiler: Another explanation for the abrupt ending of the book would be that it was all supposed to be part of a computer game, and it was "game over" but Grossman gave no hints or clues that that was the case so it's probably me searching for a reason.)


Edward Wozny stood squinting at the sun as crowds of people excused themselves past him in both directions. It was hot and bright. He was wearing a very expensive gray handmade suit, and he had to check what seemed like dozens of inside and outside pockets of various sizes and shapes before he found the scrap of paper he was looking for. opening

He didn't know what to do with himself,with this blank, unscripted, in-between time. Yesterday he'd been a hard-charging, highly paid investment banker in New York, and two weeks from now he'd be a hard-charging, highly paid investment banker in London. For now he was just Edward Wozny, and he wasn't totally sure who that was. pg. 2

"...All we really need is for somebody to get it all unpacked and onto the shelves. Just to break those crates open, for one thing, and start putting it all in some kind of order. Organizing things, getting them cataloged." pg. 12

He was a senior analyst with Esslin & Hart, and she was apparently looking for some kind of glorified intern to do her housecleaning for her. pg. 13

He was about to try aborting it when the hard drive started thrashing again. He hesitated, his hands poised over the keyboard. The screen cleared.
At first Edward thought he was looking at a photograph, frozen and digitalized. The scene was strikingly realistic. It was like looking through a window onto another world. pg. 46

"I sometimes wonder if we aren't all her idea, in some complicated metaphysical way. Her world seems somehow more substantial than ours. pg. 63

This was somebody who spent all her time just reading and thinking about what she read. In a way it seemed like a ridiculous waste of time; and in another way it seemed so much more urgently important than what he did all day. Or used to. pg. 100

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