Review: Codex

Book: Codex by Lev Grossman
Publisher: Mariner Books 2005
Genre: Thriller, techie
Source + Date Read
: Personal copy + September 2015
Recommend: Techno-thriller bibliophile lovers.
Book Pro’s: Uh, uh. Hmm… I’ll get back to you on that.
Book Con’s: Oh just read below. I’ll list them.

Summary: About to depart on his first vacation in years, Edward Wozny, a hotshot young investment banker, is sent to help one of his firm’s most important and mysterious clients. His task is to search their library stacks for a precious medieval codex, a treasure kept sealed away for many years and for many reasons. Enlisting the help of passionate medievalist Margaret Napier, Edward is determined to solve the mystery of the codex-to understand its significance to his wealthy clients, and to decipher the seeming parallels between the legend of the codex and an obsessive role-playing computer game that has absorbed him in the dark hours of the night. The chilling resolution brings together the medieval and the modern aspects of the plot in a twist worthy of earning comparisons to novels by William Gibson and Dan Brown, not to mention those by A. S. Byatt and Umberto Eco. Lev Grossman’s Codex is a thriller of the highest order.

More Information: GoodReads

Lev Grossman, I’m mad. I am really mad, you took a concept I utterly love, a bibliographic thriller with technology infused to make cut-throat tension and you utterly ruined it. I repeat: r-u-i-n-e-d-i-t. I don’t know how else to do this review but list the things that irked me (I’m so sorry):

  • Grossman has a penchant for writing financially successful or wealthy white male characters that are unhappy with life just for the purpose of being unhappy. The protagonist is a 25 year old investment banker and he’s darn good at it. But he’s so unhappy! Boo hoo! I get it, just because you have money it doesn’t mean that you’ll be happy but, but, that is no excuse to become so completely lethargic and utterly annoying about life. You see this in his other works such as The Magician but that as magic, so is thus forgiven. This has no magic. It is not forgiven.
  • That pace tho’: What is up with it?! It was so immensely slow, nothing happens for so long and then everything happens in the last few chapters by when I am so utterly disengaged and lacking investment in the book that I can’t fathom or even understand what the heck just happened. “This chilling resolution,” when you find it, do let me know.
  • The beginning. OK, it’s a small thing to whine about but if I’m a pretty successful person and get told to do something completely off of my repertoire and skill set, I’m sorry, I’m not going to do it. I’m just that cut and dry. Yup.
  • What’s with the game? I really didn’t enjoy that bit, it didn’t make much sense and Edward’s sheer fascination with it and harping about the people who play the game or games like it is just annoying. You’re playing it dude! Why hate on gamers?!

OK, I’m done whining. I’ve become as bad as Edward *shudders*.

What did I like?

Well I’m not a fan of our female protagonist but she was certainly interesting if not a bit (read: a lot) robotic. I did get her passion though.

The stars of the show for me were Edward’s friends whose names I cannot remember at the moment but I do love their sense of humour and authenticity.

Recommend: Even though I harp on this book a lot, it didn’t even enter the “hate” category, I’m just very meh about it. It might be interesting to some so I wouldn’t say to not read it, but don’t go in expecting brilliance (like I did) because you just won’t get it.

Book read before this: The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova.

Book read after this: Interview with a Vampire by Anne Rice.



About Claire (BWB)

It's Claire (aka Quirky) from Bitches With Books, an online book blog that serves up a healthy dose of book reviews, lists + literary madness.
This entry was posted in Book Reviews, Thriller and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Review: Codex

  1. Sleepyeyedboy says:

    Yargh! There be spoilers hereabouts!

    Codex was pretty interesting right up until the end. When it turned out that the entire thing with the mysterious all-black grail legend was revealed to be a stand-in for the readers staring up Lev Grossman’s asshole as he shat all over us. Sux0z! “That’s what you get for buying my books! Muahahahahaha! Mine is a derivative laugh!” …At least that’s how I remember the quote going. Pretty sure I got the gist.

    Margaret’s working for the Duke? Since when? And the Duke wants to find the book to destroy it, a purpose basically anathema to every single moment of Margaret’s existence? The Duke wants to destroy the book because it turns out that Gervase invented “Tijuana Bibles” in the 14th century, aka a flip picture book that after being heavily decoded purportedly betraying a secret that the Duke’s male ancestor 600 years ago was the product of an adulterous affair and therefore this must be destroyed and hidden and covered up at all costs. A secret that somehow the Duchess and Duke are aware of despite this book being missing for centuries?

    Why were Margaret, Edward, and the artiste all flying to London, at the same time, but on apparently different flights? Why did the artiste throw some sort of fit while going through Customs? What did it mean for the Duchess to send Edward some poorly written postcard erotica? How did the artiste program his reconstructions from Gervase’s Codex when it appears that the MC discovered the existence of the Codex, figured out where it was, but didn’t put it together–which would’ve apparently been the only way to get the knowledge to make that section of MOMUS.

    Why do we care even the slightest about the squabbling of a pair of very unhappily married [ep[;e?
    If there’s supposed to be no real magic or mystic arts in Codex then why did they create a game, MOMUS, that is such a technical marvel as to cause all kinds of wonder in the geniuses who play it? What’s the deal with the artiste? They seem to go out of their way to caricature him as asperger’s, a social misfit, and physically identical to the average male of the Codex’s era…only then for nobody to ever notice, or point it out, or make the slightest offhand comment about.

    The book itself can be considered a success in that if it was a total loss then there wouldn’t be so many people so disgusted with the resolution to our mystery story.

  2. Pingback: 2015 Reads | Bitches With Books

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  4. Lisa says:

    Good to know! I picked up a copy of this book years ago, after reading The Magicians, and I’ve always heard mixed reactions. Based on your review, I don’t think I’ll be in any great rush to read it!

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