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Codex

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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, Edwa 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.


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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, Edwa 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.

30 review for Codex

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jenny Bannock

    Here's the thing. I loved the story and the way it unfolded--at a leisurely pace, with moments of inspiration and excitement. The problem, however, is that the last couple of chapters build build build and FIZZLE. There were at least half a dozen scenarios that I could think of for the ending as I was reading up to it, and instead what I got was this uninspired, pat ending with loose ends left everywhere. I don't need everything to be resolved by the end, but really. The author couldn't have at Here's the thing. I loved the story and the way it unfolded--at a leisurely pace, with moments of inspiration and excitement. The problem, however, is that the last couple of chapters build build build and FIZZLE. There were at least half a dozen scenarios that I could think of for the ending as I was reading up to it, and instead what I got was this uninspired, pat ending with loose ends left everywhere. I don't need everything to be resolved by the end, but really. The author couldn't have at least given us another chapter? Was there a deadline or a word limit or something? The whole thing left me cold and reminded me of how I feel when I read Michael Chrichton's books. Meaty and interesting plot & content (even if it feels a LITTLE like it's cashing in on the DaVinci Code trend), highly unsatisfying ending. My rec: read this book until about 20 pages from the end, then stop. Whatever you imagine as the ending will likely be way cooler than what the author wrote.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Irina Dumitrescu

    I read this book on vacation, and so my brain was as relaxed as possible and as willing to be understanding. However, for the sake of full disclosure (and, hopefully, credibility), I am a graduate student in Medieval Studies, and I happen to have been taking a couse in the Medieval Book this semester, so that was my background while I was reading Codex. I don't really need to repeat the comments of most of the people here -- that the plot is thin, the characters shallow, and that at best, the nov I read this book on vacation, and so my brain was as relaxed as possible and as willing to be understanding. However, for the sake of full disclosure (and, hopefully, credibility), I am a graduate student in Medieval Studies, and I happen to have been taking a couse in the Medieval Book this semester, so that was my background while I was reading Codex. I don't really need to repeat the comments of most of the people here -- that the plot is thin, the characters shallow, and that at best, the novel keeps you reading until the final, disappointing conclusion. I will say though that for the know-it-all tone that Grossman adopts, and considering that he brings in a medievalist graduate student to be even more erudite, his mistakes are glaring. (Some of these are factual mistakes that anyone with an acquaintance with the subject would spot, and some are logical mistakes that absolutely anyone would notice.) I only remember one of them off the top of my head, and I can't check for more because I left the book in disgust at the hostel where I was staying. However, it's a notable example of the ignorance involved. Someone suggests burning the manuscript, and the main character says something like, "It's vellum, not paper. It doesn't burn." EXCUSE ME? Someone should have told that to all the vellum manuscripts that have been destroyed in fires over the ages... then they would have known that animal skin doesn't burn. Look buddy, if your main character was an English major at Yale, even as an undergrad he would know that vellum burns, because they all know that the Beinecke is full of rare manuscripts and books, and they like to tell you repeatedly (though incorrectly) how the air will be sucked out of the entire stacks in the case of fire. Also, he would know just a little more about books in general, ya know?

  3. 5 out of 5

    LENA TRAK

    This is by far the worst book I've ever read... I'm not an expert and I'm really sorry but this was a huge disappointment. At first it seemed quite promising. The first chapters were fast paced and quite intriguing I have to admit. However, there is nothing worse than a book which gets more and more boring as the story unfolds. It should be the other way around. When I finally made it to the last chapters I gradually regained my interest only find out that I had just read THE WORST ENDING EVEEEE This is by far the worst book I've ever read... I'm not an expert and I'm really sorry but this was a huge disappointment. At first it seemed quite promising. The first chapters were fast paced and quite intriguing I have to admit. However, there is nothing worse than a book which gets more and more boring as the story unfolds. It should be the other way around. When I finally made it to the last chapters I gradually regained my interest only find out that I had just read THE WORST ENDING EVEEEEER... It was like a bad joke. Seriously of all the possible endings( even the predictable ones seemed better) this one was the unimaginably wrong. I was left with nothing... Not a single explanation, a thousand questions swimming in my head. This should be renamed to: How to destroy a catchy plot.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Lightreads

    Young investment banker gets caught up in the search for a medieval manuscript that may or may not exist. Ouch, this is not good. It's what appears to be Grossman's default protagonist: young white New Yorker dude who is deeply confused that his enormous privilege doesn't translate automatically to happiness. But his later fantasies have so much more muscle and richness to them. This thriller, by comparison, thumps blandly along to its dull conclusion. That's actually one of the saddest things abo Young investment banker gets caught up in the search for a medieval manuscript that may or may not exist. Ouch, this is not good. It's what appears to be Grossman's default protagonist: young white New Yorker dude who is deeply confused that his enormous privilege doesn't translate automatically to happiness. But his later fantasies have so much more muscle and richness to them. This thriller, by comparison, thumps blandly along to its dull conclusion. That's actually one of the saddest things about this book. It flirts with the fantastical around the edges, but then withdraws to the banal with what looks like a failure of courage. The protagonist plays a computer game, whose scenes and convolutions begin to parallel the quest plot in eerie and inexplicable ways. Inexplicable until explained, anyway, and not to get too psychological about this because I don't like doing that. But man. There is a fantasy novel strangled to death inside this rigid thriller, and it's kind of terrible to watch it happen.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Blair

    Codex started so well, with a tone that reminded me strongly of Grossman's other novel, The Magicians. The book has one of those great beginnings that plunge you straight into the intrigue of the plot; from protagonist Edward's encounter with a strange couple, to his appointment with a client and subsequent acceptance - reluctant but instinctive - of a book-related quest, I was hooked within the first chapter. Scores of titillating details - Laura Crowlyk's archaic apartment building with its ec Codex started so well, with a tone that reminded me strongly of Grossman's other novel, The Magicians. The book has one of those great beginnings that plunge you straight into the intrigue of the plot; from protagonist Edward's encounter with a strange couple, to his appointment with a client and subsequent acceptance - reluctant but instinctive - of a book-related quest, I was hooked within the first chapter. Scores of titillating details - Laura Crowlyk's archaic apartment building with its eccentric doorman, the coincidental appearance of the Went name and Weymarshe symbol everywhere Edward looks - add a touch of surreal magic to otherwise mundane events. And not only does Edward's adventure take in an ancient missing book and the family secrets of a dynasty of English aristocrats, we also watch him becoming obsessed with an unnervingly lifelike virtual reality game called MOMUS. Unfortunately, after this excellent set-up, the middle of the story is mediocre and the end disappointing. The purpose and meaning of MOMUS turns out to be a letdown; the codex's secrets similarly anticlimactic. The final twist is so muted you hardly notice it's happening. Margaret's initial account of the story contained within the codex is entrancing, but when the long-lost ending is finally explained, it's a damp squib. Eventually, most of the loose ends are tied up - but in a dull kind of way, and those that aren't are just maddening (what on earth was the Duchess's bizarre letter to Edward supposed to mean?!) The other problem is Edward himself. To my mind, the reader never really gets to grips with what makes him tick; we're informed of his 'pain' upon leaving Margaret behind, but the narrative never gives the impression that his feelings for her go much further than vague affection. His obsession with the Duchess isn't explained properly, to the extent that his decisions at the end seem completely out of proportion to his previous thoughts, and his friendship with Zeph seems out of place too - would a 'hotshot' young banker obsessed with work and money really choose to spend his precious downtime with a self-confessed computer geek? I couldn't shake the feeling that Zeph had been written into the story purely to facilitate Edward's introduction to MOMUS. This book was first published in 2004, when Da Vinci Code fever was at its height, and you can clearly see that influence in the plot, the characters and even the cover design - though Codex is better-written and less sensational. If you loved The Magicians, chances are you'll enjoy this too; it's not as inventive, but it's a good read. It's just a pity the last two-thirds aren't anywhere near as engaging as the first.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Kara Babcock

    If you were an investment banker before the 2008 recession, and you had just begun your first vacation in four years prior to moving from New York to a cushy new position in London, would you take on a job unpacking and cataloguing an ancient library for an elusive, eccentric, and extremely wealthy British couple who also happen to be nobility? That’s what Edward Wozny does in Codex, and it changes everything. On the surface, that seems like it should be a good thing to say about a novel. Change If you were an investment banker before the 2008 recession, and you had just begun your first vacation in four years prior to moving from New York to a cushy new position in London, would you take on a job unpacking and cataloguing an ancient library for an elusive, eccentric, and extremely wealthy British couple who also happen to be nobility? That’s what Edward Wozny does in Codex, and it changes everything. On the surface, that seems like it should be a good thing to say about a novel. Change—and specifically conflict—keeps things interesting. Unfortunately, Lev Grossman seems to have a knack for writing characters with whom it becomes difficult to sympathize, and Codex proves no different in this respect from his later efforts. I’ve catalogued books before. During one of my summers working at the art gallery, I spent several hours a week in the tiny room that served as our library. It contained a diverse collection of arts books, catalogues from other galleries, newsletters and flyers announcing exhibitions from other galleries, and all manner of slides and film reels and bric-a-brac mouldering away. Armed, like Edward, with a laptop and a cataloguing program and, like Edward, lacking any experience in this field, I gamely went through the collection. I looked up books in online databases, estimated how much they might be worth for insurance purposes based on their condition and a search of used booksellers. I printed labels with Dewey classifications on them and stuck them to the spines before replacing the books on their shelves. It was an interesting experience, but it took a long time. And that tiny library is a lot smaller than the one Edward must tackle. So I can understand Edward’s reluctance to get involved initially. And to some extent I can empathize with how he gets sucked into the task after that first day. But I don’t understand how, after he is dismissed, the hunt for a codex by Gervase of Langford still consumes him. Why is he still so obsessed with the Duchess? Grossman gives Edward an academic background in English, probably in an attempt to make Edward’s atrophied interests germane to the subject matter here. It’s not enough, though. Similarly, Edward’s newly found passion for the game that his techie friend Zeph passes on to him is unimpressive. The problem here is simple: Grossman tries to emphasize that Edward is acting out of character. Yet we have met Edward so recently that we don’t have a good baseline for his character. So instead of internalizing this idea that Edward is deviating from his typical lifestyle, it just seems like Edward is a massive idiot. And my opinion of him does not improve at any point in this novel. He consistently and constantly invites disaster by confiding in people or failing to act when action should have been taken. The entire fizzling, disappointing coda to Codex could have been titled, “Why Edward Deserves to Fail”. At no point does he decide to take charge and do something his way. Its black hole of a main character aside, Codex tries to be a thriller and just doesn’t work. Worse, it tries to be a literary thriller. This is no The Name of the Rose, an eminently superior book that Grossman name-checks with a bit of a pretentious literary wink. I don’t think Codex is trying to be The Name of the Rose, because it lacks any of the academic or philosophical depth that makes the latter such an amazing book. Nevertheless, Codex just isn’t very thrilling. One reason is a lack of strong, nefarious antagonists. The Duke and Duchess are remote characters whom, aside from a brief cameo at the beginning, we never see. Moreover, Grossman tries to build the former up as this imposing person who should not trifled with, but he doesn’t even kill off a lackey. How are we supposed to find these people threatening? About the worst thing that happens is that Edward doesn’t sleep enough and fails to pack before his move to London. Oooh, so terrible. Where are the consequences here? Various people seem to insinuate that it isn’t easy to disentangle oneself from the grasp of the Wents once they have their cold, rich fingers closed around you. Yet at no point does Grossman ever do anything to demonstrate this is true. And then we have the ending. Without going into spoiler territory, let’s just say that the eponymous codex puts in manifests in time. But, of course, Edward screws it all up even as he gets betrayed. We don’t really learn why he gets betrayed, nor do we get even a hint of the aftermath involved. Indeed, after all that sabre-rattling about how unpleasant his life would be if he failed at his task or displeased the Duke, the ending of the book makes it seem more like Edward is just going to get let off the hook. But I guess we’ll never know. Reading Codex wasn’t a waste of time. It provided a certain level of empty enjoyment. It’s clear that Grossman did some research here, and his love of literature shines through. Edward and Margaret’s conversations about medieval scholarship and speculations on Gervase of Langford were genuinely interesting. It’s these few redeeming qualities that make this book so disappointing. As with The Magicians and The Magician King , Grossman infuses the story with a highly sophisticated literary subtext—but he does so at the expense of the story itself, and that is problematic.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Maciek

    Codex got great professional reviews, with The New York Times comparing it and putting right next to The Name of The Rose. But when you read the "unprofessional" reviews you'll see that it bombed and was panned practically everywhere, including this site. I disliked Grossman's The Magicians, but I decided to give him another chance since I already had the book. It was this title that made me interested in him, after all. The title caught my eye and the backcover caught my interest - a mystery in Codex got great professional reviews, with The New York Times comparing it and putting right next to The Name of The Rose. But when you read the "unprofessional" reviews you'll see that it bombed and was panned practically everywhere, including this site. I disliked Grossman's The Magicians, but I decided to give him another chance since I already had the book. It was this title that made me interested in him, after all. The title caught my eye and the backcover caught my interest - a mystery involving a medieval manuscript that's somehow connected to an addicting videogame? SOLD! Turns out I enjoyed Codex more than I thought I would, though largely because of the idea of it. Grossman takes many liberties with plot development and character actions (an investment banker organizing a private library? come on!) and some things are just too coincidential, particularly the parallels that start emerging between the virtual and real world. I enjoyed Edward's struggle with his loneliness and work-centered life, though he seems to be rather stale throughout the whole novel. Grossman introduces new characters who pop in and out into his life and never seem to have any sort of real impact on him. I sympathized with Edward and his need to belong, and wished Grossman would develop the relationships between him and other people a bit more. The game portions were what I was looking forward to, since I'm a game myself. I spent a great deal of my childhood playing, so the idea that a videogame is an important portion of the story really appealed to me. But MOMUS (that's the name of the game) is a game that's more a fantasy of one. Since Grossman writes a blog on technology I expected something fascinating but also realistic; something unique and compelling that I could imagine booting up on my PC. But the MOMUS sections seem to be written by someone who has no interest in gaming and whose last experience with computers was by watching the movie Hackers. The virtual reality portions aren't particularly original and lack detail - is it an FPS shooter? A MYST like adventure? We'll never know, which is weird because Grossman is not shy about providing large infodumps about books and history. I enjoyed the quiet tone of the book. The plot moves at a slow, leisurely pace and the events happen one after another, like in any thriller, but there's never the feel of burning tension. Even though the book obviously rides on the coattail of The Davinci Code which was published only a year before, it's completely different in mood and style. The denouement in particular angered many readers but I enjoyed it as a quiet, fitting conclusion. To sum up: Not bad as it might seem. Grossman is not the best writer in the world and Codex is not the best thriller, but I enjoyed it a lot more than his gloomy fantasy The Magicians. In the end, I can even say that I liked it; even though it appears to be it's not a Dan Brown novel, and that's a good thing.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Hester

    This book took a long time to grow on me. This was partly due to the basic fact that most thrillers start out slow and then speed up faster and faster until you cannot put it down. The other part was that, early in the novel, he uses the phrase(if I can recall correctly) "very expensive grey handmade suit." Whenever a banker wears a handmade suit, it is costly. He did not need to use "expensive", let alone "very expensive." My snobbery, though, came back to bite me because I spent a good hour be This book took a long time to grow on me. This was partly due to the basic fact that most thrillers start out slow and then speed up faster and faster until you cannot put it down. The other part was that, early in the novel, he uses the phrase(if I can recall correctly) "very expensive grey handmade suit." Whenever a banker wears a handmade suit, it is costly. He did not need to use "expensive", let alone "very expensive." My snobbery, though, came back to bite me because I spent a good hour being wary. That was the only egregious sentence in the book. The characters are different; most contemporary, good-looking investment bankers in literature have active social lives, rather than "never getting laid." Aspies are rarely heroes, unless it is the movie "Adam." And his portrayal of Margaret was so true that her behavior in the end was a total shock. His depiction of academia was so accurate that I have a hard time believing that there was no author Gervase of Langford in the middle ages. All in all, a very smart book with a heart and an understanding of how humans work. Rare indeed.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Vincent

    I never just pick up a book off the shelf and buy it. But the title caught my eye and with a scan of the back cover I got carried away…. Medieval Manuscripts, Videogames, New York, mystery, rich people… SOLD to the man in the book story with the wandering eyes. And the quipped reviews on the back from the New York Times, the Village Voice, the Boston Globe, the Los Angeles Times, et al were practically beating off all over the cover. Buyer beware! It was a shallow breezy read Grossman gives us th I never just pick up a book off the shelf and buy it. But the title caught my eye and with a scan of the back cover I got carried away…. Medieval Manuscripts, Videogames, New York, mystery, rich people… SOLD to the man in the book story with the wandering eyes. And the quipped reviews on the back from the New York Times, the Village Voice, the Boston Globe, the Los Angeles Times, et al were practically beating off all over the cover. Buyer beware! It was a shallow breezy read Grossman gives us the Dan Brown-light treatment. But everything in the book was super thin. The protagonist had a dreadful persona, flat, wooden and shallow. The videogame portions were horribly disappointing. As a gamer I may have had high expectations but MOMUS just didn’t make any realistic sense. It’s a game that could never happen. Was it a MYST type game? a shooter? a RPG? It appears to be written and conceived by a person who’s last videogame experience was Ms. Pac-Man. The mystery everything is spinning around sputters out early on and by the end of the novel you’re just bewildered in the worst way; like you were cheated. Here are the few things I did learn: >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>. Momus or Momos (μῶμος) was in Greek mythology the god of satire, mockery, censure, writers, poets; a spirit of evil-spirited blame and unfair criticism. His name is related to μομφή, meaning 'blame' or 'censure'. He is depicted in classical art as lifting a mask from his face. >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>. littera textura: (from Latin texere, 'to weave'). Compressed, sharp and angular Gothic script in which the letters appear to be woven together to form a line. >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>. steganography \steg-uh-NAH-gruh-fee\ noun : the art or practice of concealing a message, image, or file within another message, image, or file (From Merriam-Webster) Did you know? "Steganography" is a word that was resurrected after being in disuse for almost 150 years! It was put to rest in the early 1800s, labeled an archaic synonym of "cryptography" by dictionary makers, but was brought back to life in the 1980s as a word for a type of digital cryptography. There is nothing cryptic about the word's origin; it is based on the Greek word "steganos," meaning "covered" or "reticent."

  10. 4 out of 5

    Ron

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Interesting. Yes, it was an engaging story, well written. The reader is sucked tightly into Edward's mental struggles. But the conclusion--the very last pages--was as unsatisfactory as it was inevitable. Edward stumbled through the story, the game, and life with little apparent engagement. It was like his youthful bout of chess mastery: it came and went with little investment by him. He observed as much as acted it. Several times Edward admits being afraid, but he never acts afraid. He never chan Interesting. Yes, it was an engaging story, well written. The reader is sucked tightly into Edward's mental struggles. But the conclusion--the very last pages--was as unsatisfactory as it was inevitable. Edward stumbled through the story, the game, and life with little apparent engagement. It was like his youthful bout of chess mastery: it came and went with little investment by him. He observed as much as acted it. Several times Edward admits being afraid, but he never acts afraid. He never changes his behavior. Grossman's "hero" is an investment banker and, though the story involves nothing about investment banking, a metaphor lurks there for the type of person Edward is. His role in both the MOMUS computer game and the search for the codex is not much different. He spends a third of his life drunk or hung over and a third playing a computer game, and he doesn't seem to realize or care that he's burning up precious moments. Sure, he ends up with the money and the job, but not the book or the girl. If he's happy with that bargain--and the author hints that he is--he just confirms my low opinion: of him and the story. But the reader must then answer the question, why did Grossman write this book, and why this way? I have no clue. And there are more engaging stories--not to mention life--to spend much time pondering it.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Michelle Morrell

    Written before his wildly acclaimed Magician series, I can tell this is an earlier attempt at a novel. While Grossman spins a wicked tale, it's not as polished as later books. Edward is a high-profile investment banker with a short sabbatical between job postings, when he's asked to sort out an antique book collection for a distant Duke and Duchess; specifically, to watch for a "certain book" rumored to be real and potentially in their stacks. This of course leads to intrigue and suspicion, advent Written before his wildly acclaimed Magician series, I can tell this is an earlier attempt at a novel. While Grossman spins a wicked tale, it's not as polished as later books. Edward is a high-profile investment banker with a short sabbatical between job postings, when he's asked to sort out an antique book collection for a distant Duke and Duchess; specifically, to watch for a "certain book" rumored to be real and potentially in their stacks. This of course leads to intrigue and suspicion, adventure and mayhem. Some of the motivations and actions were far fetched, and the story process itself wasn't fully polished. And the ending, oh, the ending. A fizzle and a letdown. But there were many fine elements that make it worthwhile. I loved all the delving into ancient writers and the mindset of authors of the past, the snippets of writing style analysis, the physical acts of bookbinding and dismantling. And score one for an old school LAN party! Also, I could see glimmers of his future Magician series: some of Edward's mannerisms, the magical tale wrapped in the mystery book, the fantasy world in a video game, even a description of a fountain. I am glad I read this even if just to see those glimpses into the writer's mind and to recognize what was percolating in there.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Trixie Fontaine

    Really enjoyable, readable, suspenseful bookworm stuff for weekend/vacation reading. There were some annoying elements, but nothing off-putting enough to wreck the fun for me. Maybe not as good as the very best in the genre, but I liked it way more than the NYT bestsellers revolving around similar themes. Reading other people's 2-3 star reviews I have to agree with a lot of their complaints, but I still managed to really like the book. Even though the ending isn't very satisfying I didn't feel li Really enjoyable, readable, suspenseful bookworm stuff for weekend/vacation reading. There were some annoying elements, but nothing off-putting enough to wreck the fun for me. Maybe not as good as the very best in the genre, but I liked it way more than the NYT bestsellers revolving around similar themes. Reading other people's 2-3 star reviews I have to agree with a lot of their complaints, but I still managed to really like the book. Even though the ending isn't very satisfying I didn't feel like throwing the book down and stomping on it. I liked the time I spent with Codex.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Sharmili

    Reading the book jacket, I was intrigued by this story, only to be horribly disappointed. And a fair bit of it, I'm sure, was that the writing just didn't develop the characters at all. Where to begin? We first meet our protagonist (Wozny - can't even remember his first name, even though I just finished this yesterday) and quickly learn that he is good at his job, headed to London for his company, and has 2 weeks of vacation. He somehow (it's never properly explained why he ends up on this proje Reading the book jacket, I was intrigued by this story, only to be horribly disappointed. And a fair bit of it, I'm sure, was that the writing just didn't develop the characters at all. Where to begin? We first meet our protagonist (Wozny - can't even remember his first name, even though I just finished this yesterday) and quickly learn that he is good at his job, headed to London for his company, and has 2 weeks of vacation. He somehow (it's never properly explained why he ends up on this project, or how) ends up checking in on some clients for a project that isn't explained to him, so he's curious as to what it's about. And from there, he gets drawn into a hunt for a manuscript that may or may not exist. Along the way, we meet his friend Zeph, and Zeph's wife Caroline (really not sure what her purpose was other than just to give Mr. Grossman something to write about?), and their friend the Artiste. We also meet a college acquaintance of Wozny's - Fabrikant - and get the impression that the guy has a weird obsession with Wozny, which doesn't even make sense. In fact, nothing in this book seems to make sense, let alone the whole MOMUS game angle. Lev Grossman has created characters that don't seem believable, and seem to have no real motivation for their actions. I'm not actually sure why I continued to read the book, other than because I wanted to see if any of it wrapped up in a way that made sense - like I wanted to see if this could be salvaged at any point. And, sadly, it couldn't. I actually would never recommend this book to anybody. Usually, there's some audience for a book. This one doesn't even have that. There seem to be some interesting descriptions here and there, but nothing to sustain this. Also, there appears to be some romantic elements thrown in, because, why not? None of it develops the characters or the plot in any way, and it just seems like it was written in at the behest of an editor and not because the author seemed vested in writing the scene. If I can save you from wasting your time reading this book, the time spent writing this review will have been worth it.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Bandit

    So I've started watching The Magicians on Neftlix, a tv show based on a strikingly derivative Grossman's book the appropriates ideas with kleptomaniacal glee. I didn't care for the book originally despite loving the theme of magic, this wasn't an inspired choice. But it made me think of Codex, the book Grossman wrote before The Magicians fame, so I checked it out. Just as much as I love magic, I love a good bibliomystery and as far as bibliomysteries go this was pretty decent. Once again Grossma So I've started watching The Magicians on Neftlix, a tv show based on a strikingly derivative Grossman's book the appropriates ideas with kleptomaniacal glee. I didn't care for the book originally despite loving the theme of magic, this wasn't an inspired choice. But it made me think of Codex, the book Grossman wrote before The Magicians fame, so I checked it out. Just as much as I love magic, I love a good bibliomystery and as far as bibliomysteries go this was pretty decent. Once again Grossman employs a young and not overwhelmingly charismatic or likable young protagonist, this time a magic free banker who on his few weeks of sabbatical between jobs gets involved with tracking down a medieval codex with a conditional help of an even younger and even less likable young woman scholar. There is also an unnecessary video game, which detracted from the plot. The inclusion of it was probably meant to make the book more hip, but frankly I'm not into the juxtaposition of dusty old manuscripts and shiny new (for that time anyway) technology. Didn't work for me in a more recent Robin Sloan's book either, although that one made a mistake of making the video game a crucial part of the plot, wherein here it could have been left out with minor edits. I don't understand the fascination with reading about video games, but it's probably a personal preference, after all Ernest Cline is making a career out of it. This book was an international bestseller and it reads like one. Very fast paced, very easy read, fairly entertaining if you don't stop to think about it too much, although the ending is slightly lackluster. Decent read in general, far less annoying and imitative than The Magicians and sequel free. The backstory of the codex's history was by far the most fascinating and interesting part and it pretty much made the book.

  15. 4 out of 5

    A.J.

    I honestly can't remember the last time I read a book so incredibly up its own arse as Codex. My God, this was a slog and could I see the last day or two over, knowing the ultimate revelations at the heart of the 'mystery', I would not have bothered. Nor should you. The book gives us a rare library and priceless manuscript, as promised, but there's nothing 'deadly' about the secret. There's nothing interesting about it either. Plus we have to wade through 300 pages of dry, humourless prose driven I honestly can't remember the last time I read a book so incredibly up its own arse as Codex. My God, this was a slog and could I see the last day or two over, knowing the ultimate revelations at the heart of the 'mystery', I would not have bothered. Nor should you. The book gives us a rare library and priceless manuscript, as promised, but there's nothing 'deadly' about the secret. There's nothing interesting about it either. Plus we have to wade through 300 pages of dry, humourless prose driven by an incredibly boring, incredibly irritating workaholic protagonist who it's hard to truck any sympathy with, given Lev Grossman drips his novel in middle-class Americana, not to mention a horribly outdated, public school portrayal of British aristocracy. The whole thing feels weirdly old-fashioned, with it's jarring attempts to shoe horn a somewhat prescient computer game into a narrative that mostly involves our characters walking through dusty libraries, pondering on 14th century literature, or pontificating in the ponciest fashion about various and sundry. Grossman thinks he's writing something clever, literate and a bit profound, when I just want Eddie Chase to walk in, punch him on the nose, and shout 'ay up, bellend'. Codex really is as boring and wanky as it sounds. Avoid it. And avoid Loyd Grossman. Actually, just avoid Lev Grossman, at least Loyd is entertaining.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Sara

    Codex has a very interesting premise - a long lost manuscript that holds a secret and good guys and bad guys going after it. Sure, it's been done before but I'm always up for more stories like this. But. . . . Ultimately unsatisfying. It is going to be very hard for me to review this book without spoilers, so - (view spoiler)[ Edward - the main character. Not particularly likable or unlikable. How a hard driving investment banker becomes a gob of goo over a bitchy woman he sees once and talks to a co Codex has a very interesting premise - a long lost manuscript that holds a secret and good guys and bad guys going after it. Sure, it's been done before but I'm always up for more stories like this. But. . . . Ultimately unsatisfying. It is going to be very hard for me to review this book without spoilers, so - (view spoiler)[ Edward - the main character. Not particularly likable or unlikable. How a hard driving investment banker becomes a gob of goo over a bitchy woman he sees once and talks to a couple of times on the phone is beyond me. And he definitely blew it with Margaret. What was with "Core Competencies" (how I hate that phrase!) in that last speech? And Margaret? What was up with her at the end? Was she always with the Duke? Or at some point called up the Duke and said - "Yeh, I got it". Did she know the Duke would destroy it? I think she would have gone with Edward at the end but then he would have known what she really put in the box. The Duke had very ineffectual friends trying to stop Edward. Really, that was the best they could do? I read this book in about 1 day and laid awake at night pondering these questions. The video game - well, kind of an interesting tie-in but it didn't really work all that well because it didn't really do what I thought it would do and it was just unsatisfying. Like the entire novel. (hide spoiler)]

  17. 4 out of 5

    Nicky

    I was all set to give this book a higher rating, really. The writing is not uncompelling -- I wouldn't say it's slick and fascinating prose, but it's not a turn-off, either. It's okay for lazy reading, and the descriptions are pretty good. Some parts are quite fascinating, particularly the descriptions of MOMUS. Characterisation is shaky, though. I don't particularly care about any of the characters, or feel convinced by their relationships to each other. Edward, the main character, was blandly u I was all set to give this book a higher rating, really. The writing is not uncompelling -- I wouldn't say it's slick and fascinating prose, but it's not a turn-off, either. It's okay for lazy reading, and the descriptions are pretty good. Some parts are quite fascinating, particularly the descriptions of MOMUS. Characterisation is shaky, though. I don't particularly care about any of the characters, or feel convinced by their relationships to each other. Edward, the main character, was blandly unobjectionable, really, and Margaret was no better. The Duchess could've been interesting, but there wasn't much of her. I didn't believe in any of Edward's motivations, either: it didn't make any sense. And then the ending... nothing has changed since the first page of the book, really. Edward hasn't grown as a character at all. The status quo hasn't shifted so much as an inch. All the potentially interesting characters and plot exits stage left. It's an utter anticlimax. It's infuriating.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Ashley

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I'm hiding this review because it's impossible for me to review this without discussing the ending. Codex was a book that I really, really wanted to love. I'm a lover of literary mystery and of medieval history, so the premise began as enticing and quickly became irresistible. It presented a mystery so big and so ancient, that I couldn't wait to see where the author was going. It seemed like an incredible story for anyone who is fascinated by the mysteries of the past. Throughout the book, it se I'm hiding this review because it's impossible for me to review this without discussing the ending. Codex was a book that I really, really wanted to love. I'm a lover of literary mystery and of medieval history, so the premise began as enticing and quickly became irresistible. It presented a mystery so big and so ancient, that I couldn't wait to see where the author was going. It seemed like an incredible story for anyone who is fascinated by the mysteries of the past. Throughout the book, it seemed like we were moving closer and closer to some kind of answer, or at least some information. And then the end came. Out of nowhere, with more confusion than it began with, Codex came to a close. The mystery wasn't solved - it had only gotten bigger. If there were some kind of other focus - if, for example, the characters had been incredibly deep and faced incredible growth throughout their efforts - I might say that Codex was worth my time reading. The first half or three quarters of the book was incredibly enjoyable, regardless of believability. In the end, Codex just left far too much unknown. If I wanted nothing more than a hugely intriguing mystery that I would never know the answers to, I could have found plenty in the real world instead of being disappointed by a novel.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jill

    When you need a "plane book" -- you know, something to keep you entertained on those budget flights with no TV screens -- you need Engaging. None of this academic crap -- ya girl wants brain candy. I wanna finish that shit by the time I land. Codex is probably the best plane book I've ever read. Engaging in spades -- quick-paced, not overly serious, but layered enough to keep interest and break formula. I keep finding myself reading these biblio-mysteries (will they find the missing manuscript?? When you need a "plane book" -- you know, something to keep you entertained on those budget flights with no TV screens -- you need Engaging. None of this academic crap -- ya girl wants brain candy. I wanna finish that shit by the time I land. Codex is probably the best plane book I've ever read. Engaging in spades -- quick-paced, not overly serious, but layered enough to keep interest and break formula. I keep finding myself reading these biblio-mysteries (will they find the missing manuscript?? what will happen when they do?? WHAT UNIVERSITY/RICH PERSON WILL IT GO TO??? etc.), and I'm not gonna lie....I love 'em. The bibliomystery is such a SMART genre, can I interject -- like what a way to consider your audience. Take people who like reading & books and give 'em a whodunnit about books. Brilliant. Give me more. Anyway, I read too many of these. Some of them are legitimately excellent (S. and The End of Mr. Y come to mind), some are...less so (oh, Possession...I'll never escape you). Either way they're mind crack, and Codex was no exception. It's not in the 'excellent' category -- the plot's pretty guessable and unoriginal, and Mr. Y does the video game/literature mix better -- and so does Pynchon's Bleeding Edge, for that matter. The characters are nothing special (and do the main two EVER remind me of the two in Possession, holy hell no). HOWEVER: the ending kind of comes out of left field. In some ways, that's fantastic -- a few of my most-hated tropes are avoided, particularly of the romantic kind. In other ways, it makes absolutely no sense 'cause there wasn't enough buildup, and the payoff was real unsatisfactory as a result. So I mean...I could review this objectively and give it 2 stars, BUT: I landed with a few pages left and was desperate to finish it before I got to my Airbnb, so, ya know. If nothing else, I obviously 'liked it!'

  20. 5 out of 5

    Tammy

    I quickly engaged with this easy read and it kept my interest throughout. While the characters could have been more fully developed, my main complaint was that the computer game piece seemed shoe-horned in and completely out of character. I wonder if this additional piece was to keep it from being so much like the Dan Brown novels? A nice book for a lazy winter day. 3.5 stars

  21. 5 out of 5

    Diana

    On audiobook. This novel begins with an atticful of books that were hurriedly shipped from their great English house to NYC when it looked like Nazi Germany would be taking over Great Britain. They've been sitting, still in their crates, since then, and it will be Edward, this novel's main character, who has the job of unpacking and cataloging them. Oh yeah, and he should keep an eye out for a very rare book by someone named Gervaise. That's all it took. I was deep into this book, a little thril On audiobook. This novel begins with an atticful of books that were hurriedly shipped from their great English house to NYC when it looked like Nazi Germany would be taking over Great Britain. They've been sitting, still in their crates, since then, and it will be Edward, this novel's main character, who has the job of unpacking and cataloging them. Oh yeah, and he should keep an eye out for a very rare book by someone named Gervaise. That's all it took. I was deep into this book, a little thrilled and ready to go. Joseph Campbell called this part of a story "the call to adventure", and is there any call to adventure that could speak to a library person more? Edward encounters a medievalist scholar who gets involved in his search, and it's lucky for the reader that he does, because she explains a lot to him, and thus, to us, about medieval literature and rare books. And she provides a bit of a love interest. The search for the mysterious book is very exciting, at least for weird, bookish people like me. Oh, and Edward has a friend, Zeph, who I enjoyed very much, too, an enormous, smart, funny computer geek who the reader of the audiobook did such a fantastic job voicing that I forgive him for his mincing female voices. I agree with readers who complained about this book's slightly fizzling ending, but it's so exactly The Kind of Book I Like To Read that I don't really care.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Loyola University Chicago Libraries

    This book started out as a 5-star page-turner and eventually downgraded itself to a 4, but I'd recommend it just the same. The rest of the book can't live up to the promise of the first few chapters, and the ending is ... unsatisfying. But the pacing is excellent, and bookworms and librarians alike will enjoy the research and detail that Grossman has put into the world of rare books, preservation, and cataloging. There have been a lot of these DaVinci Code-esque books written as of late, involvi This book started out as a 5-star page-turner and eventually downgraded itself to a 4, but I'd recommend it just the same. The rest of the book can't live up to the promise of the first few chapters, and the ending is ... unsatisfying. But the pacing is excellent, and bookworms and librarians alike will enjoy the research and detail that Grossman has put into the world of rare books, preservation, and cataloging. There have been a lot of these DaVinci Code-esque books written as of late, involving old manuscripts and historical mysteries, but Grossman imbues energy into the genre by introducing a mysterious computer game into the mix. Grossman explores the idea of technology (whether an old manuscript or a realistic video game) as escapism and the dangers of trying to escape reality. Available Cudahy Main Stacks, PS3557 .R6725 C64 2004.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Christopher

    This is a book about books. There are scenes in silent libraries where characters in kid gloves search for lost manuscripts and there are wonderful descriptions of the production of ancient codices and the arcane materials used in their bindings. Did you know that the most expensive and prized paper derived from the skin of an aborted calf fetus? Can you remember what a palimpsest is, or have you forgotten, even though you know you've looked it up multiple times in the past? Unfortunately, it's g This is a book about books. There are scenes in silent libraries where characters in kid gloves search for lost manuscripts and there are wonderful descriptions of the production of ancient codices and the arcane materials used in their bindings. Did you know that the most expensive and prized paper derived from the skin of an aborted calf fetus? Can you remember what a palimpsest is, or have you forgotten, even though you know you've looked it up multiple times in the past? Unfortunately, it's got all this silly Dan Brown-type plot surrounding the parts about books. It's mysterious and intriguing at first, but it's obvious the author can't bring it all together in the end, and when he doesn't, it cheapens the great things you learned about old books.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Kristen

    This one caught my eye in the library, and since I've read Lev Grossman's other works, I figured I'd give it a go. Clearly, it's good that some things improve as time goes by. I just finished this less than 15 minutes ago. And I'm still angry with the ending. Completely anti-climactic. And even if it was done on purpose, to show lack of emotional development? No. Just no. I also didn't find the 'big shocker' to be all that shocking. In fact, I pretty much saw it coming. It's really, really good th This one caught my eye in the library, and since I've read Lev Grossman's other works, I figured I'd give it a go. Clearly, it's good that some things improve as time goes by. I just finished this less than 15 minutes ago. And I'm still angry with the ending. Completely anti-climactic. And even if it was done on purpose, to show lack of emotional development? No. Just no. I also didn't find the 'big shocker' to be all that shocking. In fact, I pretty much saw it coming. It's really, really good that I read 'The Magicians' and its sequel before reading this, because otherwise, I would assume they weren't so hot.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Grada (BoekenTrol)

    It was an okay book, different from what I had read before, also different from what I expected to read. I list track of the story from time to time and didn't quite get the connection between the game and the things Margaret and Edward were doing. The end wasn't really a surprise, although it surprised me that Edward didn't see it coming (earlier). It was an okay book, different from what I had read before, also different from what I expected to read. I list track of the story from time to time and didn't quite get the connection between the game and the things Margaret and Edward were doing. The end wasn't really a surprise, although it surprised me that Edward didn't see it coming (earlier).

  26. 4 out of 5

    Garlan ✌

    This was only an "OK" read for me. I thought the story was pretty good, but the characters seemed a little shallow and unformed. It really felt like a YA read, but all the characters were in their late 20's and older. I've read a couple of other books by Grossman that I really liked, but this fell a little flat for me. Probably closer to a 3 1/2 star rating, but not a 4... This was only an "OK" read for me. I thought the story was pretty good, but the characters seemed a little shallow and unformed. It really felt like a YA read, but all the characters were in their late 20's and older. I've read a couple of other books by Grossman that I really liked, but this fell a little flat for me. Probably closer to a 3 1/2 star rating, but not a 4...

  27. 5 out of 5

    Jason Pettus

    Logging the last of my 2017 reads today so that they'll count towards this year's Reading Challenge totals. Full review coming in early 2018. Logging the last of my 2017 reads today so that they'll count towards this year's Reading Challenge totals. Full review coming in early 2018.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Marjorie

    I wish that I could have the time that I spent reading this book back.

  29. 5 out of 5

    John

    Investment whizkid Edward is offered a prestigious transfer from NYC to London, and decides to take a couple of weeks off in between the two positions. He's asked by his employers to do one thing during this fortnight -- a quick favour for a rich client, a pair of English aristocrats. This proves to be a request to catalogue the family's ancestral collection of rare books -- a major task rather than the quick service advertised. Before he can refuse, though, he inexplicably decides to go through Investment whizkid Edward is offered a prestigious transfer from NYC to London, and decides to take a couple of weeks off in between the two positions. He's asked by his employers to do one thing during this fortnight -- a quick favour for a rich client, a pair of English aristocrats. This proves to be a request to catalogue the family's ancestral collection of rare books -- a major task rather than the quick service advertised. Before he can refuse, though, he inexplicably decides to go through with it. He is particularly requested to keep an eye out for a 14th-century codex by one Gervase of Langford, a book believed to be a ghost title invented by a much later manuscript forger. Of course, Edward gets it into his head that -- as the family has always maintained -- the codex really exists, and his obsessive quest for it, alongside the near-autistic post-doc medievalist Margaret, forms the basis of this tale. Woven through the central plot is a secondary one about Edward's increasing addiction to a virtual-reality game called MOMUS (after the Greek god thrown out of Olympus for his habit of pointing out all the ways creation could be improved). All kinds of parallels between and intersections of his adventures within the game and those outside it appear with a tacit sounding of portentous chords, although in the end all these come to nothing: they're just unnecessary plot complications. But these aren't as irritating as all the plotting lapses, mostly involving Edward's motivations. As noted above, it's inexplicable why he should take on a task that's completely alien to his interests, experience and expertise: he just does, because it suits the author's purposes that he should. Likewise, throughout the book it's occasionally trotted out as a motivation for this or that action that Edward is infatuated by the Duchess, co-owner with her despised husband, the Duke, of the book collection; yet Edward has met the Duchess only briefly, she's of an older generation, there was no spark of attraction between them during that meeting, and the relationship between Duchess and Duke was portrayed at the time as testily affectionate. In the end we are supposed to believe that hotshot Wall Street high-flyer Edward is prepared to throw away his entire career, not to mention his belatedly burgeoning love for Margaret, in hopes of a life with an older woman he's barely met and for whom he seems to have any warm emotion only when the author finds it convenient. I kept expecting some final revelation of the reasons why these two enormous plot implausibilities (there are others) should somehow make sense, but it never came. The first chapter or so of Codex is written in the Dan Brown textual mode: a sort of determined mediocrity. Thereafter, though, things improve a lot, and much of the book is definitely compelling, especially the passages dealing with true and invented literary history, the contents of the supposed codex, the nature of the medieval mind, etc. (For a while I thought this book might be the antithesis of the student-writer cliche "show, don't tell" because I was enjoying all the genuine or imitation infodumping so much.) In other words, after its rocky beginning, Codex is a good fast read, but at it's end I felt I'd somehow been cheated. I'm planning, because of multiple recommendations, to read Grossman's The Magicians soon, and hope I enjoy it better.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Michele

    The best part of this book was the highly detailed and very true-to-life descriptions of rare books, special collections and archives. In one scene the main character, Edward, visits a fictional rare book library in Manhattan called the Chenoweth. Poor Edward is flummoxed by everything he encounters: the numerous different catalogs (books here, manuscripts there, backlog in the other place; a third of their holdings in the electronic catalog, a third on little index cards, a third uncataloged ent The best part of this book was the highly detailed and very true-to-life descriptions of rare books, special collections and archives. In one scene the main character, Edward, visits a fictional rare book library in Manhattan called the Chenoweth. Poor Edward is flummoxed by everything he encounters: the numerous different catalogs (books here, manuscripts there, backlog in the other place; a third of their holdings in the electronic catalog, a third on little index cards, a third uncataloged entirely); reading room etiquette (he tries to talk to someone, can you imagine??); where the books live (only three bookshelves are visible, all full of books about books), and so on. "The whole operation was a model of mysterious, gleaming efficiency, like some incomprehensible ultramodern public restroom." Plus there are student assistants wheeling squeaky carts, patrons at other tables looking at folders of letters, red velvet bookweights, a "serious little magnifying glass that looked like demilitarized Russian spy gear," and lots of very sharp pencils. Later they go to the Chenoweth's offsite storage in Virginia where, three floors below ground, they find a fenced-off corner piled with dusty, broken-down, moldering boxes and cartons containing donations made long ago and never processed. My archivist's heart was deeply, deeply satisfied by this, not to mention vastly amused. (Thank god the velvet bookweights were red, not green, otherwise I'd suspect that he'd modeled his descriptions on my own place of work, which shall remain nameless.) The second best part was the story-within-a-story: Gervase of Langford's weird and disturbing narrative, with its stag-headed knight, Mobius-strip storyline, and page covered in black ink. Margaret, the medievalist who helps Edward in his quest, explains how alien this kind of story would have been to the era in which it was written, in almost every way a complete anachronism. She also offers a brief but accurate history of how people's view of the purpose of writing has evolved in the last 500 years or so, including how suspicious people were of the idea of the novel and reading for pleasure So yay for the vivid descriptions of many wonderful old and rare books, and the delights of a hunt for a mysterious ancient manuscript. Boo, however, for a gaping plot hole and an ending both disappointing and anticlimactic. The gaping plot hole is that (view spoiler)[no satisfactory explanation is given for how the Duchess knew what was in the Gervase of Langford book. If no one had ever seen it, and indeed most scholars thought it never existed, then how could the Duchess possibly know that it contained anything she could use to ruin her husband?? And if the events took place 700 years ago, who would possibly care?? (hide spoiler)] . The disappointment of the ending lies in the fact that (view spoiler)[(a) it all boils down to an alcoholic and vengeful woman who wants to get revenge on her husband, for no reason we can see; and (b) Gervase's odd and fascinating tale turns out to be totally irrelevant, since all that matters are the illuminated capitals (hide spoiler)] !! Most vexing.

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