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Codex Hardcover – March 8, 2004

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Editorial Reviews Review

The cerebral thriller Codex drops up-and-coming investment banker wunderkind Edward Wozny into the musty realm of medieval literature, where he finds an unexpected break from the rat race--a powerful client's commission to uncrate and organize a library. The diversion quickly becomes an obsession after he enlists the help of the quirkily attractive scholar Margaret Napier. Together they discover his employer, the mysterious Duchess of Bowmry, is in a race with her husband to locate an apocryphal codex that could destroy the Bowmry name. Meanwhile, Edward becomes engrossed in an addicting computer game that bears an uncanny similarity to the object of his search and accelerates his transformation from Wall Street wizard into shiftless dreamer.

For the most part, Edward moves through his adventure merely following Margaret's dedicated lead. As each new twist unfolds, he slips further into the comforting daydream of a life that isn't his but is as thrilling as the race for the codex. Codex wrestles with notions of dreams and reality that commingle as Edward finds himself adrift in a sea of passionate scholars and Old World plots. In all, Lev Grossman's novel is excellent entry into the emerging genre of literary history thrillers with an added twist for the technophile. --Jeremy Pugh

From Publishers Weekly

A young investment banker burrows deep into a labyrinthine world of computer games and literary riddles in this captivating thriller by Time book critic Grossman (Warp). On a two-week vacation before he heads for a new post in London, 25-year-old golden boy Edward Wozny volunteers his services to the Wents, the duchess and duke of Bowmry, two of the firm's biggest clients. Since he assumes they require his financial expertise, he is exasperated—and then intrigued—to discover they wish him to catalogue a collection of ancient books in the attic of their New York apartment. Captivated by the library of rare manuscripts, Edward finds himself oddly content in this mystifying world of words. A special request adds extra urgency to the assignment: he is asked to find a possibly mythical codex by 14th-century monk Gervase of Langford, A Viage to the Contree of the Cimmerians. Most scholars believe that the text—which predicts the coming of the apocalypse and may conceal Went family secrets—never existed, and that view is shared by Margaret Napier, a hard-nosed graduate student whom Edward enlists to aid him in his daunting task. Fixated on locating the codex, Edward becomes equally preoccupied with MOMUS, an intricate, frighteningly vivid computer game. Cyberworld and real world are more connected than Edward realizes, and he gradually discovers that the game is intimately related to his literary sleuthing. A trip to England and a well-orchestrated final twist bring this intelligent, enjoyable novel to a fittingly understated conclusion. Author appearances in Boston, New York and Washington, D.C.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; 1 edition (March 8, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0151010668
  • ISBN-13: 978-0151010660
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.3 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 2.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (252 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #337,238 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Lev Grossman is the author of the New York Times bestselling novels The Magicians and The Magician King. The third book in the trilogy, The Magician's Land, will be published in August 2014. The New Yorker named The Magicians as one of the best books of 2009. In 2011 Grossman was awarded the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer by the World Science Fiction Society.

Grossman is also the book critic at Time magazine, and he has written about books and technology for the New York Times, Salon, the Wall Street Journal, Wired, Lingua Franca, the Village Voice and the Believer, as well as NPR.

He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and three children. He's 43, slightly built and probably wouldn't last long in a post-apocalyptic, eye-for-an-eye world.

Customer Reviews

When I stared reading, I found myself comparing this book to the DaVinci Code and liking it better.
S. Grgas
I finished this book, checked three times to be sure that I had really just read the last page, and then threw it down in disgust.
J. Huebert
I was really into the story and couldn't wait to get to the end but the ending was terrible and left too many hanging questions.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

115 of 131 people found the following review helpful By K. L. Cotugno VINE VOICE on October 21, 2004
Format: Hardcover

What a great ride the first 3/4 of this book provided! Effortless segues between modern labyrinthine MYST-like games and medieval mysteries, with enough intriguing characters and a very human protagonist, and as the narrative galloped toward the end, accelerating in suspense and menace, I kept noticing that there were far too many loose ends to be tied up and too few pages to do so (sorry about the mixed metaphors). Authors should not tackle thrillers if they can't resolve them with satisfactory endings. I thought I'd missed something, went back and read the last few pages. Even thought my book may have lost some pages somehow. But reading some of the other reviews, I realize that I hadn't missed anything. There was nothing there to miss.
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74 of 85 people found the following review helpful By D.K.V. on August 27, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I got carried away at the bookstore one day and I ended up buying this book, since it looked like it could be promising. Ug, was I ever wrong. This sort of literary mystery fiction is hot these days, which I thoroughly enjoy, but this is just another one of those books trying to catch a free ride on the train.
I did not find the plot to be intriguing nor in the slightest bit believable, instead, it seemed contrived to fit a tidey, neat little literary mystery package.
Instead seek these codexes:
Mathew Pearl's 'Dante Club'
Carlos Ruiz Zafon's 'The Shadow in the Wind'
Arturo Perez-Reverte's 'Club Dumas'
Erik Larson's 'The Devil in the White City'
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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Bob on October 28, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I can't believe this book has an average rating of three stars. I'll admit, the book does have several strengths, but they fail utterly to compensate for its glaring weaknesses, namely (1) the lack of an interesting plot, (2) the lack of an interesting character, (3) the lack of plausibility (which, for a book so prosaic and mundane, should have been a no-brainer), (4) the existence of long passages that go nowhere and do nothing either to further the plot or develop the characters, (5) lifeless prose, (6) the lack of internal consistency and connection, (7) the complete and utter lack of complexity, and (8) an ending so pointless as to defy description. I've never read a book with such passive, lifeless, and mind-numbingly boring characters. Very little actually happens in the book, and a good thriller writer could have condensed it down to about twenty or thirty pages. Really, I would have to agree with other reviewers here in saying that it is one of the worst books I have ever read. Maybe I've read a worse book, but I can't think of it now.

This is the first online review I have ever written about anything, but I thought this book was so bad I owed it to people to try to steer them away from it. I, like other reviewers here, only finished the book to see if it would get better. It didn't. And to think that this kind of tripe gets published when there are much better books getting turned down right and left.

Don't waste your money or your time. I only wish I could give it fewer stars.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Adirondack on August 22, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I'm beginning to wonder if Codex is a put on of sorts. Yes it has some highpoints, some great descriptive passages. But nothing about the plot hangs together - why choose a 25 year old hot shot investment banker to catalog a collection of rare books? Why would a modern Duke find the possibility of an 700 hundred year old infidelity so explosive that it could be used as a weapon against him? Is there a connection between the codex and the duke's son's murder by kidnappers. No, after the murder/kinapping is mentiond once, it's dropped. Codex also contains some of the most errant nonsense. Our protagonist grew up in Bangor, Maine which he thought of as being semi-civilized but later realizes is more like the northern fastness of Ottawa!? Old Forge, New York is on the Hudson River (not exactly!). Other reviewers have commented on similar howlers about New York City. And then there's the non-ending.
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35 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Defender of the Faith on July 21, 2004
Format: Hardcover
It's a bad sign when you're halfway through a book and you already know how it's going to end. Groaning at every plot twist is an even worse sign. I LOATHED this book. Why? Because it's blindingly obvious that Lev Grossman could write something far better. But bloody Dan Brown got everyone's knickers in a twist and Grossman's publisher shoved an advance in his face and told him the book would be the next DaVinci Code. Can we just STOP all this sacrificing of plots for story, PLEASE? Ugh. I would also like to state for the record that Edward Wozny is the single most boring protagonist I've ever come across. I honestly didn't care if he found the Codex or developed carpal tunnel syndrome from MOMUS. My advice: read Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon instead. Neal is where it's at. Lev is where it's not.

Best use for Codex: follow the instructions and make one of your own!! Maybe it will be a better book in a few centuries' time.
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32 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Joan Marien on May 6, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I've never written a review of anything in my life, which will probably show in my writing. But something about this book just ignited my outrage: the twenty-nine quoted reviews in the paperback edition.

I enjoy good trash. Which this book isn't. Just to add a couple of examples to the mountain of problems presented by the other reviewers here, to toss off the Letter of Aristaeus as a literary hoax, or to have a scholarly character dogmatically insist that some particular lacuna cannot exist, exposes such an ignorance of paleography that makes the writing of a book titled 'Codex' an unlikely project.

But aside from the flaws, this book reveals something, I can't say exactly what, but something corrupt about the whole publishing/editing/reviewing process. I am convinced that nobody, not one person, actually read this book from beginning to end before it was published.

The number of obvious editing errors increases from chapter to chapter; and I'm talking about the paperback edition, where errors from the hardcover are usually corrected.

The excerpted reviews are from the New York Times, the Village Voice, the Boston Globe, the Los Angeles Times, novelist Iain Pears, places and people who should know better. The book I read before this, a meticulously researched volume by the brilliant stylist Penelope Fitzgerald, had only a few quoted reviews. Yes, I hear you, buyer beware!

I can't help imagining that a scandal might erupt someday among book reviewers; just like the brokers/investment advisors in 2000, or the accountants/bottom line inflators at the now defunct accounting firms, I imagine investigative reporters uncovering collusion, conflicts of interest, and who knows what.
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