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  • Codex
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on October 28, 2005
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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VINE VOICEon October 21, 2004

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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on August 27, 2004
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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on August 22, 2004
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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on July 21, 2004
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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on May 6, 2006
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. It may only be a simple case of reviewers having totally unrealistic reading loads. The most talented readers I know can't handle more than ten books a month without overload. Maybe there are professionals who can handle twenty or more a month. My guess is that young reviewers at these publications can't do more than skim, or read twenty or thirty pages, stick their finger in the wind, then knock out a review.

But hey, I'm just guessing. But from now on, I never pay a cent for a book till I've looked at the online amateur evaluations. The spelling may no be as good as the Boston Globe reviews, but at least the amateurs have actually read the book.
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on October 28, 2004
As many of the other reviewers have indicated, this book had a really interesting plot. However, the characters were 2-dimensional and flat, and the ending was rushed. I was intrigued by the correlation between modern-day video game and medieval books. That is an interesting prospect! However, for much of the book, the detail on the video game is too much, and for the rest of the book, the detail on the characters is not enough. There were many characters, including Fabrikant, Zeph, Caroline and Nick that I didn't understand the point of including. The Duke/Dutchess issue could have been delved into much more, and the ending could have been given more body and oomph. I was disappointed when I put this book down. I wonder if this could be a case of too much editing? Or, perhaps we need a 2nd edition with some of the issues fixed. Bottom line, good potential, poor delivery.
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on April 3, 2004
Young New York banker Edward Wozny has his first vacation in years before him and has no idea how to spend his time. Leaving for a new job in London in two weeks, he doesn't mind too much when his financial firm asks him to drop by on a wealthy client to help out on a project. He is disappointed to find out that it is a clerical project but is still intrigued; he is asked to catalog an antique and mysterious collection of books. Between this task and the computer game, MOMUS, lent to him by a friend, Edward figures the time until his departure is sufficiently filled.
With that seemingly innocent premise Lev Grossman begins his novel CODEX, a thriller about books, coincidences, deception and very old secrets. It seems the library, belonging to the Duke and Duchess of Bowmry, may contain a book invaluable to the aristocratic family. And as much as the Duke wants it to remain hidden, the Duchess wants it found. Soon, Edward also wants to find the book, as he is pulled deeper into the search. He enlists the help of an eccentric young scholar, Margaret Napier, to help him catalog the books and understand the importance of this particular one.
Edward and Margaret spend hours sorting and cataloging books in the library looking for the work by Gervase of Langford, a medieval author of a bizarre and legendary tale. Margaret insists that the existence of the book is a myth, but she works even harder than Edward to find it. Meanwhile, Edward is becoming more and more obsessed with the computer game. The game, seemingly nonsensical, is still addictive to Edward, especially when the setting of the game suddenly becomes disturbingly familiar.
What is the connection between the Gervase of Langford book and MOMUS? Does the Langford text even exist? Why does the Duke want it hidden and the Duchess want it found? And what is Edward's role in all of this? As his departure for London approaches, the coincidences grow and Edward finds himself in the center of a strange situation surrounded by mysterious characters who somehow may all be connected.
Perhaps comparisons with THE DA VINCI CODE are inevitable. But CODEX has a different feel, although fans of Brown's bestseller will appreciate Grossman's novel. In CODEX there are no murders and there isn't the immediate sense of danger found in Brown's novel. Edward is not running from anyone or even trying to save someone; he is caught in a strange situation that he finds irresistible. CODEX is about books and their power to hold truths, sustain lies and raise hopes. Bookworms will find Edward and Margaret's bookish task intriguing.
Grossman's thriller is a fun and interesting read. His blending of medieval texts and high-tech computer games as devices to move the plot and occupy the characters works surprisingly well. Edward is not a character we fall in love with or even cheer for, but we are along with him every step of the way for the exciting ride. We understand Edward's growing need to know what secrets are kept in the Langford text and the computer game, and we wonder with him if they are somehow connected.
Grossman's narrative is sometimes pragmatic and sometimes dreamlike, but always enjoyable. CODEX is a thought-provoking tale from a promising novelist.
--- Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman
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VINE VOICEon July 22, 2004
I?ll be honest. Many of the books I review here I give 5 stars. But Codex deserves far less than my usual standard. Its a thriller a la The Da Vinci Code, but without its depth or insight- or its capacity to raise a reader?s pulse. Its not even good as a beach read, quite frankly. There are too many loose ends; when I finished the novel all I could think was, ?is that it?? So, needless to say, I was quite disappointed.

The characters in this novel are bizarre and hard to indentify with. I agree with some of the others who have written reviews here when the say that Edward is Boring. With a capital B. I kept wanting to get involved in the story, but no cigar for this one.
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VINE VOICEon September 23, 2004
Some have characterized this as the worst book that they've ever read. I would not quite put this book in that catagory. For me that catagory includes the
painfully bad "Ordinary Horror" by David Searcy or any book by Clive Cussler.

"Codex" is simply a weak novel. The characters are wooden, the plot is uninspired. It is interesting to compare "Codex" with the excellent "The Shadow of the Wind" by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. In both novels, mysterious books play a central part. But the characters in Zafon's book have depth and feeling. This is entirely lacking in "Codex".

I purchased this book because it was well reviewed in several places. I have to speculate that this is because the author of "Codex" is a book reviewer himself. Perhaps those who reviewed "Codex" worried that a harsh review would be returned by Mr. Grossman when he reviewed their book. So they puffed
the review up.

For my part, I recommend saving your money, or, if you must read this book check it out of the library. I've sending mine off to the used book store.

As a previous reviewer pointed out, when it comes to books and mystery, in addition to "Shadow of the Wind" I highly recommend Arturo Perez-Reverte's "Club Dumas".
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