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Codex: A Novel [Hardcover]

Lev Grossman
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (86 customer reviews)

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Book Description

March 15 2004
About to depart on his first vacation in years, Edward Wozny, a hot-shot young investment banker, is sent to help one of his firm's most important and mysterious clients. When asked to uncrate and organize a personal library of rare books, Edward's indignation turns to intrigue as he realizes that there may be a unique medieval codex hidden among the volumes, a treasure kept locked away for many years and for many reasons. As friends draw Edward into a peculiar and addictive computer game, his obsession deepens as he discovers surprising parallels between the game's virtual reality and the mystery of the codex. An accomplished and entertaining thriller, Codex explores the mysterious power of books in the medieval and modern ages.

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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.

From Booklist

Grossman, book critic at Time, adds a new twist to the emerging bibliothriller subgenre by combining rare books with computer gaming (something old, something new). The book at the heart of the mystery is a medieval codex by one Gervase of Langford. Edward Wozny, a fast-track investment banker, is about to leave New York for a new job in London when he is asked for help by one of his firm's important clients, who wants him to catalog a collection of rare books. Edward is aghast: a banker asked to do librarian's work! Inevitably, though, he is drawn into the project and the multiple mysteries it holds, but there is another distraction: his computer-geek friend has hooked Edward on a bizarre, interactive computer game that may be more than it seems. There's a lot going on here, both online and in the library, and most of it is thoroughly fascinating. We never quite believe that banker Edward would so quickly become a biblio-detective-cum-computer-gamer, but we're glad he did. Pair this with Zafon's Shadow of the Wind [BKL Mr 1 04]. Bill Ott
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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EDWARD WOZNY STOOD squinting at the sun as crowds of people excused themselves past him in both directions. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
By John Kwok TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
Who knew studying Medieval English Literature would be so suspenseful? Lev Grossman's "Codex" is a riveting, rather engaging, literary thriller that is both a celebration of books and a fast-paced post-cyberpunk thriller worthy of comparison with the best from the likes of William Gibson, Bruce Sterling and Neal Stephenson. Grossman excels in giving readers a Neal Stephenson-like info dump in his descriptions of bibliographic methodology and book conservation, without making these seem boring or tedious. He also succeeds in giving a credible fictional look at computer gaming; a task which few writers have succeeded, with Neal Stephenson of course being one of these few. While readers may think they have found fictional ties which bind "Codex" to Grossman's later "Magician' novels, such comparisons are unworthy and unnecessary. Brilliant young banker Edward Wozny is no fictional precursor of Quentin Coldwater from the "Magician" novels, but instead, someone who becomes a reluctant participant in the search for the fabled Codex, acting at the behest of a mysterious British Duchess. Relying on the assistance of brilliant Columbia University doctoral student Margaret Napier, Wozny will uncover something so scandalous that it will require the direct intervention of the Duke himself to ensure that this discovery never sees the light of day. "Codex" still deserves a wider readership, not merely because Grossman has merged successfully, thriller, literary history and post-cyberpunk fiction into one compellingly readable saga; what he has wrought is a riveting, suspenseful tale that will keep readers quite spellbound until the very end.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well written, complex and satisdying July 8 2005
Format:Paperback
Contrary to the previous reviewer, i can see the high quality in this fine literary thriller. It is intelligent and complex. The ending is appropraite. I'll grant you that it is a little far-fetched at times, but it is cleverly put together and a very satisfying read. It will appeal to intelliget readers, I think. Besides, you will learn a lot about medieval literature.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not Ready for Prime Time Reading July 5 2004
By Darren
Format:Hardcover
As I read this book I kept turning each page feeling the potential that at some point I would become engaged in the story, but it never materialized. None the characters are ever fully developed. I never felt like I was rooting for Edward Wozny, the young investment banker turned medieval book sleuth, or developed any emotion against the antagonist, a super-wealthy aristocrat who everyone says is a jerk. The plot tends to drag on without any real drama, never hooking the reader in to the story. There is quite a story-line investment in Edward playing a dream-like computer game called MOMUS. I kept wondering how the game would tie into the rest of the story, but was left disappointed when it finally occurred. He never is given the chance to apply what he learns from the game about being a hero. Even Edward's love-interest comes across awkwardly and is never fully developed. As the reader limps into the ending, he or she is left with a bit of a hollow feeling that mirrors the development of the characters and the plot. Calling this a thriller is a bit of an exaggeration. Lev Grossman shows promise as a young author, but he should have taken one or two more stabs at the plot and characters to make this a more compelling novel.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Snap... crackle... thud! May 18 2004
Format:Hardcover
This books starts off with some great stuff that gets you hooked - and then goes nowhere with it. 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. After staying up three nights in a row very, very late and getting totally engrossed in the mystery that was developing, I was bitterly disappointed in the ending chapter. Nothing was resolved at all.
On a positive note, the author's attention to detail is fascinating. He recounts vivid little things such as "trying to mate a pad of stickies together" rather than just saying he was "fiddling" with them. Or bothering to explain the exact soda he was drinking "Code Red Mountain Dew" rather than "soda". And the lovely descriptions of all the old books he and the love interest were cataloging were very nicely detailed.
But it is not hard to tell this was a first novel. The story is clumsy in spots and I could almost hear the author thinking "what do they do next?" in some places. His attempts to weave the computer game together with the real-life mystery of the codex were comical. For example, his choice to bring a socially inept midget spirit guide into the story to tie it all together is laughable. And the end is unforgivable - what a letdown!
The bio says this author is the book critic for Time magazine. I think he should stick to criticism and leave the writing to writers.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Very Dissapointing March 29 2004
Format:Hardcover
I picked up Codex hoping to be swept away into a world of medieval literature and computer games populated with deep, interesting characters and twisting plotline. And as I read through the whole thing on the plane, despite the fact that I found the beginning to be slow, I thought I was enjoying the book. But then poor Lev decided to give me an out-of-the-blue ending which poorly wrapped up the story, and he unintentionally caused me to actually think about the book I had just read.
Thinking is bad when you read a book like Codex.
You first attempt to interpret the ending, try your hardest to believe that it actually was a good one. You think about Edward, Margaret, the Duchess, and then you realize that not only was the ending poor, but the characters are grossly under-developed. They're all steroetypical people: the nerd, the academic, etc. They have no more depth than Charles Darnay had in A Tale of Two Cities. Every single one of them is bland and predictable, and although the book managed to fool you into thinking otherwise while you were reading, once you put it down they all lose their sparkle and all of the plot holes become readily apparent.
Please don't buy this book, you will be much better off re-reading The Da Vinci Code if you're looking for this type of book (or you could go for Angels and Demons, another book by Dan Brown). They book will hold you as you read it, but when you finish you won't be feeling satified, just empty and dissapointed.
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Most recent customer reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Edward Wozny...Sleeper of a character
Edward Wozny is as boring a main character that one could find in an "International bestseller." He fails to meet the expectations of a treasure hunter in search of a Codex that... Read more
Published on June 4 2007 by Patrick Tevlin
1.0 out of 5 stars I always finish books I start, but this one was tough!!
I just couldn't stop putting this book down! It took me 6 months to read it. Every page of this yawner was a struggle. Read more
Published on Dec 3 2005
5.0 out of 5 stars An enjoyable read
CODEX is a rich, gorgeous, thrilling book of amazingly complex plot. This smart, highly page-turner set in New York grabbed my attention from the very beginning and did not let me... Read more
Published on July 3 2005 by Stephen
4.0 out of 5 stars Not quite as good as other fact or fiction books
I tried to like this book. I really really did. Especially since it was a book in the genre of novels that I enjoy so much. Read more
Published on April 5 2005 by NorthVan Dave
3.0 out of 5 stars Good story; could be better written
I tried to like this book. I really really did. Especially since it was a book in the genre of novels that I enjoy so much. Read more
Published on April 5 2005 by NorthVan Dave
2.0 out of 5 stars Book trying to be ...What?
Okay, here are the issues:
The lead character, Edward Wozny, has the depth of a gum wrapper. There is barely a character there at all. Read more
Published on July 2 2004 by James J. McPeak
5.0 out of 5 stars A book on three levels.
A Codex is the earliest form of book. That is a series of pages sewn together, usually with a spine and a cover. Read more
Published on July 2 2004 by John Matlock
1.0 out of 5 stars Did the author just get bored?
While Codex started with an interesting premise, the book never really lives up to its flyleaf hype. Frankly, I found the computuer game tie-in distracting and tedious. Read more
Published on June 30 2004 by Lee A. Rubinstein
3.0 out of 5 stars hard to suspend disbelief
Mr. Grossman is a fluid writer with a polished style, but I was disconcerted by errors of fact and setting. Read more
Published on June 30 2004 by John Foreman
2.0 out of 5 stars boring!!
Stay away from this one. Cool ideas but, you are waiting for something to happen and it never does.
Published on June 28 2004 by polloso
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