Review

Codex

by Lev Grossman



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 on January 21, 2011

Codex
by Lev Grossman

  • Publication Date: March 8, 2004
  • Genres: Fiction, Thriller
  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • ISBN-10: 0151010668
  • ISBN-13: 9780151010660