Claire Monahan's Reviews > Codex

Codex by Lev Grossman
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's review
May 24, 2010

liked it
bookshelves: own-it, speed-read
Recommended for: fans of The Magicians, video game geeks
Read from May 21 to 25, 2010

First off, I think it's important to share that I read reviews here before I finished the book. Since so many are negative, I was preparing myself for the absolute worst - specifically, at the ending. But I feel I owe this book a review, at least a defense, since Grossman is one of the most engaging modern writers I've encountered in quite a while.

Now, the ending was flat-out bad - bad enough for me to drop my four-star rating to a three, although that's not to say that I enjoyed the book any less. In fact, Codex might very well have sealed my fate now as a longterm Lev Grossman fan. But for me, the end is not what's important: it's the experience I had from the overall reading, and that experience was fulfilling. I love how Grossman employs his words, and in turn his sentences and paragraphs. He writes like a journalist, which is what he is, and that simple, elegant style is attractive and exciting to me. I want to know the description of a place, but not too much, and I want dialogue that propels a story forward, but not so much to where I lose track of who is actually speaking. Grossman works this balance, and esthetically Codex is top notch.

I do believe it helped that I have zero knowledge of any medieval workings, so book binding, estate titles - really anything pre-1600 - can get away with a lot of literary merit in my case because I am uneducated in this arena. If you are, sorry: I'm sure you'll have even more reason to be a critic. But Grossman is also a techie and a geek, and his interest in video games and computer systems shines through in a novel about a book from the days when fiction writing was simply blasphemous. In a way, Codex is a geeks' and bibliophiles' Da Vinci Code: the historical twists and turns are still there, only amplified by a computer game side story that might leave you less enthralled. Never fear, Grossman figures out a way to tie it together.

As a lead character, Edward is also going to be difficult for many to warm up to. He's not a tremendously lovable guy, but he works hard and is quietly observant - like the lead in The Magicians. Edward is snarky, but he's lonely. And this loneliness is what drives his decisions - a sad reason, but one that gave me even more reason to pity him enough by the end to forgive his foolishness. (I know I'm being vague, but if you haven't read or finished reading this yet, a spoiler is the last thing you'll want.)

While the ending is simply unsatisfactory for a book that liked to build things up, ultimately you have to remember that Codex is about one single character and his journey to rediscover himself. It takes a crazy turn of events for Edward to do this, but in the end he's rediscovered his passion. Somehow, someway, that's something we all need - whether it's a kick in the butt or a transcontinental, century-crossing trip.

Yes, Codex leaves many unanswered questions and takes the easy way out. But for some reason I am okay with that - just like Edward is with the codex. Is this a connection that Grossman wanted to make? Who knows, but it is a tie that I accept, appreciated, and thoroughly enjoyed.

Bring on the next one, Grossman. With each book you've put out, you're only continuing to improve.

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Reading Progress

05/22/2010 page 104
29.89% "Flying through and really enjoying so far. Hope it stays this way!"

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