Tuesday, August 25, 2009


Codex, Lev Grossman, Harcourt Inc, 2004, 348 pp

Since my next paid review will be on the latest book by this author, I decided to do my homework and read his earlier book. Grossman had a first novel published in 1997, entitled Warp, about a recent Harvard graduate trying to figure out what to do with his life, but I skipped that one. Looking at Lev Grossman's bio, I learned that he is a Harvard grad, a Gen X guy himself and eventually landed at "Time" magazine as their book critic.

In Codex, Edward Wozny, a successful young New York investment banker, has just landed a significant promotion to a bank in London and has two weeks off before starting the new job. It is his first vacation in years and having been a Type A workaholic, he is majorly adrift after just one day.

Within hours, he has fallen into a mysterious world of the obscenely rich and weird and has begun a quest to find a missing medieval book, a codex. Also on that first day of the rest of his life, Edward's college friend Seph, a computer geek, has given him a burned CD of a new computer game called MOMUS, which inserts the player into a quest, starring himself. Edward quickly finds himself addicted and playing instead of sleeping or eating. Soon that virtual reality begins to parallel his so-called real life.

One more thing: Edward enlists the help of Margaret Napier, brilliant Medieval scholar and consummate book nerd. Off we go on what is called a "literary thriller", reminiscent of Micheal Gruber's Book of Air and Shadows or Geraldine Brook's People of the Book, with the added "Wired" feel of cyber punk. Thoroughly entertaining!

Books like this would be perfect for readers in their 30s, if only that age group still read books. Luckily I get to read and enjoy them, getting a vicarious thrill of excitement and recalling my own mad years of early adulthood. Because, as Edward finds out, whether it is marriage, children or a career, most of us settle in the end for a settled down life.

(The books mentioned in this review are available in paperback by special order from Once Upon A Time Bookstore. People of the Book and The Book of Air and Shadows are usually in stock and on the shelves.)

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