January 03, 2010

Book No. 1!

All right, here we go. Book #1 of 2010.

Since I really enjoyed Lev Grossman's The Magicians, I decided I wanted to pick up his earlier novel, Codex. Published in 2005, Codex is billed as a literary thriller, so it immediately appealed to me. I like that kind of thing. The summaries of the book reminded me a little of A.S. Byatt's Possession, which I liked, and thought this would be similar - search for/discovery of an old manuscript (in this case, an illuminated medieval work) with a hidden secret.

Young I-banker Edward Wozny is assigned to unpack a bunch of crates for a client which contain an old and valuable collection of books. Purportedly among the books is a codex (a codex is basically a bound book) of great value and of great interest to its owners. The catch is, it may or may not have ever existed. There is mystery and history and modern intrusions. The story moved along fairly well through most of the book, and had some really intriguing moments. In the end, however, I felt that the characters were a bit underdeveloped and too many questions left unexplained. (I don't mind when stories don't have a tidy ending - I just mean along the way: Why was Edward specifically chosen for this task? What was his interest in finding the codex? etc.)

After I finished reading Codex, I scanned a few Amazon reviews (WHY do I do that? It only makes me mad, for one reason or another, every time. Make me stop.) and one reader claimed that this was "hands down, the worst book I have ever read", and then went off on it and raged against the author personally (bone to pick?). But - really? If I am reading a book and it is "hands down" the worst thing I have ever read, I STOP READING IT. Life is too short to waste time reading books that I hate. I did not hate this book, and in fact I mostly liked it. Mr. Grossman's writing is strong and enjoyable to read, and the promise of another twist or turn in the story kept me going. I preferred The Magicians, however, if you're looking to try out Mr. Grossman's writing (or check him out on Salon.com), or maybe something like Shadow of the Wind if you are after a bookish thriller.

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