Book Review: “Codex” by Lev Grossman


Genre: Fiction

Rating: 3.5 Water Towers

I love books about books.

“Codex” is an intriguing story combining old and rare books with modern computer games. This appears to be the only book that Lev Grossman has written, if so, I whole heartily encourage him to write more, as “Codex” is a very good book.

Edward Wozny is a 25 year old New York investment banker who has just made a client some major money.He has worked four years in a row and, before he starts his new position in London, is looking forward to a well deserved two week vacation.

Before he starts his vacation in earnest, Edward visits an old New York building where he is to meet with Laura Crowlyk at the behest of his employer.There he finds out, much to his chagrin, that he has been asked to sort through crates and crates of old books that had been shipped to the U.S. before World War II.And he is too keep an eye out for one particular book by “Gervase of Langford”.The house and the books, by the way, are owned by the Duke and Duchess of Bowmry (UK), Mr. and Mrs. Went.

Not really happy with this assignment, Edward dutifully follows Laura upstairs and commences his task (knowing he will get out of it tomorrow).Much to his surprise, he becomes enthralled with the process and is finding out that he is enjoying seeing, smelling, touching, reading, sorting and cataloging all these books, some of which are very very old and are not “books” at all but “codex” and “manuscripts”.

Meeting up with his friends, Zeph and Caroline, Edward meets “the Artiste” a gnome like fellow with a genius IQ who happens to hang out at Zeph’s house, and receives a copy of a computer game called “MOMUS”. Playing the game at home, Edward finds it very well done: an amazing graphical virtual world that is very realistic and very addictive.

The next day, Edward visits the Chenoweth Rare Book and Manuscript Repository to try to find more about Gervase of Langford.Once there he finds out that the book he is seeking has been loaned out.Waiting for several hours he finally decides to figure out who in the room has it and meets Margaret Napier, a scholar specializing in medieval literature.She happens to be interested, and very knowledgeable about, Gervase of Langford, and has the book Edward wanted to see.

Cutting to the chase……Margaret and Edward agree to partner up to find the missing book. However, it is nowhere to be found, at least at the house in NY. They ultimately find out that a 12th crate of books (they have 11 in NY) was given to the Chenoweth Library and may be stored in Upstate New York.

Upon arriving at the storage facility, Edward finds a striking similarity between this location and the starting location of the game MOMUS. In fact, it is one and the same. But no book.

Where can it be? Is it real or just a figment of someone’s imagination? Did they miss something? Is it hidden?

The intrigue and wonder increase culminating in an unusual, but, satisfying ending.The characters are well developed and surprises await the reader.I will not ruin the book by stating that Margaret is more than she appears, and that the Artiste is the author of the computer game with ties to the Duke and Duchess.Very interesting.

“Codex” is a very good book, and I highly recommend picking up a copy.


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