Getting a promotion that you’ve worked for day in and day out, forgoing vacation and social graces, may seem like a dream come true. But when Edward Wozny gets such an opportunity, he takes a break and it’s not like a vacation at all. It’s a thrilling mystery that he wasn’t expecting.
As the reader of Codex, you’re as in the dark as the leading man Edward is. It’s a fantastic ride that feels less like a thriller and more of a mystery as at every turn you learn more but realize that you know less.
During a two-week break between his old gig and his new position, a mysterious client of his corporate overlords asks Edward, a finance guy, to go through an old family library looking for a mysterious book. With the help of a medievalist Margret, the two throw themselves into a mystery with more questions than answers.
That’s the premise of the book, but without giving spoilers away, there is also a video game component that Edward gets addicted to, which gives author Lev Grossman the ability to mirror the story or manipulate the game to reflect the real world as only we the reader can sometimes surmise. Even then, it’s a great use of something ancillary adding details where there ought to just be descriptive space in world-building.
Looking for an old book may not seem that mysterious, but this book will prove to be the exception. If you know any librarians or book lovers, this book is for them. Even writers of every stripe will enjoy the reverence given to books in the pages of this novel.
And the context of a medievalist to help out not just Edward but the reader with what books used to be is interesting in what it conveys. The history that most speaks to me is when Margret says, “People in the Middle Ages didn’t use books for the same things we do. We read books for fun, to escape from the world around us, but back then books were serious business… literature was for worship and instruction, for moral improvement. Books were vessels of the Truth… a fictional narrative written to be read alone in your room, for pure enjoyment, would have been considered immoral and unhealthy, if not positively satanic.”
Now, I can’t say the same for the medievalist. I like books, perhaps more than the next guy, and even I can read too much. The idea of spending all day deciphering old texts doesn’t seem that appealing, but it’s nice to see any media have a reverence for books, a platform that seems to get less and less respect. In fact, the line in this book, “Libraries live a long time, and time only makes books more valuable,” seems to feel more like fiction than fact.
The point is, you get to absorb an interesting story that is mysterious, with clues that are always on the periphery moving with your vision to maintain their peripheral standing. This is a mystery that doesn’t want you to figure it out and if that’s ok, you’re along for a fun ride.