No two persons ever read the same book. --Edmund Wilson

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013/34: Codex -- Lev Grossman

He was starting to see what people found so addictive about these games. Momus had none of the slapdash inefficiency of reality: every moment was tense with hushed anticipation, foreordained meaning. It was a brighter, higher-grade, more compelling, better-engineered version of reality. (p. 80)
I think this novel is best described as 'opaque', mostly because it would be bad to say what I really think about all the negative reviews from people who ... perhaps didn't pay as much attention as they might have.

Codex has a premise that might've come from a Dan Brown novel: successful young banker (and former chess champion) is drawn into labyrinthine plot concerning secrets in old books, which may correlate with his weird experiences in a video game. The Wents -- the Duke and Duchess of Bowmry -- seem to be at cross-purposes: the Duchess wants to find a rare medieval manuscript, 'Viage to the Contree of the Cimmerians' by Gervase of Langford, but the Duke's employees are foiling every attempt to locate the book. It's not just Edward who is looking for it: Margaret Napier, a research scholar whom Edward encounters in a library, helps him catalogue the Wents' extensive book collection.

But this is not a Dan Brown novel, thankfully.

When Edward isn't out of his depth in the library, he's flailing around in 'the heart of dorkness' with his geekier friends, who've introduced him to the MMORPG known as Momus. It is rapidly established that Edward, despite his childhood as a chess prodigy (he lost the gift suddenly) is not accustomed to playing games: when confronted (in the virtual world) with a letterbox containing a pistol and an envelope, he ignores them in favour of gawping at the scenery. Increasingly obsessed with the sheer detail -- and possibly the post-apocalyptic New York -- of Momus, Edward finds himself in areas of the game that, logically, shouldn't even exist.

Meanwhile, the story of Gervase of Langford and his Cimmerian Viage progresses apace. There is something very post-modern, as well as fantastical, about the plot of that Viage: time loops, a stag-headed knight who is killed and reincarnated, a page of the book that is totally black ... And perhaps there is another story between the lines.

The last few pages of Codex are ... shocking: I don't mean in a gory or horrific way, but in a literary way. They are utterly surprising and utterly right.

And then I had to read the book again, because it was completely different.

No comments:

Post a Comment