read: 14 February 2004
The next in my continuing attempt to read all the books-about-books that I can while the weather sucks and I am bedridden with distaste for the subzero... The author himself mailed me an advance copy of this book, which happens sometimes. I got a few pages into it and was noting little problems I had [too many adjectives, characters who don’t eat food] which also sometimes happens when I approach books as a copy-editor and not a reader. The next thing I knew it was several hours later and I was sucked in.
The story is one of those ones you’re probably familiar with, book novice uncovers mystery of book that may or may not exist. Search begins. Even if you haven’t read this specific book, the archetypal quest for the thing that may not be real is known to many of us. This particular story involves some rich people from the UK, a young investment banker with some hacker friends in the US, a mousy book historian, and an awesome book collection. The story takes place in the present day and this was what most impressed me about this book... one of the side-themes is this sim-style computer game that our protagonist gets sucked in to. I have read exactly two novels that have computer games as a plot device that don’t suck: this one; and Snowcrash. It’s quite an accomplishment. Grossman even manages to use the word “blog” in a sentence and not sound like a total tool. The man has done his homework, dropping in little words like palimpsest and steganography. While this novel doesn’t approach the depth and multi-layeredness of a book like The Grand Complication -- reamining a bit more plot-driven like Dan Brown’s books -- it was fun and bookish enough that book smarties like me don’t feel like we’re among amateurs.
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