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text 2017-10-05 20:50
Halloween Bingo: Magical realism
Codex Born - Jim C. Hines

 

Finding out more about Gutenberg - the supposed creator of libromancy.

Maybe he wasn't so altruistic after all.

We learn more about Lena the dryad.

 

The devourers are getting stronger.

Magic metal bugs and animals, I felt sorry for the wendigos (go figure), and pissed off werewolves.

 

Being able to use the magic of belief contained in books would be the coolest super power ever.

 

I don't like spiders, but I want Smudge.

And maybe a pet miniature dragon.

 

 

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review 2015-04-27 00:00
Codex Born
Codex Born - Jim C. Hines Still loving the story of someone who can use books and ideas as weapons, this one has a slightly different twist and it's interesting.

Looking forward to more.
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text 2014-06-30 05:33
Progress Post: Codex Born by Jim C. Hines
Codex Born - Jim C. Hines

Reading progress update: I've read 242 out of 326 pages:

 

A section of the story that has almost nothing to do with the story, but I just love it.

Plato once said that human beings were created with two heads, four arms, four legs, until Zeus split them in half. Ever since, humans have spent their lives searching for their other half, the one person who could complete them.

 

What a narrow-minded, messed-up, asinine system.

 

Do the math. There are more than seven billion people on the planet. Say you do a lot of traveling, and manage to meet a million of those people in your lifetime. That gives you a mere 1 in 7000 chance of finding "the one."

 

Maybe that's why they created me. To be their other half, the answer to the myth. Easier than scouring the planet for an impossible dream. Easier, too, than learning to set aside the dream and embrace a human being who is as flawed and imperfect as you.

 

Humans are so obsessed with true love, the perfect relationship. They imagine that one elusive person who fits their quirks and foibles and desires like a puzzle piece. And of course, when a potential mate falls short of that perfection, they reject them. They were too old, too young, too silly, too serious, too fat, too thin. They liked the wrong TV shows. They hated chocolate. They voted for the other guy. They didn't put the toilet seat down.

 

They invent a million excuses for rejection, a million ways to find others unattractive. Their skill at seeing ugliness in others is matched only by their ability to see it in the mirror, to punish themselves for every imagined flaw. No matter who I've become, I never understood that facet of humanity.

 

I remember when Isaac introduced me to Doctor Who. In the episode, the Doctor met a man who said he wasn't important. The Doctor replied, "I've never met anyone who wasn't important before."

 

I've never met anyone who wasn't beautiful. People have simply forgotten how to see.

 

Frank Dearing was a selfish, petty, controlling bastard, but when he was working in the field, the hard muscles of his body shining with sweat as he coaxed life from the dirt...the man was an asshole, but he was a hot asshole.

 

Nidhi Shah was softer. She dressed to minimize the physical. Age and stress had mapped faint lines onto her face. And she was gorgeous. Even before you stripped off her clothes and kissed your way down her neck...

 

Then there was Isaac Vainio, a skinny geek of a man who lugged his pet spider around everywhere he went. But he had such passion, such raw joy and excitement. That passion transformed him into something sexier than any rock star. 

 

The more we narrow the definition of beauty, the more beauty we shut out of our lives.

 

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review 2014-06-20 10:00
Codex Born (Magic Ex Libris #2) by Jim C. Hines
Codex Born - Jim C. Hines

As much as I liked Libriomancer and loved its world, Codex Born and I didn't get a good start. The reason is in the multiple first person voices. What I expect from a second book in a series is to learn more about the characters and their relationships interspaced the book specific plot, but I also hate headhopping especially when the voices are indistinguishable. So, when a story is told from a certain point of view in a first person voice, I expect the author to stick to it.

 

One benefit from Lena's chapter inserts is the pacing, which is much better here than it was in Libriomancer. There really isn't much breathing room between the action packed scenes, which in theory should have sucked me in without an escape.

 

The story itself is an organic continuation to the events of the first book. The world becomes more complex and morally grey as do the characters. Some new secondary characters are introduced and old ones sidelined. Also cultural diversity expands. Yes that is code for diverse secondary characters who are crucial to the plot.

 

I can't say much more than that without spoiling either Codex Born or Libriomancer. And to be honest: I don't remember much more.

 

There was even a slightly dated but accurately explained Finnish curse word. I myself prefer to invoke the devil rather than a deity.

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review 2014-04-11 21:59
Codex Born by Jim Hines
Codex Born - Jim C. Hines

All I can think of is the Goblin King in Labyrinth: “Such a pity.” Creative ideas, a streamlined plot, a love of books–all are fabulous ideas, and all undermined by cumbersome execution. I really want to like this series–I like Jim Hines‘ public persona, I really do, particularly his willingness to be an advocate against rape and rape culture. I haven’t yet read his Goblin King series, but I suspect his strength might be in the YA genre (as well as non-fiction, given his blogging and journalism), because barring a detailed sex scene, this would be satisfactory young adult fare. As an adult genre book, I was too bothered by a lack of polish and sophistication to enjoy it.

 

 

Particular to fantasy is the concept of world-building, familiarizing the reader with the world rules of the imaginary. In this case, the introduction to the Libromancer world is muddled; in attempting to avoid the common hazard of info-dumping, orientation to the world starts with a conventional teach-the-student introduction with a twist– a new student trying to teach Issac how to use an e-reader. Within pages, they are called to a case, which progresses into Issac giving his relationship status to an unfamiliar werewolf, and then his professional updates to a psychologist friend. I almost suspect that a quick info-dump would have been more succinct and clear, instead of these stilted conversations and references that the reader is left trying to put together into a whole.

 

 

Narrative is first person, alternating between Issac, Libriomancer and magic researcher, and Lena, the spunky dryad. Issac’s sections initially focus on solving a couple of mysterious wendigo deaths, but soon evolve into self defense as he and Lena are attacked by mysterious metallic insects. Lena’s narratives are about her life before Issac, spanning over fifty years from her creation to the time she met the psychologist Nidhi. The coupling doesn’t work well, largely because they are almost completely separate storylines with nominal connection. Person change, time change, setting change, change in magic focus; a story within a story can work when done well, but this one attempted too much.

 

 

Some will likely enjoy the main plot, a confrontational situation which relies a classic attack/counter-attack against Big Baddie. Problem-solving relies on a series of bigger/more clever weapons to overcome the next obstacle.  I had a hard time maintaining interest once the outlines of the conflict became clear. Although I enjoyed the Libriomancer strategy of using a book to solve the problem technique, it really just became an arms war by finding the next clever tool. Complications arose with a group aligning itself with Big Baddie, and I found that to be a more interesting storyline and application of magic.

 

 

Thematically, there’s a couple of aspects that seem particularly emblematic of a lack of sophistication. One was Issac’s conviction that by sharing magic with the world, the Libriomancers could make a difference with the world in preventing/curing disease, solving hunger and restoring world peace. Well, not quite, but you get the idea. It’s the conventional, “why, why must we keep our powers secret” trope that mostly comes out of the main character’s inexperience and lack of sophistication. As one character points out to Issac, “you can judge what I did five hundred years ago when you don’t even know the story, or you can get busy dealing with the attacks against us now.”

 

 

Leaving aside writing issues, I realized one of my more serious barriers to enjoying the books is that I don’t like Issac, the main character. He’s a bit of a self-indulgent jerk, convinced of his moral superiority, neglecting his health in pursuit of his mental/sexual interests (and thus risking more later when he is worn out), committed to his research despite it going into forbidden areas, quick with a snarky remark, and willing to put his apprentice, others and himself in danger if he believes it is right. While these have potential as interesting anti-hero qualities, his affection for his spider and for Lena and his passion for research isn’t enough to make me care deeply about him. They redeem him just enough to keep me reading. He’s also one of those main characters that feels a ton of guilt whenever he’s part of a situation where “innocent bystanders” get hurt (hello, Harry Dresden!) but it doesn’t seem to prevent him from continuing all the risky behaviors mentioned above. As a final hypocrisy, he likes to throw his authority around as a Libriomancer (witness his behavior with vampires, weres and most non-humans), but then question those in authority above him. So, you know, kind of an ass.

 

Even the part that was redeeming in the last book–the fantastic Libriomancer idea of mass belief making a book ‘real’–started to feel a little contrived, especially when he gave a shout-out to one of John Scalzi’s books in one of Issac’s book searches. It was too much confluence for me, since the way I discovered Hines was through a mock-up UF cover challenge he and Scalzi both did to show the inherent sexism in UF covers and to raise money for charity. I appreciated the humor and insight, and the willingness to engage in a little self-depreciation. Unfortunately, that highlighted the irony in the cover for the Codex, which features a muscled, midriff-exposed female holding a sword. Too bad he didn’t have as much control over his own cover–although Lena is described as “short and stocky,” you’ll note that while the cover model may not be a size 2, she certainly isn’t a size 14 either.  She also tends to wield dual blades, slightly less heavy and phallic than that lovely greatsword on the cover. I get it, authors only have so much control. It just adds a bitter aftertaste.

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