Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Codex Born by Jim C. Hines

 Hines begins to do a really interesting thing in this book:

"Electronic books lacked the physical resonance of print. The words were nothing but a collection of zeroes and ones translated into a transient image on whatever screen you used to read them. We had always assumed that e-readers would be useless for libriomancy, that the variety of reading devices and the impermanence of the files would prevent anyone from tapping into that collective belief. Porter researchers wrote dire predictions about the dilution of our magic as more readers moved from print to electronic, whittling away at our pool of , belief."

There's a huge debate raging among bibliophiles these days. Some folks think that only the texture, odor, and smell of an actual printed book contribute deeply and profoundly to the reading experience. Others believe it's just the words, the collection of ideas, the narrative, that matters, and whether it's displayed on a screen or printed on a page makes no difference to the reader's pleasure. Personally, I'm leaning towards the latter camp, though I have wonderful memories of loaded bookshelves and mouldering libraries, antiquarian bookstores piled high with tomes. There's just something to be loved about being able to carry your entire collection of thousands of books on a device no bigger than a single paperback book, you know? I enjoy reading ebooks just as much as I do a traditionally bound chronicle. The debate, however, may shape the future of the reading experience forever. Only time will tell, and I love that Hines is addressing the debate's implications for his world here.

Hines introduces a new character, a teenager named Jeneta, who is serving as an intern to Isaac during summer camp, to help him with his research, and help Hines explore the ebook/libriomancy concept. Unfortunately, he doesn't really follow up on it in this book, though it appears he may do something more interesting later on.

I'm sensing a common plot gimmick here. Isaac encounters some ultra powerful enemy, and he's the only one in place to stop or slow them down, so he does something impulsive, dangerous and borderline stupid, and ends up very nearly dying. Only the magical healing powers of some artifact pulled from a book, the skills of some other libriomancer, or the love of his special dryad can pull him back from the brink of death each time it happens.

The long haul plot arc of the series seems to be about the "destroyers", beings from another reality trying to get into ours and get revenge, acquire bodies to possess, and gain power. Leader of the Porters Gutenberg probably knows more about these creatures than he's sharing. This time, a rogue magician has allied with some of Gutenberg's old enemies - Chinese libriomancers who were followers of the eastern inventor of movable type - to try to resurrect his son, who was one of the libriomancers killed by vampires in the first book, but he's being played for a fool by the destroyers.

Major battles ensue, and Isaac and Lena are right in the thick of things all the way. Still amusing, and it's really fun picking up on the SF and Fantasy references.

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