Books

REVIEW | 'Codex 1962'

Collection proves to be inventive and original

It’s reasonably easy to describe the structure of “CoDex 1962,” which is the overarching title given to a collection of three linked novels written by the Icelandic author Sjon and translated by Victoria Cribb. The first book, “Thine Eyes Did See My Substance,” is a story of love blossoming in the face of extreme danger. The second, “Iceland’s Thousand Years,” is a story of murder and mayhem in service of mysterious goals. And the third, “I’m a Sleeping Door,” is a science fiction story set in contemporary times blending the mythic aspects of the earlier entries with modern-day science.

But this synopsis is woefully inadequate. “CoDex 1962” is a book of wonders. From its narrator — a person fashioned of clay in book one, brought to life in book two, and examining his existence in book three — to its narrative structure — a whirligig of genre, tone, style, magic, science, and more — “CoDex 1962” is startlingly inventive and original. It is filled with allusions, but it is never derivative. It explores conventional forms, but merrily and simultaneously undermines those forms. It is concerned with serious issues and ideas, but it is never weighed down by overt seriousness.

Each zig and zag of the trilogy is surefooted, and that is perhaps Sjon’s greatest accomplishment in “CoDex 1962.” The reader consistently and wholly trusts the narrator (and by extension, the author) no matter how outlandish the story becomes or how circuitous the route from beginning to end turns out to be. This is a book to be both devoured and savored.

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