: New: Book Report: York / The Shadow Cipher

It's YA fiction in which the city of New York has a puzzlehunt embedded in it that residents have tried to solve for decades. You might think that's an overly fanciful premise—cities change constantly; a puzzle built on urban features has a shaky foundation. But the book gets around this problem via science fiction: this hunt's Game Control were steampunk geniuses who left a sort of artificial intelligence in place to keep things running.

As a fan of real-world puzzlehunts, this was kind of a difficult read. Our heroes find a long number that looks something like 1122161512… I, puzzle fiend, tried to turn this into letters. But actually there's no way for the reader to decode this number; instead it's [spoiler redacted]. Early in the novel, one protagonist points out that a "clue" message is missing a letter. Then we learn that this fictional New York's "Liberty Statue"'s book has the date MDCCLXXI—it's missing a V. But apparently this has nothing to do with the book's hunt; nobody has ever noticed that the statue has a huge typo, missing letters don't matter in the rest of the book. (Oh, sorry, was that a spoiler? Well, if it's a spoiler that saves you from trying to keep track of letters from other clues like I did, then I have no regrets.)

It's a fine piece of writing, but if you're a puzzle enthusiast you might want to put aside your note-taking equipment and just relax and enjoy the ride.

Tags: book puzzle scene

blog comments powered by Disqus