Life is fairly workaday for Dr Celeste Carlucci, a professor at Krasnia’s finest university, until her best friend and colleague Pace involves Celeste in her research.
Before long, Celeste is being shot at from a hovering helicopter, attacked on a moonlit mountain path, and followed by shadowy minions – on the trail of the Littoral Codex, an ancient and indecipherable book.
The race is on to figure out its secrets. On one side are Celeste and her colleagues, armed with nothing but enthusiasm, brilliant minds, and the principles of geography. Against them are the repressive university governors and their jackbooted campus security guards; the rich and power-hungry Praxicopolis family; and a renegade group of researchers, the Littoral League.
Will this ragtag bunch outwit their foes before it’s too late?
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'Everything is Geography.' Ty Kornotz, professor of, yes, geography. Mud and Glass by Laura E Goodin, an affectionate satire of the academic world, is asludge with villians oozing about in layers even more murky than the Purple Bay Mud Flats. Unwittingly, Dr Celeste Carlucci, quietly researching the odd behaviour of those flats, becomes the target of everyone who thinks she can help them find the missing Littoral Codex and thus the key to power and glory. Especially power. Their power. 'Everything is dramatic arts'. Russ Garrick, Proffessor of, unsurprisingly, dramatic arts. We have media billionaires (ruthless), the Board of Governors (ditto), The Littoral League (rookies in ruthlessness), a curiously massive security team (ruthless on payment), librarians (never underestimate librarians), ninjas, and a surprisingly efficient resistance movement of geriatric academics. And there is the truly scary Miffy, former self-declared girlfriend of Celeste's new love interest, Russ. 'Only the really devious ones get tenure with no problems'. Grumpy Dr Garrick. He and the retirees form Brave Celesete's Band of Octogenarian Fighters. Tenureless and struggling to survive until payday on toast and marmalade, Celeste is as keen to defend her last cache of cookies from her friends as on dodging her multiplying enemies. Besides, how do you dodge them when you don't know who they are? With Pace as a friend, mind you, perhaps enemies would be safer company. 'So I dangle someone over a lava pit pit, once. So what? Is no one ever going to let me forget it?' Dr Pace (Don't Call Me Hypatia) Garoux. Celeste gets shot at from a helicopter, assaulted and dragged along secret tunnels. Will anyone even explain to her what all this is about? It's a considerable hindrance to lecturing bored students about alluvial flow patterns even though her post-assault battered face does raises her credibility in their estimation. Wait a minute .. Alluvial flow patterns? Could the key lie in the mud? I much enjoyed Mud and Glass . As well digs at the poverty of the tenureless tribe, and the insistence by every academic that their's is the only discipline that counts, Laura E Goodin lobs a few scrunched up theses at the plot to starve Purple Bay University of funds, to appropiate research for the betterment of billionaires everywhere, and to dumb down everything else - a plot wierdly familiar to people who live outside mythical Krasnia too. With intellect and altruism their only strengths, persuasion and reason their only weapons, and a library to die for their only equipment, can our motley band strike back at the forces of greed and evil?
My biggest problem with this book was PUTTING IT DOWN! Un-put-down-able-ness personified. It was so hard to leave it at the end of each chapter. I think I was made late for five separate appointments and meetings by this book. If you have ever encountered a university, or a school, you will relate happily to the characters in this tale of dastardly deeds, secret agendas, and derring do. And every now and then, a very astute aside on academic life, some of which made me go 'ouch!'. Enjoy!