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The Rule of Four

A book by Ian Caldwell

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This certainly didn't do much for me...

  • Aug 6, 2005
  • by
One of my local librarians suggested a book she thought I might like... The Rule Of Four by Ian Caldwell and Dustin Thomason. Unfortunately, this is one of those rare instances where we didn't agree. The book didn't do a whole lot for me...

The novel tracks the story of four Princeton students, two of which have a history involving the study of a book titled the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili. This is an actual book written in the late 1400's, and it's thought to have a number of puzzles and riddles contained in it that lead to a secret message from the unknown author. The book's mystery ends up being an all-consuming passion to those who get involved, and in this case it involves double crosses and death.

Now, I realize that's a pretty thin synopsis. But in this case, it's about the most positive thing I can say about the book. Comparisons are made to Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code, in that there's hidden meanings that once uncovered will change the perception and truth about historical events. But at least with Brown's book, the supporting story surrounding the investigation was interesting. This one just sits there. Two of the four students are not even primary to the plot (in my opinion), and I really don't care about them. The girlfriend angle with one of the two main characters doesn't add a lot to the primary plot, either. I know that we're supposed to care about how he has to choose Katie or the book, and how that same consuming passion destroyed his father. But once again, I just didn't find myself caring one way or the other. The story was at it's best when they were figuring out how to decode the riddles and cyphers to get the next clue, but there was far too little of that to maintain my interest.

I suppose if you're *really* into academia, literary analysis, or books that spend a lot of time examining motivation and cause, you might find this a stellar read. For those of us looking for something to entertain, this book is probably best left on the shelf...

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More The Rule of Four reviews
review by . November 17, 2012
Tom Sullivan is about to graduate from Princeton. He has an obsession inherited from his father, about the book, "Hyperotomachie Polyphile" which was published in 1499. Tom's father's reputation was destroyed by his research and opinions of the book.      Tom and his roommate, Paul, are both extremely interested in finding the secrets of the book, such as, who is the real  author. Tom also wants to study why the book has such a major effect of those …
review by . April 07, 2011
The Rule of Four is a coming-of-age novel built around a real-life mystery, The Hypnerotomachia Poliphili, a Renaissance book that has puzzled scholars and historians for 500 years. As a literary device, it succeeds quite well but if you're looking for a historical thriller in the style of "The Historian" or "The Da Vinci Code", you're cracking the spine on the wrong book, I'm afraid!      As a result of his academic interest in the Hypnerotomachia, …
review by . July 12, 2004
I enjoyed reading this book, but I think that the center of the work was advertised as being the unravelling of the mysterious book. That doesn't appear to be the situation, as we are treated to a tour of the Princeton campus and learning more than we would care to about customs and things at that school. I would have preferred to see more of a concentration on the mystery surrounding the book, and the characters involved in that, but when the authors did concentrate on the mystery, they did an …
review by . June 04, 2004
It is a marketing misjustice of sorts (or perhaps not in terms of sales) to compare "The Rule of Four" to Dan Brown's "Da Vinci Code" and Donna Tartt's "Secret History". Those readers expecting Brown's page-turning assured puzzle solving hero, easily reducing age-old mysteries encrypted within easily recognizable masterpieces to child's play while single-handedly fending off adversaries trained to disseminate the likes of the Terminator, will most definitely be disappointed in scholarly Tom, his …
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Thomas Duff, aka "Duffbert", is a long-time member of the Lotus community. He's primarily focused on the development side of the Notes/Domino environment, currently working for a large insurance … more
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Caldwell and Thomason's intriguing intellectual suspense novel stars four brainy roommates at Princeton, two of whom have links to a mysterious 15th-century manuscript, theHypnerotomachia Poliphili. This rare text (a real book) contains embedded codes revealing the location of a buried Roman treasure. Comparisons toThe Da Vinci Codeare inevitable, but Caldwell and Thomason's book is the more cerebral-and better written-of the two: think Dan Brown by way of Donna Tartt and Umberto Eco. The four seniors are Tom Sullivan, Paul Harris, Charlie Freeman and Gil Rankin. Tom, the narrator, is the son of a Renaissance scholar who spent his life studying the ancient book, "an encyclopedia masquerading as a novel, a dissertation on everything from architecture to zoology." The manuscript is also an endless source of fascination for Paul, who sees it as "a siren, a fetching song on a distant shore, all claws and clutches in person. You court her at your risk." This debut novel's range of topics almost rivals theHypnerotomachia's itself, including etymology, Renaissance art and architecture, Princeton eating clubs, friendship, steganography (riddles) and self-interpreting manuscripts. It's a complicated, intricate and sometimes difficult read, but that's the point and the pleasure. There are murders, romances, dangers and detection, and by the end the heroes are in a race not only to solve the puzzle, but also to stay alive. Readers might be tempted to buy their own copy of ...
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ISBN-10: 0385337116
ISBN-13: 978-0385337113
Author: Ian Caldwell
Publisher: The Dial Press

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