The Rule of Four

The Rule of Four

by Ian Caldwell, Dustin Thomason


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The Rule of Four by Ian Caldwell, Dustin Thomason

“One part The Da Vinci Code, one part The Name of the Rose and one part A Separate Peace . . . a smart, swift, multitextured tale that both entertains and informs.”—San Francisco Chronicle
Princeton. Good Friday, 1999. On the eve of graduation, two friends are a hairsbreadth from solving the mysteries of the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili, a Renaissance text that has baffled scholars for centuries. Famous for its hypnotic power over those who study it, the five-hundred-year-old Hypnerotomachia may finally reveal its secrets—to Tom Sullivan, whose father was obsessed with the book, and Paul Harris, whose future depends on it.
As the deadline looms, research has stalled—until a vital clue is unearthed: a long-lost diary that may prove to be the key to deciphering the ancient text. But when a longtime student of the book is murdered just hours later, a chilling cycle of deaths and revelations begins—one that will force Tom and Paul into a fiery drama, spun from a book whose power and meaning have long been misunderstood.
“Profoundly erudite . . . the ultimate puzzle-book.”—The New York Times Book Review

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780385337120
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 08/21/2012
Pages: 400
Sales rank: 261,666
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Ian Caldwell is the author of a forthcoming novel set inside the Vatican. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa in European history from Princeton University, and lives near Washington, D.C., with his wife and three sons. Dustin Thomason is also the author of 12.21. He graduated from Harvard College and received his M.D. from Columbia University. Thomason has written and produced several television series, including Lie to Me. He lives in Venice Beach, California. The two have been best friends since they were eight years old.


Caldwell: Newport News, Virginia; Thomason: New York, New York

Place of Birth:

Caldwell: Washington, D.C.; Thomason: Honolulu, Hawaii


Caldwell: B.A., Princeton University, 1998; Thomason: A.B., Harvard College, 1998; M.B.A./M.D., Columbia, 2003

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Strange thing, time. It weighs most on those who have it least. Nothing is lighter than being young with the world on your shoulders; it gives you a feeling of possibility so seductive, you know there must be something more important you could be doing than studying for exams.

I can see myself now, the night it all began. I'm lying back on the old red sofa in our dorm room, wrestling with Pavlov and his dogs in my introductory psychology book, wondering why I never fulfilled my science requirement as a freshman like everyone else. A pair of letters sits on the coffee table in front of me, each containing a vision of what I could be doing next year. The night of Good Friday has fallen, cold April in Princeton, New Jersey, and with only a month of college left I'm no different from anyone else in the class of 1999: I'm having trouble getting my mind off the future.

Charlie is sitting on the floor by the cube refrigerator, playing with the Magnetic Shakespeare someone left in our room last week. The Fitzgerald novel he's supposed to be reading for his final paper in English 151w is spread open on the floor with its spine broken, like a butterfly somebody stepped on, and he's forming and re-forming sentences from magnets with Shakespearean words on them. If you ask him why he's not reading Fitzgerald, he'll grunt and say there's no

point. As far as he's concerned, literature is just an educated man's shell game, three-card monte for the college crowd: what you see is never what you get. For a science-minded guy like Charlie, that's the height of perversity. He's headed for medical school in the fall, but the rest of us are still hearing about the C-plus he found on his English midterm in March.

Gil glances over at us and smiles. He's been pretending to study for an economics exam, but Breakfast at Tiffany's is on, and Gil has a thing for old films, especially ones with Audrey Hepburn. His advice to Charlie was simple: if you don't want to read the book, then rent the movie. They'll never know. He's probably right, but Charlie sees something dishonest in that, and anyway it would prevent him from complaining about what a scam literature is, so instead of Daisy Buchanan we're watching Holly Golightly yet again.

I reach down and rearrange some of Charlie's words until the sentence at the top of the fridge says to fail or not to fail: that is the question. Charlie raises his head to give me a disapproving look. Sitting down, he's almost as tall as I am on the couch. When we stand next to each other he looks like Othello on steroids, a two-hundred-and-fifteen-pound black man who scrapes the ceilings at six-and-a-half feet. By contrast I'm five-foot-seven in shoes. Charlie likes to call us Red Giant and White Dwarf, because a red giant is a star that's unusually large and bright, while a white dwarf is small and dense and dull. I have to remind him that Napoleon was only five-foot-two, even if Paul is right that when you convert French feet to English, the emperor was actually taller.

Paul is the only one of us who isn't in the room now. He disappeared earlier in the day, and hasn't been seen since. Things between him and me have been rocky for the past month, and with all the academic pressure on him lately, he's chosen to do most of his studying at Ivy, the eating club where he and Gil are members. It's his senior thesis he's working on, the paper all Princeton undergrads must write in order to graduate. Charlie, Gil, and I would be doing the same ourselves, except that our departmental deadlines have already come and gone. Charlie identified a new protein interaction in certain neuronal signaling pathways; Gil managed something on the ramifications of a flat tax. I pasted mine together at the last minute between applications and interviews, and I'm sure Frankenstein scholarship will forever be the same.

The senior thesis is an institution that almost everyone despises. Alumni talk about their theses wistfully, as if they can't remember anything more enjoyable than writing one-hundred-page research papers while taking classes and choosing their professional futures. In reality, a senior thesis is a miserable, spine-breaking thing to write. It's an introduction to adult life, a sociology professor told Charlie and me once, in that annoying way professors have of lecturing after the lecture is over: it's about shouldering something so big, you can't get out from under it. It's called responsibility, he said. Try it on for size. Never mind that the only thing he was trying on for size was a pretty thesis advisee named Kim Silverman. It was all about responsibility. I'd have to agree with what Charlie said at the time. If Kim Silverman is the sort of thing adults can't get out from under, then sign me up. Otherwise, I'll take my chances being young.

Paul is the last of us to finish his thesis, and there's no question that his will be the best of the bunch. In fact, his may be the best of our entire graduating class, in the history department or any other. The magic of Paul's intelligence is that he has more patience than anyone I've ever met, and with it he simply wears problems down. To count a hundred million stars, he told me once, at the rate of one per second, sounds like a job that no one could possibly complete in a lifetime. In reality, it would only take three years. The key is focus, a willingness not to be distracted. And that is Paul's gift: an intuition of just how much a person can do slowly.

Maybe that's why everyone has such high expectations for his thesis—they know how many stars he could count in three years, but he's been working on his thesis for almost four. While the average student comes up with a research topic in the fall of senior year and finishes it by the next spring, Paul has been struggling with his since freshman year. Just a few months into our first fall semester, he decided to focus on a rare Renaissance text entitled Hypnerotomachia Poliphili, a labyrinthine name I can pronounce only because my father spent most of his career as a Renaissance historian studying it. Three and a half years later, and barely twenty-four hours from his deadline, Paul has enough material to make even the most discriminating graduate programs salivate.

The problem is, he thinks I ought to be enjoying the fanfare too. We worked on the book together for a few months during the winter, and made good progress as a team. Only then did I understand something my mother used to say: that men in our family had a tendency to fall for certain books about as hard as they fell for certain women. The Hypnerotomachia may never have had much outward charm, but it has an ugly woman's wiles, the slow addictive tug of inner mystery. When I caught myself slipping into it the same way my father had, I managed to pull myself out and throw in the towel before it could ruin my relationship with a girlfriend who deserved better. Since then, things between Paul and me haven't been the same. A graduate student he knows, Bill Stein, has helped with his research since I begged off. Now, as his thesis deadline approaches, Paul has become strangely guarded. He's usually much more forthcoming about his work, but over the past week he's withdrawn not only from me but from Charlie and Gil too, refusing to speak a word of his research to anyone.

"So, which way are you leaning, Tom?" Gil asks.

Charlie glances up from the fridge. "Yeah," he says, "we're all on tenterhooks."

Gil and I groan. Tenterhooks is one of the words Charlie missed on his midterm. He attributed it to Moby-Dick instead of Tobias Smollett's Adventures of Roderick Random on the grounds that it sounded more like a kind of fishing lure than a word for suspense. Now he won't let it go.

"Get over it," Gil says.

"Name me one doctor who knows what a tenterhook is," Charlie says.

Before either of us can answer, a rustling sound comes from inside the bedroom I share with Paul. Suddenly, standing before us at the door, wearing only boxers and a T-shirt, is Paul himself.

"Just one?" he asks, rubbing his eyes. "Tobias Smollett. He was a surgeon."

Charlie glances back at the magnets. "Figures."

Gil chuckles, but says nothing.

"We thought you went to Ivy," Charlie says, when the pause becomes noticeable.

Paul shakes his head, backtracking into his room to pick up his notebook. His straw-colored hair is pressed flat on one side, and there are pillow creases on his face. "Not enough privacy," he says. "I've been working in my bunk again. Fell asleep."

He's hardly gotten a wink in two nights, maybe more. Paul's advisor, Dr. Vincent Taft, has pressed him to produce more and more documentation every week—and unlike most advisors, who are happy to let seniors hang by the rope of their own expectations, Taft has kept a hand at Paul's back from the start.

"So, what about it, Tom?" Gil asks, filling the silence. "What's your decision?"

I glance up at the table. He's talking about the letters in front of me, which I've been eyeing between each sentence in my book. The first letter is from the University of Chicago, offering me admission to a doctoral program in English. Books are in my blood, the same way medical school is in Charlie's, and a Ph.D. from Chicago would suit me just fine. I did have to scrap for the acceptance letter a little more than I wanted to, partly because my grades at Princeton have been middling, but mainly because I don't know exactly what I want to do with myself, and a good graduate program can smell indecision like a dog can smell fear.

"Take the money," Gil says, never taking his eyes off Audrey Hepburn.

Gil is a banker's son from Manhattan. Princeton has never been a destination for him, just a window seat with a view, a stopover on the way to Wall Street. He is a caricature of himself in that respect, and he manages a smile whenever we give him a hard time about it. He'll be smiling all the way to the bank, we know: even Charlie, who's sure to make a small fortune as a doctor, won't hold a candle to the kind of paychecks Gil will see.

"Don't listen to him," Paul says from the other side of the room. "Follow your heart."

I look up, surprised that he's aware of anything but his thesis.

"Follow the money," Gil says, standing up to get a bottle of water from the refrigerator.

"What'd they offer?" Charlie asks, ignoring the magnets for a second.

"Forty-one," Gil guesses, and a few Elizabethan words tumble from the fridge as he closes it. "Bonus of five. Plus options."

Spring semester is job season, and 1999 is a buyer's market. Forty-one thousand dollars a year is roughly double what I expected to be earning with my lowly English degree, but compared to some of the deals I've seen classmates make, you'd think it was barely getting by.

I pick up the letter from Daedalus, an Internet firm in Austin that claims to have developed the world's most advanced software for streamlining the corporate back office. I know almost nothing about the company, let alone what a back office is, but a friend down the hall suggested I interview with them, and as rumors circulated about high starting salaries at this unknown Texas start-up, I went. Daedalus, following the general trend, didn't care that I knew nothing about them or their business. If I could just solve a few brainteasers at an interview, and seem reasonably articulate and friendly in the process, the job was mine. Thus, in good Caesarian fashion, I could, I did, and it was.

"Close," I say, reading from the letter. "Forty-three thousand a year. Signing bonus of three thousand. Fifteen hundred options."

"And a partridge in a pear tree," Paul adds from across the room. He's the only one acting like it's dirtier to talk about money than it is to touch it. "Vanity of vanities."

Charlie is shifting the magnets again. In a fulminating baritone he imitates the preacher at his church, a tiny black man from Georgia who just finished his degree at the Princeton Theological Seminary. "Vanity of vanities. All is vanities."

"Be honest with yourself, Tom," Paul says impatiently, though he never makes eye contact. "Any company that thinks you deserve a salary like that isn't going to be around for long. You don't even know what they do." He returns to his notebook, scribbling away. Like most prophets, he is fated to be ignored.

Gil keeps his focus on the television, but Charlie looks up, hearing the edge in Paul's voice. He rubs a hand along the stubble on his chin, then says, "All right, everybody stop. I think it's time to let off some steam."

For the first time, Gil turns away from the movie. He must hear what I hear: the faint emphasis on the word steam.

"Right now?" I ask.

Gil looks at his watch, taking to the idea. "We'd be clear for about half an hour," he says, and in a show of support he even turns off the television, letting Audrey fizzle into the tube.

Charlie flips his Fitzgerald shut, mischief stirring. The broken spine springs open in protest, but he tosses the book onto the couch.

"I'm working," Paul objects. "I need to finish this."

He glances at me oddly.

"What?" I ask.

But Paul remains silent.

"What's the problem, girls?" Charlie says impatiently.

"It's still snowing out there," I remind everyone.

The first snowstorm of the year came howling into town today, just when spring seemed perched on the tip of every tree branch. Now there are calls for a foot of accumulation, maybe more. The Easter weekend festivities on campus, which this year include a Good Friday lecture by Paul's thesis advisor, Vincent Taft, have been reorganized. This is hardly the weather for what Charlie has in mind.

"You don't have to meet Curry until 8:30, right?" Gil asks Paul, trying to convince him. "We'll be done by then. You can work more tonight."

Richard Curry, an eccentric former friend of my father's and Taft's, has been a mentor of Paul's since freshman year. He has put Paul in touch with some of the most prominent art historians in the world, and has funded much of Paul's research on the Hypnerotomachia.

Paul weighs his notebook in his hand. Just looking at it, the fatigue returns to his eyes.

Reading Group Guide


These questions, discussion topics and author biography are intended to enhance your group’s reading of The Rule Of Four by Ian Caldwell and Dustin Thomason, a contemporary thriller set in the rarified world of scholarship as much as in the world of centuries-old code-makers, and code-breakers. We hope this guide will add to your enjoyment of this suspenseful and unique debut novel.

1. One of the most unique aspects of this novel is its ability to take the reader directly into the lives of the student-heroes Tom and Paul (as well as Gil and Charlie), and then in a sentence place readers in the middle of Renaissance intrigue. Did you think tensions among the Princeton students and their mentors and rivals mirror those of the men centuries ago protecting the secrets? How were the conflicts similar, or different? Did you find that these character relationships drove the narrative as much as the decoding of the fascinating book, the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili (pronounced Hip-ner-AH-toe-mak-ee-a Poh-LI-fi-ly)?

2. The authors, Caldwell and Thomason, have been close friends since they were eight-years-old. Why is this important to the book?

3. What are Tom’s and Paul’s motivation for pursuing the secrets of the Hypnerotomachia? In what way is Tom fulfilling his own needs by alternately obsessing himself with and then ignoring the messages of the text? Did you find the father/son story moving, and in what way do the relationships we have with the people we love or admire drive our ambitions or destroy our dreams? How is Paul different from Tom?

4. In what ways are the worlds of Paul, Tom, Tom’s father, his old colleagues and foes as cut-throat and deadly as that of the anonymous writer of the Hypnerotomachia? How does the conflict of ideas become deadly? Why is the Robert Browning poem entitled “Andrea Del Sarto” that is slightly misquoted by one character, and later referenced by Paul in a critical scene, a statement about motive?

5. After the first death on campus, did you suspect who the murderer was? Were you correct?

6. What part of the code-breaking did you find most interesting? Did you “beat” Paul or Tom to a conclusion as they unraveled some of the mystery? Did you agree with the characters’ conclusions? Could you understand the mesmerizing effect that a book or work of art could have on a person? Have you ever felt this pull? In what way is it exhilarating?

7. Tom’s and Katie’s relationship suffers as the mysteries come to a head. Did this seem natural to you? Did you find the resolution of their relationship realistic?

8. At a critical moment in the novel, Paul says “I don’t want to do this alone.” What does this say about the nature of his specific quest, and intellectual puzzles in general? Why is the sharing of the result so important to him?

9. The action of the novel begins on Good Friday; three days later, on Easter, it ends (saving the postscript). Is this important? What might the authors be saying using this specific timeframe?

10. At the heart of the Hypnerotomachia may be a crusade to save works of art and literature from the ancient, mostly pagan world—a world considered infidel by some of the zealous contemporaries of the anonymous author. Why would the cause have been important? What was at stake? And if such a covert rescue operation had occurred, is it possible that it could have been kept secret for 500 years? How so? If you could uncover something in an undisturbed crypt, hidden away for centuries and untouched, what would you most want to discover?

11. In early praise for THE RULE OF FOUR admirers have compared the authors’ work to that of F.Scott Fitzgerald (The Great Gatsby, etc.), Dan Brown (The Da Vinci Code, etc.) Umberto Eco (The Name Of the Rose, etc.) and Donna Tartt (The Secret History, etc.). Are these comparisons apt? How? What other works of suspense and literature did this novel call to your mind? Could you see it as a film?

12. 12) What is the rule of four?


A Conversation with Ian Caldwell and Dustin Thomason,
authors of the debut novel

The novel centers on a real Renaissance text, The Hypnerotomachia Poliphili; a book that is fairly obscure. Explain how you discovered this book and why you choose to develop your story around it.

We owe it to a Princeton seminar entitled "Renaissance Art, Science, and Magic." Ian's final paper for the seminar dealt with a 1499 text entitled Hypnerotomachia Poliphili, one of the most beautiful and valuable books of early Western printing, and one that has divided scholars for years over its meaning and the identity of its author. By the time the research paper was finished, we were already planning to spend the summer writing an intellectual suspense novel together. The mystery of the Hypnerotomachia supplied a perfect starting point, and before long we had hatched a "solution" to the book's mystery that became the centerpiece of the plot.

You seamlessly blend fact and fiction throughout the novel. For example, Savonarola is a real historical figure, about whom much is known, but what of Francesco Colonna, the author of the Hypnerotomachia? How much is really known about him and how fact-based is your portrait of him?

Oddly enough, scholars don't even agree that the author of the book was Francesco Colonna, despite the internal evidence of the text that he was. As many "alternate" authors have been proposed for the Hypnerotomachia as have been proposed for Shakespeare's plays. To further complicate matters, there are actually two Francesco Colonnas who may have written thebook, and both are shadowy figures. One was a Dominican monk in Venice, about whom scattered Church records remain. The other was from the powerful Colonna dynasty in Rome, and though much is known about other members of his family, relatively little is known about Francesco. THE RULE OF FOUR tries to remain as faithful as possible to the biographies of the contending Francescos, but once Tom and Paul begin to decipher the Hypnerotomachia, they discover a (fictional) side to the Roman Francesco Colonna that no one had previously known.

Are secret codes really buried in the text of the Hypnerotomachia?

Yes. The disagreement among scholars is simply, how many? One of the Hypnerotomachia's mysteries is that its author never explicitly gives his name, but his identity seems to be revealed when the first letter of every chapter is connected to the next: the letters form the Latin message "Poliam Frater Franciscus Columna Peramavit," meaning "Brother Francesco Colonna Loved Polia Tremendously." (Polia is the name of the main female character in the Hypnerotomachia.) In addition to this hidden acrostic message, the entire text of the book is written in a hybrid of languages that was considered gratuitously complex even in its own day. When these facts are combined with the strangeness of certain elements in the story – the detailed attention to the dimensions and features of buildings the protagonist sees, not to mention the protagonist's sexual feelings toward those buildings – it's easy to see why some readers believe there must be a hidden subtext.

What is a Rule of Four?

When Tom and Paul decipher the Hypnerotomachia, they find that the author, Francesco Colonna, refers to a "Rule of Four" that will be necessary to unlock the final portion of the text. The Rule appears to be related to a set of four cardinal directions and distances found in a diary that surfaces at the beginning of the novel. But Tom and Paul struggle to understand how Francesco Colonna intended the Rule to be used. In a different sense, the title THE RULE OF FOUR alludes to the friendship of the novel's four protagonists as they enter their final days of college together.

The novel is about art, history, religion and scholarship, but it's also very much about friendship. Explain.

In a more transparent way than the Hypnerotomachia itself, THE RULE OF FOUR uses academic disciplines and scholarly obsession as vehicles to explore human relationships. If the backbone of the novel is the deciphering of the Hypnerotomachia, then the novel's soul is the story of friends and lovers coming to terms with the end of innocence. The Renaissance text is sometimes a mirror, and sometimes a foil, for the decisions and changes that accompany the approach of adult life.

Dusty, you're a trained physician and Ian you're a historian, why write a novel? And why together?

Out of consideration to real physicians and real historians, we're actually just two writers who've had to spend the past few years wearing different hats. In fact, when we began THE RULE OF FOUR, we were just two college grads who decided the first thing we wanted to do in the "real world" – before we had to tackle jobs and medical school – was satisfy a lifelong itch to write. We caught the bug when we met as eight-year-olds, and in the fourteen years that followed, we got used to being co-authors, whether of third-grade class plays or of high-school graduation speeches. Writing – and writing together – just seemed natural. If it hadn't, we couldn't have stuck with THE RULE OF FOUR for six years.

Explain the joint writing process.

It's changed more than once since we began writing THE RULE OF FOUR in 1998. These days we brainstorm ideas, scene structures, and character arcs together over the phone; then one of us drafts a chapter and emails it to the other, who revises it. Other than the first three months after graduation, when we wrote side-by-side in Ian's parents' basement, we've spent the past six years hundreds of miles apart, relying heavily on phone calls and emails to make co-writing possible.

In a starred review, Publishers Weekly said about your novel "think Dan Brown by way of Donna Tartt and Umberto Eco." How do you feel about this comparison?

We'd be lying if we said we weren't thrilled; it's hard to think of better company. The Da Vinci Code wasn't published until after we'd finished THE RULE OF FOUR, but The Secret History and The Name of the Rose were both inspirations to us back in 1998 when we started writing.

Ian, you went to Princeton and Dusty you went to Harvard. Why did you decide to set the novel at Princeton over Harvard?

At the time, in the wake of movies like "Good Will Hunting" and "With Honors," Harvard seemed overdone. Though we were reading Sylvia Nasar's book during the summer we began THE RULE OF FOUR, we had no idea "A Beautiful Mind" would be made into a film three years later, with Princeton in a starring role. Even if we'd known, though, our decision would've been the same. Princeton offered a tradition of undergraduate writing, from Fitzgerald's This Side of Paradise to Edmund Wilson's turn on the staff of the Nassau Literary Review, which gave us hope.

It's been suggested that most first novels are really thinly veiled autobiography. Is this at all true about THE RULE OF FOUR?

Fiction in general seems to be a mixture of autobiography and wish fulfillment, and THE RULE OF FOUR is no different. In the autobiography category we would place many of the cosmetic details of life at Princeton, much of the research into the Hypnerotomachia, and the underlying preoccupation with friendship and love. In the wish-fulfillment category we would place writing a senior thesis as groundbreaking as Paul's, and maybe, on a bad day, wanting a professor or two to turn up dead.

What's next?

We're at work on our next co-written book. Now that we're both able to focus completely on our writing, we look forward to finishing it in a lot less time than THE RULE OF FOUR took!



These questions, discussion topics and author biography are intended to enhance your group’s reading of The Rule Of Four by Ian Caldwell and Dustin Thomason, a contemporary thriller set in the rarified world of scholarship as much as in the world of centuries-old code-makers, and code-breakers. We hope this guide will add to your enjoyment of this suspenseful and unique debut novel.

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Rule of Four 2.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 315 reviews.
KGpets More than 1 year ago
This book left me wondering if all those professional reviewers that gave it excellent reviews weren't afraid of being labeled not intellectual enough to "get it." The book is continuously compared to The DaVinci Code, but while Dan Brown's book may not have been a literary masterpiece, it was fun. The Rule of Four is so tedious in places that I can see why some people don't finish it. In this book, we aren't solving puzzles to save the world, we are simply trying to finish a college thesis on time. And it's a thesis on a very boring subject, at that.  What really killed this book for me was the extremely detailed and painstaking descriptions of relationships and personalities. I found myself peeking ahead to see how much longer it would go on and if things would improve. A few times I stopped to read other books, and then went back to it with a sense of dread. Penny pincher that I am, I can't pay for a book and not finish it, so I finally made it through. I recommend this book for insomniacs. 
greg1466 More than 1 year ago
I too got it because of all of the comparisons to The DaVinci Code. As has been said frequently here, the comparison is not warranted. Yes, The Da Vinci Code may not be a masterpiece of literature, but it had intrigue, excitement and yes, puzzles. Lots of them. The puzzles, what there were, in the Rule of Four played a seemingly trivial part of the narrative. The emphasis of the book was more a highly detailed and tedious examination of a troubled young mans social interactions. I also particularly didn't like the fact that virtually the entire book is written as flashbacks that not only jump around in time, but give no clear indication that they are doing it. I kept finding myself half way into a section before I could figure out how it related to what came before.
firesidereader2 More than 1 year ago
A constant reader, I am always looking for something special to really grab my interest. This book did it. I found the book well-written, well-paced, and somewhat genre-defying. I enjoyed going back (via the story) to campus life to tackle this intellectual mystery. The characters and the plot do take us out of the humdrum, but isn't that what a good book should do? A good read.
blanch28 More than 1 year ago
i don't agree with other reviews that describe this book as poorly written and boring. maybe the beginning of the story was a bit slow to start, if you want to get really picky. once i got sucked into the story, i couldn't put this book down! even long after i finished reading it, i found myself thinking about the puzzles and riddles in the story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
But I enjiyed it greatly!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I purchased this on a whim and genuinely tried to muscle through it but, it was too slow to build momentum and left me waiting for a suspenseful plot to develop. Readers of Dan Brown will be bored to tears...
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I like a clever book that takes somthing real and wrap it up into a creative fictional mystery. This story feel short of that.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The important characters in this book are Tom, Paul, Charlie, and Gil. This book is historical fiction. In the story, Paul and Tom are trying to figure out the meaning of an ancient book called the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili. They face many challenges, twists, and turns along the way. The mystery of the purpose of this book is famous. On a scale of one to ten, I give this book a nine. It keeps you on the edge of your seat the entire time and you never want to put it down. The many bumps in the road that Tom and Paul travel are interesting and exciting. This book is three hundred and sixty-eight pages long. It is difficult if you don¿t take your time to read because of all the changing events. I recommend this book for people who enjoy reading historical fiction or about male friendship.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I got this book for Christmas along with 'Angels & Demons' and 'Jennifer Government'. For the most part I enjoyed this book. However, the synopsis is a little misleading. The synopsis depicts a story with a lot of action and on-the-edge-of-your-seat stuff. This was only slightly true. The book dealt mostly with the personal issues of the main character, Tom, and not the actual subject of the story. The plot was well told , but it moved much to slow for my tastes and did not deliver enough suspense. Worth a read, but only borrow it from your library.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I also picked up this book since I enjoyed the DaVinci Code. If you're expecting another DaVinci Code, you will be sorely disappointed. But if you can approach this book without comparing the two, I think you will enjoy it as well. It is a much slower story than Dan Brown's novel since it spends just as much time (if not more) on character development. I found myself drawn into the story because of the fact, the 'murder mystery' aspect is almost a secondary story in my opinion. I thoroughly enjoyed learning more about each character and his relationship to the others in the novel. I highly recommend this book as it is an easy read as well as an interesting one. But it is a slower if you're looking for past-faced action adventure, try something else. :-)
KevinJoseph on LibraryThing 2 days ago
If you're looking for a mindless summer thriller, with two-page chapters, cookie cutter heroes and prose that goes down as easy as a People Magazine article, look elsewhere. But if your tastes in entertainment run more toward the cerebral, and you aren't put off by the idea of a genre-defying suspense novel that mixes the philosophical and romantic musings of an ivy-league narrator with the seemingly impenetrable mysteries of a five-century-year-old tome called the Hypnerotomachia, I recommend giving The Rule of Four a whirl.Set on the campus of Princeton between Good Friday and Easter, ROF chronicles the culmination of a grueling intellectual assault by two seniors on a Renaissance text that has stymied a host of literary geniuses coming before them, including the narrator's dead father. The code-breaking escapades of narrator Tom and his best friend Paul are cleverly interwoven with the coming-of-age concerns of their circle of friends on the cusp of graduation. This narrative structure allows the authors to explore themes of friendship, love, obsession, father figures, maturation and destiny in a way that resonates beautifully with the enigmatic Hypnerotomachia itself.The novel has its flaws. It employs lengthy narrative flashbacks that regularly interrupt the flow of the plot with back-story and exacerbate the authors' tendency to tell rather than show. The authors also go overboard in places with their literary allusions and academic trivia, as if they were trying to weave in every tidbit of their Great Books courses. And the climax succumbs to the obligatory thriller elements of over-the-top violence and mayhem, weakening its believability.Nonetheless this is an original suspense novel with some beautiful metaphors and philosophical passages that will linger with readers much longer than the chase scenes and ridiculous plot twists found in most of today's best selling thrillers.-Kevin Joseph, author of "The Champion Maker"
tcrutch on LibraryThing 2 days ago
I thought this book was pretty good given that it was the first book from the authors. The book did have excessive details in parts - but I didn't mind reading it! It was a quick read - I read it during two very busy days.
juniper on LibraryThing 2 days ago
Eh. This is possibly a touch above Da Vinci Code, but sure as hell no Umberto Eco. I found the premise, about the mysterious 15-century manuscript Hypnerotomachia Poliphili, interesting, but the story fell flat of sparking any intellectual excitement or sense of discovery - I didn't feel like I was learning much, nor being entertained. For me the biggest flaw was that the characters never came alive as real people with real emotions and motivations. Particularly the so-called love story subplot is ridiculously shallow and unbelievable; narrator Tom seems absurdly afraid that he and Katie will actually get to know each other rather than stick to small talk and facades. I guess she's supposed to represent human connection and love vs. intellectual obsession, but the relationship is so superficial as to negate any sense of poignancy the reader is supposed to feel. There were also many references to Princeton that seemed extraneous to the plot, more like self-indulgent reminiscences of interest only to Princeton alumni, like "heh, remember that crazy time we snuck into so-and-so and blah blah...". But mainly, because I didn't believe in or care about any of the characters this book was a mildly entertaining couple hours' read and nothing more.
tangential1 on LibraryThing 2 days ago
This was a really good read; not mentally taxing or anything, but still relatively suspenseful. I think the description on the cover from one of the reviewers sums it up best; it's a puzzle book. The story does that thing where it intertwines present action and past action. Most of the book is about the main characters solving this puzzle that is hidden in a very old book. No one has been able to figure it out for a very long time and they finally make a breakthrough (one of them is working on the book as his college thesis). The action actually kind of catches you off-guard because you get so wrapped up in the puzzle solving parts that when something actually happens (like someone getting hurt) it seems unreal, like it doesn't fit. But then thinking about it in actual chronological order, it does fit. The flow is odd like that. Thinking about it, though, the odd flow and the disconnect from reality and getting sucked into the puzzle is exactly what the characters are experiencing so it really works.Overall it was a very good read; refreshing.
Ashleysailvt on LibraryThing 2 days ago
Eh....what can I say? It was ok. There wasn't anything captivating or elusive about it. I probably shouldn't even tag it as mystery. The enjoyable part was the main character's back story. The end was terrible. If you're bored and want to waste a few hours of your life, read it.
amaryann21 on LibraryThing 2 days ago
I loved this book. The action is well-paced, the characters' interaction is wonderfully written, and the mystery compells you to keep reading. I hope these authors continue to write together.
cemillerbooks on LibraryThing 2 days ago
Disappointing, as if the authors could not decide if they wanted to write a thriller, mystery or a boys-in-college novel.Too jumbled for my tastes.
juliannekim on LibraryThing 2 days ago
picked it up from a bookstore in Paris without knowing what to expect. but nonetheless, one fascinating intelligent tale of mystery set in an academia. personally, liked it better than Da Vinci code.
alibrarian on LibraryThing 2 days ago
I started reading it because it was laying around the house and I was put off by the hype long enough. I've gone through several phases of response as I read it. At first I was surprised that it seemed not that bad, actually readable. After 50 pages, I wondered what ever happened to book editors. These boys need to tighten up their prose. If one more simile arose before me like an unexpected obstacle on a familiar road, I'd throw the book at the wall. Everything does not have to like something else. Sometimes snow is just snow. At 100 pages someone finally gets killed. Hope arises. But no, it just continues on and on with its graduation angst at Princeton. At 200 pages it just settles into becoming boring. Even the secret of the book hardly seems worth the trouble. I finished it because I didn't have anything else to do while commuting.
amandaking on LibraryThing 2 days ago
This book was okay. Most definitly capitilizing on the dan brown adventurous historian who uncovers a secret phenomenon. I was initially attracted to it because it is set in princeton, which isn't far from where I live. It was an unimpressive read, but a good summer 'fluff' read. I hate to say fluff, because that is usually connotated with smutty romances, but this is a book that I don't think you really have to think too much about while reading.
bookmindful on LibraryThing 2 days ago
Good, entertaining narrative of a puzzle. It was a little less exciting and suspenseful than it could have been, maybe because it\'s not presented as a puzzle the reader can figure out. I never got the whole steam tunnels thing.
francescadefreitas on LibraryThing 2 days ago
I have a hard time not comparing book-within-a-book mysteries to The Name of the Rose. Such a comparison is usually unfavorable and unfair.So that aside, I did become interested in the mystery of this book, and a few silly action scenes aside, I enjoyed experiencing the main character's struggle against academic obsession.
Whicker on LibraryThing 2 days ago
A very good time. The Rule of Four carries suspense throughout while making you care about the characters. Excellent portrait of male friendship in a time of transition. Definitely at least one run through.
shawnd on LibraryThing 2 days ago
While the book jacket calls Rule of Four (ROF) a mix of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Eco, and Dan Brown, I think it's more firmly a mix of Dan Brown, Umberto Eco, and early Bret Easton Ellis. The book is a thriller. It is about a foursome of college roommate men, two of whom are involved in an obsessive chase to finish solving riddles within an ancient text. While it is a fast-paced thriller, it is almost equal part romantic struggle/drama (although it tries I don't think it achieves a 'coming of age' novel) along with a thriller.I know one of the authors of this book -- I worked with him briefly during his stint at a company on which he based the Texas startup 'Daedalus' in ROF. While the book is not autobiographical, the author was a bookish history major at Princeton, and the characters Tom and Paul both remind me of him. Ironically, from my time with him, I suspect the struggles the two had writing and rewriting the book-as is mentioned in the acknowledgements-were tied to the fact that they could have more easily written a forensic thriller than a romantic drama, when many of the readers of the book would have wanted the former.Beware that this is almost a tale of two books: a slow-moving, almost tedious trek through the interrelationships of the group, and the romance of the protagonist with a co-ed who makes him question his obsession about he and his friend's quest. The other is a sharp, fast, incredibly twisted and ingenious set of riddles, connections, conjectures and wows. It's done so superbly one almost forgets that there really shouldn't be any hurry since the book has been around for 500 years, why do they need to solve the riddle in the next hour? I would recommend the book strongly, especially if you enjoyed Foucault's Pendulum or Da Vinci Code.
Cygnus555 on LibraryThing 2 days ago
This was a nice, low stress book! Didn't have to think too hard, just sit back and relax with a decent story. Overall, I wasn't overwhelmed... but it wasn't aweful.