The Rule of Four is an extremely erudite thriller set on the Princeton campus and constructed around a famously arcane text from the 15th century … The text is the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili; its name means the "struggle for love in a dream" of a man called Poliphilo. This is a name that two of the book's four main collegiate characters have trouble even pronouncing. But readers may want to start dropping it in conversation, as if this were no more difficult than saying Da Vinci Code. This fussier but also ingenious novel aspires to out-anagram, out-acrostic and out-cipher-text that one.
The New York Times
Profoundly erudite -- and far less windy than The Da Vinci Code -- this is the ultimate puzzle-book for anyone who dares to solve a geometric problem like ''How many arms from your feet to the horizon?'' by consulting Curious George.
The New York Times Sunday Book Review
A Princeton student has only twenty-four hours to complete his senior thesis—hardly the nail-biting stuff of thrillers, except that the thesis in question purports to solve the mystery of an erotic fifteenth-century allegory littered with ciphers and algorithms. (In the wake of the immensely popular “The Da Vinci Code,” there appears to be no shortage of medieval codes waiting to be cracked by intrepid scholar-detectives.) As the student races to meet his deadline, mayhem engulfs the campus: a chase through steam tunnels beneath the grassy quads, an inferno at the school’s toniest eating club, and nude frolics in the snow (this last not fiction but a real Princeton tradition). The authors, two recent Ivy League grads, keep up a frantic, somewhat exhausting pace, but the most riveting action sequences take place inside the mind, as the hero wrestles with the manuscript.
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, the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili. This rare text (a real book) contains embedded codes revealing the location of a buried Roman treasure. Comparisons to The Da Vinci Code are 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 the Hypnerotomachia'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 the Hypnerotomachia and have a go at the puzzle. After all, Caldwell and Thomason have done most of the heavy deciphering-all that's left is to solve the final riddle, head for Rome and start digging. Agent, Nicholas Ellison. (May 4) Forecast: You don't have to be an expert at decoding to see that an excellent cover, high production values throughout, a gripping story, a strong publisher push and reader interest still stirred up by The Da Vinci Code will add up to big numbers for this one. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Adult/High School-A compelling modern thriller that cleverly combines history and mystery. When four Princeton seniors begin the Easter weekend, they are more concerned with their plans for the next year and an upcoming dance than with a 500-year-old literary mystery. But by the end of the holiday, two people are dead, two of the students are injured, and one has disappeared. These events, blended with Renaissance history, code breaking, acrostics, sleuthing, and personal discovery, move the story along at a rapid pace. Tom Sullivan, the narrator, tells of his late father's and then a roommate's obsession with the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili, a 15th-century "novel" that has long puzzled scholars. Paul has built his senior thesis on an unpopular theory posited by Tom's father-that the author was an upper-class Roman rather than a monk-and has come close to proving it. While much of the material on the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili is arcane and specialized, it is clearly explained and its puzzles are truly puzzling, while the present-day action is compelling enough to keep teens reading. There is a love interest for Tom and a lively portrayal of Princeton life. This novel will appeal to readers of Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code (Doubleday, 2003) but it supplies a lot more food for thought, even including some salacious woodcuts from the original book as well as coded excerpts and their solutions.-Susan H. Woodcock, Fairfax County Public Library, Chantilly, VA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
A Renaissance mystery rattles the lives of four Princeton roommates-in an astonishingly good debut by a young team of writers who have put their expensive educations to much better use than classmates who keep screwing up governments. The mystery is the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili, a real Renaissance text that reads like six Handel operas after a bout in the food processor. Narrator Thomas Corelli Sullivan is one of four stout friends and roommates in their last year at Princeton. Before his accidental death, Sullivan's father was himself obsessed by the headbusting puzzles built into the book by its anonymous author, and that obsession, nearly the ruin of his marriage, is now threatening Tom's. Waifish Paul Harris, perhaps the most brilliant of the friends, building on the work of numerous scholars including Tom's late father, has begun to crack the book's codes, and his work has sucked Tom into a world he hoped to avoid. Neglecting his own studies and his immensely attractive girlfriend Katie, Tom lends his own formidable knowledge and intuition to Paul's labors. Their findings seem to bear out the theories for which Tom's father was ridiculed by Vincent Taft, a rival scholar now in residence down the road at the Institute for Advanced Studies, and the authorship seems clearly to have been that of Francesco Colonna, an aristocrat and member of the inner circle of great Florentine humanists. What remains elusive is the great mystery at the center of the text, which has to do with the location and purpose of an immense crypt Colonna had ordered up. Tom emerges from the intellectual hothouse just in time to save his degree and his love life, but Paul charges ahead until he, Tom, and theother two plucky roommates find themselves, without ever leaving Princeton, in extraordinary peril. Academic evil stalks the campus and no one is safe. Scholarship as romance: intricate, erudite, and intensely pleasurable. Agents: Nick Ellison and Jennifer Joel
“Profoundly erudite . . . the ultimate puzzle-book.”—The New York Times Book Review
“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
“Ingenious . . . The real treat here is the process of discovery.”—The New York Times
“Compulsively readable.”—People (4 stars)
“If F. Scott Fitzgerald, Umberto Eco, and Dan Brown teamed up to write a novel, the result would be The Rule of Four.”—Nelson DeMille