Summary and book reviews of The Rule of Four by Ian Caldwell

The Rule of Four

By Ian Caldwell, Dustin Thomason

The Rule of Four

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About this Book

Book Summary

An ivy league murder, a mysterious coded manuscript, and the secrets of a Renaissance prince collide memorably in The Rule of Four -- a brilliant work of fiction that weaves together suspense and scholarship, high art and unimaginable treachery.

It's Easter at Princeton. Seniors are scrambling to finish their theses. And two students, Tom Sullivan and Paul Harris, are a hair's breadth from solving the mysteries of the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili--a renowned text attributed to an Italian nobleman, a work that has baffled scholars since its publication in 1499. For Tom, their research has been a link to his family's past -- and an obstacle to the woman he loves. For Paul, it has become an obsession, the very reason for living. But as their deadline looms, research has stalled -- until a long-lost diary surfaces with a vital clue. And when a fellow researcher is murdered just hours later, Tom and Paul realize that they are not the first to glimpse the Hypnerotomachia 's secrets.

Suddenly the stakes are raised, and as the two friends sift through the codes and riddles at the heart of the text, they are beginnning to see the manuscript in a new light--not simply as a story of faith, eroticism and pedantry, but as a bizarre, coded mathematical maze. And as they come closer and closer to deciphering the final puzzle of a book that has shattered careers, friendships and families, they know that their own lives are in mortal danger. Because at least one person has been killed for knowing too much. And they know even more.

From the streets of fifteenth-century Rome to the rarified realm of the Ivy League, from a shocking 500 year-old murder scene to the drama of a young man's coming of age, The Rule of Four takes us on an entertaining, illuminating tour of history--as it builds to a pinnacle of nearly unbearable suspense.

Chapter 1

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 ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  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 where eight. Why is this important to the ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse

Caldwell and Thomason have placed their first book in territory known well to them - Princeton University (Caldwell graduated from there in 1998 and Thomason from Harvard, in the same year). One critic describes The Rule of Four as 'Dan Brown by way of Donna Tartt and Umberto Eco'. The comparison to Dan Brown is, presumably, to do with the subject matter - a mysterious coded manuscript; however, the writing style and pacing is much slower here. The Rule of Four received substantial publicity when released in hardcover and some good media reviews, but the reader reviews have been less than stellar.  

Media Reviews
Author Blurb Nelson DeMille
Caldwell and Thomason have created a stunning first novel; a perfect blend of suspense and a sensitive coming of age story. If Scott Fitzgerald, Umberto Eco, and Dan Brown teamed up to write a novel, the result would be The Rule of Four. An extraordinary and brilliant accomplishment - a must read.

Booklist - Keir Graff

...an impressive debut, a coming-of-age novel in the guise of a thriller, packed with history (real and invented) and intellectual excitement. But despite their command of language and arcana, the book occasionally betrays its origins as a post-college project.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Think Dan Brown by way of Donna Tartt and Umberto Eco.... 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.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review. An astonishingly good debut.... Academic evil stalks the campus and no one is safe.... Intricate, erudite, and intensely pleasureable.

Reader Reviews
richie

i dislike this book
This book has to much going on in it............... I DON'T RECOMMEND THIS BOOK TO ANYONE

mdp

Shadow of the Wind meets the DaVinci Code
If you're in between books, and want a nice, light read, The Rule of Four is it. Well written, not too deep, it's a nice story of love between friends, love between parents/children, and what connects them. I enjoyed it because it didn't demand too ...   Read More

Elle Mac

Lacks Four= plot, character, pace and writing.
This book was compared on the jacket to The Da Vinci Code , The Name of the Rose and The Secret History. All I can say is; Donna Tartt and Umberto Eco must be furious: and I never thought I'd say this, but come back, Dan Brown, all is forgiven. At...   Read More

liezle

waste of time
I hate those misleading critics! I had a neighbor who kept nagging me to finish this book because it was supposed to be the greatest book he ever read. Novels that get me hooked takes me about two or three days to read. I had been reading this novel ...   Read More

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