The Rule of Four by Ian Caldwell and Dustin Thomason

Posted in Review at 12:02 am by Amber

This book was described to me as the “smart person’s version of The Da Vinci Code.”  Since I’ve only read The Rule of Four, I can’t compare the two books for you and let you know if the description is true or not.  What I can tell you is that this book kept my attention almost nonstop.

This is the first book co-written by long-time friends Ian Caldwell and Dustin Thomason.  It’s been sitting on my TBR pile for many years.  The main character, Tom Sullivan, grew up in Columbus, Ohio.  I tried to research how the Columbus connection came into the book but could not link Caldwell or Thomason to Columbus at all.  However it happened I have to give them credit for getting the details right.  In one instance, they describe an Edward Hopper painting included in a Columbus Museum of Art calendar.  There is no possibility it could be mistaken for any painting other than Morning Sun

Tom Sullivan is a senior at Princeton University living on campus with his three roommates.  They are Paul Harris, Charlie Freeman and Gil Rankin.  Tom’s father devoted his life to trying to decipher the secret behind the book Hypnerotomachia Poliphili.  Paul has made the book the topic of his senior thesis.  Tom assists Paul but keeps backing away from the commitment; he’s seen firsthand what the obsession did to his father and what the senior thesis is now doing to Paul.  Tom doesn’t want it ruining his life too.  Charlie is a premed major and the moral compass of the roommates.  Gil is the roommate with all the “right” connections who wants to do his own thing but places a high value on his friendships.  The title of the book refers to the four roommates and a system of measurement.

Some people will find the book dreary and others will find it exciting.  Looking at the Amazon reviews people either love this book or hate it.  The story begins on Easter weekend.  In the first ten chapters only one or two hours of the weekend have passed but the roommates have all been introduced, been chased through some underground tunnels, and lost their pursuers in the Nude Olympics crowd.  Murder, academic intrigues, cracked codes and more follow in the remaining chapters.  There was one bit in the timeline about three-fourths of the way in the book where I got lost and that is when my attention wavered a bit.  However, soon things got back on track.  The ending wasn’t a surprise but it was satisfying.

Somewhere on the internet I read Caldwell and Thomason were working on a second novel together.  It hasn’t been released so it can be assumed it wasn’t finished or wasn’t picked up by a publisher.  It’s too bad; after finally reading their debut novel I was looking forward to their sophomore effort.

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  1. Joy Nash said,

    September 1, 2008 at 3:33 pm

    I read this book last winter and I found it fascinating! Not only the immediate story, and the characters, but also the descriptions of the obscure Renaissance book, Hypnerotomachia Poliphili, which actually existed. It lead me to read a nonfiction book, The Real Rule of Four, by Joscelyn Godwin, which explains what is fact and what is fiction about the HP in Caldwell’s and Thomason’s book.

    Joy Nash

  2. Amber said,

    September 1, 2008 at 6:00 pm

    Thanks for stopping by, Joy!

    I’ve always found rare and old books interesting. I saw a copy of the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili on http://www.rarebookroom.org and I was surprised by how small it seemed.

  3. Books Read in 2008 | Amber Stults - Book Reviewer and Writer said,

    June 12, 2010 at 8:06 pm

    […] The Rule of Four – Ian Caldwell and Dustin Thomason […]

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