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The Rule of Four Audio CD – Audiobook, Unabridged

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This debut novel is written in the first person and in present tense, almost as if Caldwell and Thomason had an audio narration in mind. Unfortunately, their cerebral treasure hunt is dense with references to Renaissance art, arcane literature, complex riddles and 500-year-old events that are almost impossible to comprehend by ear; think Bonfire of the Vanities by Girolamo Savonarola, instead of Tom Wolfe. Not that reader Hamilton doesn't provide some assistance. He does an admirable job of conveying the youthful exuberance and intensity of the novel's narrator, Princeton senior Tom Sullivan, while breezing through some pretty tough tongue-twisters, including the oft-mentioned 15th-century manuscript at the heart of this intellectual suspense tale, the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili. Still, unless listeners opt to ignore the esoterica and settle for a no-frills tale of two brainy college pals obsessed with an ancient tome and its coded secret of buried treasure, they may find themselves having to make annoyingly frequent stops, backups and replays before the archaeological, etymological, historical and religious facts register in a meaningful way. Simultaneous release with the Dial hardcover.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From School Library Journal

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 TheDa 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 © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Audio CD
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio; Unabridged edition (September 13, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743540298
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743540292
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 1.2 x 5.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 2.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1,295 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,814,588 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

53 of 53 people found the following review helpful By maemurphy on September 13, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Comparisons between this book and The DaVinci Code were as inevitable as they were unfair. It's *not* another DaVinci Code. It's not a fast-paced thriller or mystery. While ancient secrets, old paintings, and mysterious codes drive TDC they are simply plot devices in The Rule of Four.

This is a classic coming-of-age tale. Perhaps it would be more fair to compare it to A Separate Peace. It is far more cerebral than TDC or any of Dan Brown's work. It contains more emotion in one chapter than in all of the Dan Brown mysteries put together.

I loved this book. Parts of it are absolutely brilliant. But to appreciate that, you must read this book for what it is. I'm certain that calling it the next DaVinci Code has helped sales. I'm equally certain it hasn't helped readers to appreciate this novel and has probably left many of them confused and disappointed.

Don't read it because someone said it's the next flash-in-the-pan mystery, the next big thing.

Read it for it's exploration of human relationships, the complexity and changes of growing up, the difficulties of integrating our pasts with our futures.
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95 of 112 people found the following review helpful By Cat_herder_guy on April 20, 2008
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
The premise was interesting, but the characters were lifeless for me. I didn't care about any of them. There was way too much about college life and not enough about the so-called mystery, although if they had stuck to the mystery the book would have been a fraction of the length. If the mystery/suspense aspect hadn't been hyped so much, I wouldn't have bought this in the first place. I have many books that I read and re-read mainly because I enjoy the quality of writing and the characterizations, but this certainly isn't one of them.

The choice of writing in the first person present tense was curious. This works for short stories, but I think this book shows why it doesn't work for novels, at least for me. It made it very difficult to get past the reading process and into the story. I can generally get lost in a story and forget I'm reading, but not with this one.

I rarely get rid of books (I have 3700+ around the house), but this one is headed for Goodwill or Half Price.
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74 of 87 people found the following review helpful By SG on November 15, 2007
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This book started out with promise, but quickly begand a spiraling descent into a mish mash of history lessons, bad writing, perspective on life, and cardboard cutout characters.

The insight into Princeton, academia, and the Renaissance was interesting...but thats about it. The story was too involved, the 'quest' for knowledge not intriguing enough, and at the end it devolved into a shadow of a man, the main character, pontificating over his life, which meant absolutely nothing to me.

Beyond a few history lessons, this book doesn't have much to offer. The Da Vinci Code at least swept you along in a fast pace of mystry and puzzles, but this one was more like slogging through an end of the year term paper. As opposed to hard to put down, it was hard to pick up.

I'd recommend this one to readers who aren't too selective and who just need a book to kill time...if there's nothing else at the bookstore.
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109 of 130 people found the following review helpful By Minna Minocha on February 22, 2008
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Compared to other academic thrillers like Rabid: A Novel, The Dante Club: A Novel, or Special Topics in Calamity Physics, The Rule of Four doesn't measure up.

The Rule of Four is set at Princeton, very obviously at Princeton, at look-at-me-I'm-a-Princetonian Princeton. There's a part in this book where the authors (and the characters are obviously the authors,) sneer at someone who is too obsequious, too flashy, not Ivy League subtle enough, and yet that's exactly what they're doing throughout this whole book.

Plotwise, the major turning points were oddly pulled out from under the major characters, much like a duel that happens off-stage and then someone staggers onto stage and tells you about it, and in a boring manner.

It's a first novel, and these two writers are very young. Some of the passages have merit. It will be interesting to watch them mature as writers.

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98 of 117 people found the following review helpful By C. Bell on March 26, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I went to Princeton, and the only aspects of this book that I found worthwhile were its oft-evocative descriptions of my alma mater. (Though, for the record, I'd like to state that it's not very accurate in its depiction of the undergraduate experience.) I can't imagine what anyone without fond memories of the university would see in this poorly-written and poorly-plotted novel.

My main complaint, I think, is with the self-consciousness and artificiality of the prose. The book reads as if its authors are trying to show off their creativity and intellectual prowess. Unfortunately, the resulting text contains awkwardly-structured sentences and laughable similes (a book "spread open on the floor with its spine broken, like a butterfly somebody stepped on"; "a good graduate program can smell indecision like a dog can smell fear"). The writing is such that you can't get lost in the story, for you always feel the authors' presence.

It doesn't help that the characters are flat and not even remotely believable, and that it is utterly lacking in suspense--odd, that, in a novel billed as a thriller. Both problems are largely a result of the structure of the book, which relies on frequent flashbacks to develop the psychology of the characters and explain the strangely powerful hold a Renaissance-era manuscript, the Hypnerotomachia, has over them. The technique of revealing details about the personalities of characters through flashbacks can be a very useful one, but here it falls flat, simply because nothing important is ever revealed.

Still, I might have forgiven _The Rule of Four_'s vapid prose, poor pacing, and undeveloped characters if there had been a compelling case made for the seemingly-supernatural significance of the Hypnerotomachia. Alas, nothing ever comes of it. It isn't often that I regret having read a book, but this one really was a waste of time.
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