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The Rule of Four Audio CD – Audiobook, Unabridged


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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 the Hardcover edition.
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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: 6 x 5.1 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 2.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1,237 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,223,467 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

I too found this book to be rather boring.
D. Louie
The authors show some real brains with the ideas for code, and knowledge of history, but they have no grasp of what makes a book enjoyable or interesting.
A.
I do have to say that I finished the book, although it was one of those "this just has to get better" quests that went unfulfilled.
P. G. Jones

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 25 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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79 of 90 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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85 of 99 people found the following review helpful By Cat_herder 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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60 of 69 people found the following review helpful By K. Olson on September 9, 2007
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This is possible the worst written book I have every read. I am not even sure why I read the whole book. Its kind of like a train wreck, you just can't look away. Do yourself a favor and save your time and money. If you do own a copy send it back to the publisher.
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106 of 126 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.

Minna
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