The Rule of Four is one of those books that exists to entertain–nothing else.
Written by two Ivy League alums, Ian Caldwell and Dustin Thomason, the story is set at Princeton, and it wades in the historical puzzle genre in the same vein as The Da Vinci Code. Unfortunately, the Da Vinci Code-esque mystery is underwhelming at best, and the coming-of-age story that jointly occupies the book is not very compelling.
The Rule of Four’s style limits its effectiveness. The writing is competent but resorts to telling everything rather than letting the character’s backgrounds and motivations come out through their actions.
I could never really get into the quest to solve the hypneropedia or whatever they call it–I just didn’t care what some Renaissance Italian dude wrote–I couldn’t see how they all obsessed over it and how it got in the way of their love lives, and so on.
I think The Rule of Four would be well-suited to be adapted as a video game. The puzzles are all nifty, considering the authors solve them as soon as they are presented, but if you had to solve the puzzles on your own, it might be more fun.
It’s a quick read, a mildly stimulating diversion. If you liked The Da Vinci Code, this is a pretty good bet. It’s better than Brown’s more recent book, The Lost Symbol, that’s for sure, (though I can’t speak for his latest, Inferno). But any book that starts with the opening lines “Strange thing, time,” the smack of cosmic pretension will drown out any literary merit that could have been.
The Rule of Four
Ian Caldwell and Dustin Thomason
Published 2004 The Dial Press
$16, paperback, 400 pages
Feature image by Harrison Blackman