Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Mini-Book Review – “The Rule of Four” by Ian Caldwell and Dustin Thomason

I enjoy Dan Brown’s writing. In the past year, I have made my way through “The Da Vinci Code,” “Angels and Demons,” “Deception Point” and “Digital Fortress.” After awhile, Brown’s approach to plot and character development began to seem a bit formulaic, but the books were worth the time I invested in reading them. So, I was a bit skeptical when I picked up a copy of Caldwell and Thomason's collaborative first novel, and read a blurb that claimed: “If Scott Fitzgerald, Umberto Eco, and Dan Brown teamed up to write a novel, the result would be 'The Rule of Four.'” But I found that the reviewer was on target.

I consider a novel a success and a worthwhile read if I am entertained, intrigued, moved to feel something for the characters, or am offered new insights into human nature, a period of history or part of the world that interests me. “The Rule of Four” delivered on all fronts. The authors’ broad Ivy League educations are in evidence on every page of the novel. Caldwell graduated Phi Beta Kappa in history from Princeton, and Thomason won the Hoopes Prize at Harvard for outstanding scholarly work and research. The book toggles back and forth between the campus of present day Princeton University and Rome and Florence of the Renaissance. The action and intrigue center around several generations of obsessed scholars who sacrifice everything to crack the code of an obscure 15th Century text known as the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili.

This book is not for the faint of heart or weak of mind. I enjoyed it. If you want to learn more about Savanarola and his infamous “Bonfire of the Vanities” in the public square in Firenze, then start reading this tour de force first effort by a team of writers we will doubtless hear from again.


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