Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Rule of Four - My Review

After finishing The Lost Symbol, I read a couple of real duds and immediately started looking for a book which is a mystery and a puzzle solver to bring my interest in books back.
So while browsing our bookstore, I came across this Rule of Four and out of the 20 or so appreciations on the blurb, atleast 15 enlikened this to the Da Vinci Code. So I brought this home and here is what I found.
Firstly, this is not a complete puzzle thriller. While there is a major part of this book that will interest the intellectual community, it is not completely focused on decrypting what the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili (the book within the book which is the puzzle). So that is one positive in favor of the book.
The second thing is that this does not have anything to do with demystifying or trashing Christian (or any other religious) ideals. The Hypnerotomachia Poliphili is an obscure book written in the 16th Century and has a mystery completely different from the genre we got so used to. So this is a big point in favor of the authors. And my understanding is that the book is not 'inspired' by the Da Vinci code. In fact, work on the book would have begun much before the 2004 publishing of the novel and comparing it with the blockbuster by Dan Brown is not really fair.
In fact, The Rule of Four is a book about friends, about life in the Princeton, about the generation we live in, and a lot about the 16th century also. The way the authors have put the whole thing together - without losing focus of the puzzle which is what the story revolves around, is truly amazing! We normally find that two-author novels lack the intensity of the single author ones, but this is sure an exception to the rule. Tom, Paul, Gil, and Charlie represent completely different ideals and every reader will find something of them in one of the characters - making the book even more relatable.
But since the primary reason the book is such a blockbuster (it has sold over 4 million copies and is the best selling debut novel of the decade) is because readers have expected it to have intricate puzzles and it does! Since the puzzle in question here is a book none of us have ever heard of, it is even more intriguing!
What the authors - Caldwell and Thomason - do so well is draw the line at a perfect place; so that the readers don't need to drink a cup of coffee to struggle through the complexities of the puzzle. It does not take us through unnecessary Latin or anything else which is so vital in solving the puzzle the book throws at us; and instead the authors just make us spectators to Tom and Paul figuring out the puzzle. That in itself deserves a lot of accolades!
Once again, the book is about friends and about everything they go through; about life's changing priorities as they rush through their college years, and about the ambitions that people harbor. What I love the best is the ending, which has nothing to do with the puzzle at all - it is solved well before the last 50 pages or so!
Absolutely worth a read.
Warner Bros is making this into a movie, but it is the book which one should read. The film is bound to focus on the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili puzzle alone, and that steals the beauty away from the efforts of the author.


Stephen Clynes said...

Hello Sir, I really enjoy your blog but I disagree with you on The Rule of Four. Dan Brown does not have to look over his shoulder from this pair!

myletterstoemily said...

i enjoyed this book, too.