Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Rule of Four by Ian Caldwell and Dustin Thomason

The Rule of Four by Ian Caldwell and Dustin Thomason

Paperback, 2005, 464 pages.

I can't remember where I heard about this book, but I was kind of intrigued since it got so many low reviews on Amazon (415 one-star reviews!) and yet it was a bestseller. It's based around a real-life book called Hypnerotomachia Poliphili, a thick book about a man who dreams about his love. In the novel, however, it's full of mysteries and puzzles. The main character Tom's dad was obsessed with the book, and he meets another student at Princeton who also becomes entranced with the book and its secrets. The story follows the two of them as they try to solve the last puzzles while dealing with two men who've been studying the book for years. It's a mystery and action/adventure.

I picked it up from the library, and I liked it. I think I can see why a lot of people wouldn't like it. There are a lot of infodumps, and sometimes the backstory or history relating to the puzzles completely interrupts the current story. The writing isn't stellar, but the story intrigued me. I wanted to see what happened to the characters and what the big secret of Hypnerotomachia was. I wasn't disappointed, either.

I liked the friendship between the four guys. They're all different, but they clicked, and I really liked the bond they had. Charlie was the nicest guy, too. Paul really annoyed me after a while, but I suppose that was the point, to show how much the book had taken over his common sense.

There was a lot of cool history in this. I commend the authors for doing all that research! Seriously, a lot of time and effort must have gone into this book. The adventure aspect was great, too; they wrote great action scenes.

I think it was a good read. Like I said, not stellar, but I didn't feel like I wasted my time.

One random question I have. . .how on earth can someone write a book with another person? It's probably just me and my writing style, but that seems next to impossible. It's my book! My story! My characters! Although I have to confess that in middle school, shortly after the Lord of the Rings movies came out, me and my friends wrote this ridiculously silly fan fiction. I can't remember what it was about, just that it made us giggle during church and Legolas was probably in love with me. Still, today, that seems impossible. I might want to try it sometime, just to see what it's like.

A few things I could learn from this book.

Research. I didn't look up any of these references, but I'm sure some people did. I'm sure they got as accurately correct as they could. They even had an author's note that explained some of the things they didn't quote correctly. In my writing, I avoid the research until later, but I need to be sure it's accurate.

Backstory/Infodumps. Some of the backstory and infodumps were necessary for the story, but they completely interrupted the fast-pacedness (yep, it's a word now) of the story. In my own stories, I want to find a way to tie that into the story so it isn't so jarring.

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