Finished reading Caldwell and Thomason’s “Rule of Four” in transit here at Changi.
As I predicted in the previous post the theme becomes “Love Conquers All” – with the reminder of the double edged meaning in that aphorism – “mis-directed love destroys anything” is not a recipe for happy endings – though this book does indeed have a predictable one – just like the eponymous US version of Brazil.
Anyway whoever described The Rule of Four as The Name Of The Rose in the style of Donna Tartt’s Secret History was spot on. So many plot components are straight from Eco – not least the conflagration destroying the evidence (or does it ? type suspense), the labrynthine passages and stairs, the whodunnit murders, the dead-languages intellectual and philosophical references, and the poisoned paper trick. Had they never read Eco ? Did they not have an editor who had ? Either way I might be embarrassed.
The main theme is the same – western / christian church suppression of renaissance knowledge originating with the mediterranean, middle and eastern ancients. In The Rule of Four, the evil side is simply academic competitiveness personal jealousies and loves – no suggestion of a Da Vinci Code style institutional conspiracy of secrecy over the ages. The quote from St Paul’s Gospel neatly sums it up “I [god] am going to destroy the wisdom of the wise and bring to nothing the understanding of any who understand”. Compare that with David Deutsch’s understanding or Sue Blackmore’s open mind if you dare. (A certain irony in the TV news headlines playing in the background beside me here – “The world waits for the announcement of the next pope …”)
It’s a conspiracy allright, A metaphorical conspiracy of memes.
But it’s no secret, it’s on CNN, that’s how memes work.
Actually I’m being unfair, Rule of Four is not a bad read in its own right, but I’d recommend the others mentioned here ahead of it. Except of course unlike the Da Vinci Code the fictional / mythical aspect of the source material content – The Hypnerotomachia Poliphili – is acknowledged, even though the mysterious book itself is real.
Some annoying cliches throughout – constant references for the hard of thinking, to the significance of changing pronouns in dialogue – and the obligatory “love-interest”, but the style and phrasing makes an entertaining read – Echoes of Raymond Chandler in the character descriptions early on, and some creative quotable phrases throughout.
“[She] can be heard muttering in dead languages to the books around her; A taxidermist whispering to her pets.”
“[He] speaks in shades of the obvious; Some stopgap between his mouth and mind gone missing”
Also a nice variation on the existing …
“Some things have to be believed to be seen“,
“Belief creates“, or
“Belief has to be-lived”
… Caldwell and Thomason have …
“Only a man who sees giants can ever stand upon their shoulders”.
I liked that.
Also published on Medium.