Summary: An intellectually satisfying novel about four college students on the verge of solving the mystery of a well-known but inscrutable renaissance document whose exegesis threatens to upend modern scholarship. Basically, The DaVinci Code without all the heresy.
The Hypnerotomachia Poliphili, published in Venice anonymously in 1499, is an ambitious piece of literature. On the surface it appears to be a love story, told using multiple languages (some made up), including the occasional Egyptian hieroglyph. But scholars have long suspected that within the text lies another meaning, if only the code can be discovered and solved. Indeed, the first letters of each chapter combine to form an acrostic. The novel has resisted almost all attempts at full interpretation over the centuries–until now. And the truth is staggering.
Four friends–students and roommates at Princeton in 1999–get swept up in the struggle to solve the mystery of the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili. They strive against competitors who would steal their research. Someone is murdered. A romantic relationship falls victim to the obsessive pursuit of the book’s depths.
The Rule of Four is great fun: intellectually stimulating and chock full of fascinating renaissance history. Yet ultimately the story is about relationships between friends, fathers and sons, scholars, and new romances. The authors are surprisingly insightful about the human condition; the characters are genuine and authentic, their development and struggles honest. This book was a pleasure to read on many levels.