Friday, July 29, 2005

Book Review: The Rule of Four

As I look over the last few book reviews I have done, I come to realize that I am not a good reviewer. I either get caught up in the cliches of reviewing books or I feel the need to pontificate about my reaction to the book. I suspect this review will stumble between my two standards. Oh well.

After a marathon reading session of just over a day I completed THE RULE OF FOUR by Ian Caldwell and Dustin Thomason. This does not mean it took me 24 hours of reading to complete the book, but rather that all of my leisure time during the day was occupied by reading the book. Much like SHAKE HANDS WITH THE DEVIL (you can read my review here), I was interested in this book when it first came out however I was too much of a cheapskate to go and buy it. Before I even knew it was out in paperback a friend had purchased it, read it, and, knowing I enjoy a good read, loaned it to me. I must admit that this is the first book he loaned me since THE ROMANOV PROPHECY, which I did not really enjoy and therefore I was a little cautious about his ringing endorsement of this book.

I am happy to report that THE RULE OF FOUR did indeed turn out to be a good read. About half way through I was beginning to think I would not be writing this review. At this point the book had begun to feel like a pale imitation of Eco's THE NAME OF THE ROSE. (As a brief aside, I have to admit that I have never managed to finish reading THE NAME OF THE ROSE. Eco's writing is so dense that inevitably the book wears me down before I can complete it, however I have read at least half of the book and I have seen the movie.) However about two-thirds of the way through the novel it swerves from being a straight up thriller and becomes a heartfelt, though somewhat clumsy, fusion of a thriller and a coming of age tale. From then on I was engaged by the coming of age tale and the thriller aspects of the novel actually became somewhat irritating.

One of my favorite things about this novel is the prose. Since the protagonist is also narrating the story, the authors did not shy away from the quips and one-liners that I suspect many of us have floating around in our heads. Most of these are delivered with a sarcastic panache that made me immediately like the protagonist. There are other moments in the book where the prose takes on a very poetic turn of phrase, welcome moments that change the flow and expose a deeper emotional connection between the authors and their protagonist.

Overall I found this novel to be a worthy first-effort. Yes, it was rough in places, and yes, I do not think it knows what it wants to be when it grows up, but it was a pleasant diversion and I do not feel as though I wasted my time reading the book. Not a ringing endorsement, I know, but as the Italian proverb goes, there is no worse thief than a bad book. I could not agree more (except for that butt monkey who stole my comics and coin collections when I was younger) and with that in mind I eagerly await Messrs. Caldwell and Thomason's sophomore effort.

If anyone can find a reasonable attribution for the Italitan proverb, please let me know. I thought some important classical figure said it, Virgil or the like, however I cannot find anything on it. Thanks!

No comments: