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Another Roll of the Dice
on 22 January 2015
The original "Dice Man" was an interesting story, written in an autobiographical style, about a psychiatrist who decided to live a totally random life. He achieved this by allowing the roll of a die (or, occasionally dice) to make decisions for him, from what to wear to how to act. This got him in trouble from everyone from his family to his colleagues to the law. But the book is inconclusive, as we never get to find out what happens to the man at the end.
Twenty years later, however, there are people still interested in Luke Rhinehart, the "Dice Man" of the original book. There are also people who aren't interested in anything he has to do, most notably his son Larry, who we met briefly in the original "Dice Man". Despite the actions of his father, Larry has managed to find a steady job as a Senior Trader on Wall Street and with a fiancée who happens to be the boss' daughter.
It is a steady life and Larry has for long worked on the assumption that his father is dead. Knowing no different, this is an assumption that doesn't bother him. Until one day the FBI turn up at Larry's office enquiring about the whereabouts of Luke. Stunned by the sudden realisation that his father may be alive after all, Luke sets out to find him, starting at one of the Dice Centres that his father set up. Still interested in finding Luke themselves, Larry's search, "The Search for the Dice Man" is shadowed by the FBI.
Following on from the randomness of the original "Dice Man" novel, it does come as something of a relief to discover this is written as a fairly standard novel, albeit with the occasional interlude for extracts from Luke's journal. This time around, the book is written from the point of view of the more cynical and down to earth Larry Rhinehart, rather than the flighty Luke, which keeps the style more grounded and realistic.
That said, the events described are no more real than in the original book. Larry is forced into some strange situations, largely against his will, as being the only way to track down his father. It is at this point that the novel starts heading into territory formerly inhabited by "The Dice Man", and becomes a little more random although, thankfully, this time around only in the actions it describes, rather than in the style it describes them. Fortunately, as well, Larry doesn't seem to be quite as obsessed with sex as his father and so there is less of that included, although that doesn't mean to say he's abstaining completely.
Although the style is more consistent that in the "Dice Man", the story does take a change from being a fairly simple and standard "chase" style story to being a little more varied and strange, although the basic theme does remain consistent. This means that it becomes more or less enjoyable the further you go along, depending on how you feel about the original "Dice Man" novel. It also means that if you have not read the original, you're unlikely to understand what is going on, as this isn't a sequel that stands alone.
Apart from the change of pace and direction the novel takes part way through, the most annoying thing about this book is that I can't decide whether or not I like it. The original "Dice Man" was at least consistently inconsistent, so you could expect to be kept pretty much off balance a lot of the time. With "The Search for the Dice Man", you can never be entirely sure what to expect, although this is a feeling that lessens with subsequent readings.
In many ways, this is a better written book than its predecessor. In many others, it somehow manages to be more annoying and infuriating. If you liked "The Dice Man", you may find this starts off a little light on the randomness that made the whole philosophy embraced by that book so appealing, but may be more entranced by later chapters. If you didn't like the original, quite possibly because of the weirdness of the whole idea or the constant recourse to sexual activity, you may enjoy this a little more, but you'll still find aspects that upset you first time around appearing here.
Either way, unless you really particularly hated "The Dice Man", or have never read it, this is worth looking at. Because it does fall between two stalls and is unlikely to become a favourite book, no matter how you felt about the original.
Much like the original, you'll either love it or hate it. Which you choose could well be based on how much you liked the original. But when you trust your reading material to the dice, that's the chance you take.
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