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The Search for the Dice Man - Luke Rhinehart

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Author: Luke Rhinehart / Genre: Fiction

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    3 Reviews
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      02.08.2007 16:42
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      A far more ordinary sequel to a classic book

      Given that I’m writing my doctoral thesis on random decision methods, it was perhaps unsurprising that when I read Luke Rhinehart’s earlier novel, The Dice Man, after completing my Masters, I very much enjoyed it, both as a novel and for further intellectual stimulation (but that’s in my separate review). Unfortunately, I don’t get time to read a great many novels, and had several others higher on my list, so it was only during a recent bout of illness that I finally embarked on the sequel, The Search for the Dice Man. On the back of the original, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but was relatively surprised – especially after the preface – to find that The Search for the Dice Man is an almost disappointingly normal novel. Whereas The Dice Man was often as random as its subject matter, and full of interesting asides and digressions, the only trace of that left here are the occasional entries from Luke’s journal, appearing between chapters as brief interludes and insights into dice-living. You won’t understand or enjoy much of this story if you haven’t read its predecessor, which is a shame in a way as I could imagine many people who disliked the original would prefer this. To briefly recap, however, Luke Rhinehart was an eccentric psychiatrist who pioneered a radical form of therapy in which patients used dice to make decisions – what to wear, what to do, whether to rape their neighbour… See how this caused trouble? His argument was that we are stifled by social conformity and the need for a unified, consistent self. Instead, we need to break free from these shackles, and embrace spontaneity. While we cannot live out all of our desires, we can do the next best thing – use dice to choose between them. The cult he created caused quite a stir in the 1970s (described in the first book). The Search for the Dice Man, set around the first Iraq war, opens many years later. But for a few crackpot dice colonies, Luke’s theories are widely forgotten, and the man himself reported dead. His son, Larry, a child in the first book, who has had hardly any contact with his father in fifteen years, in now a successful Wall Street futures trader, who could hardly be more different from Luke in using methodical performance indicators, rather than dice, to dictate his share trading. Larry’s life takes a sudden, unexpected twist, however, when two FBI agents turn up at his office to ask if he knows anything about the whereabouts or activities of the father he’d assumed dead. With his seemingly safe existence – including job and engagement to the boss’ daughter – now apparently under threat by his father’s risky activities, Larry decides he has to try to find Luke. The search, however, leads him on quite a merry chase, and forces him to confront feelings about his father, his past generally, his own feelings to risks and, ultimately, to make a choice between the safe and ordered life he had and one of chance and adventure. As I said, this is more of a traditional story, with an obviously linear (if not predictable) plot and relatively consistent characters. Encounters with a few dice-people, including familiar faces such as Jake and Arlene Ecstein, provide some unpredictability, but not to anything like the extent of Luke’s random changes in the first novel. Unfortunately, I’d suspect this would be of more appeal to those who didn’t like the original for this very reason, but that won’t be much good because if they didn’t read or enjoy it they’re unlikely to read this. Some things are quite different. There’s certainly much less obsession with, or description of, sex in this book, which is probably a good thing – mainly just the occasional lingering emphasis on some woman’s breasts or behinds. This means fewer of the rather unusual euphemistic descriptions too, though the one that does stick in the minds is a cracker – describing a ‘rough patch’ with the fiancée, Honoria, in the terms of Wall Street, Larry says she “seemed to have an outbreak of evening meetings that prevented her coming over to may apartment, where in the past we’d enjoyed my becoming a bull and going long and using maximum leverage, and Honoria making an opening offer, splitting her stock, getting her fill, and short squeezing, all leading to powerful upward thrusts in the all important markets and a final go-for-broke consummation of the merger” (pp.260-1/ch.42). The general social observation may also be toned down too, though there are still some remarks on the comparative order and sanity of Manhattan compared to random dice-living, and Jeff’s religious and moral conversions are truly interesting, while the out-of-their-depth FBI agents had me laughing quietly a few times as well. Ultimately, The Search for the Diceman is a perfectly decent novel, that somehow pales in comparison to its predecessor. While, in many ways, its better written, and I could see why many (who didn’t much like the first) would prefer it, at the end of the day the fact is I simply didn’t find it so interesting. Of course, perhaps I’m looking for the wrong thing – this book provides very little pseudo-philosophy of chance/dice-living. Some may welcome that, preferring an emphasis on the story; however I enjoyed the former not simply on the level of plot and character, but for intellectual stimulation which is lacking here. Worth a read if you enjoyed the first, but you won’t find it life-changing. 381 pages. RRP £7.99. I bought it on Amazon for £5.99. ISBN 0006513913

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        07.10.2005 09:02
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        The sequel to the intriguing "The Dice Man"

        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, I’d recommend paying as little for it as possible, avoiding the £6.39 of Amazon and the £5.99 of Play.com in favour of Amazon Marketplace’s £4.66 or, even better, the £1.45 copies have sold for on eBay. 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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          01.04.2001 03:28
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          It's 20 or so years since the end of "The Diceman", and Larry (son of "The Diceman") has grown up and rebelled against the chaotic lifestyle/religion initiated by his father by living a nicely ordered life with a good job (something in the city), complete with generous salary and suitable fiancee. Don't you just know it's not gonna stay that way?? The arrival of the FBI looking for his supposedly dead father upsets his boss (who also just happens to be his father-in-law-to-be), so Larry decides to track down Luke, dead or alive. His journey takes him via some old friends of Lukes, to the DiceCentres (set up to train people in living by the Dice) and beyond (both geographically and personally). And did I mention he gets some help from the very attractive, impulsive cousin of his fiancee....? "Search for the Diceman" is a great book, with parts written by both Larry and Luke, and is a worthy successor to "The Diceman". It's more of a story than its predecessor, with less of the the psychological DiceTheory and more action. It's also a bit of a mystery as well, as we don't find out if Luke is alive or dead until the end (no, I'm not going to give it away here, read it for yourself!). Overall, I would recommend this to anyone, but read "The Diceman" first, or all this Dice talk could be a little confusing!

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        • Product Details

          The sequel to the cult classic The Dice Man. Larry Rhinehart is the son of an infamous father - psychiatrist Luke Rhinehart, otherwise known as the Dice Man. Luke became a cult figure in the seventies, inspiring thousands to follow him into the anarchic world of Dice Living, where every decision is made not by the self, but by the roll of the dice. Larry, however, is emphatically not a follower. He has grown up to have a great respect for order and control. A wealthy Wall Street analyst, all set to marry the boss's daughter, Larry has got life where he wants it. Until rumours begin to circulate about the reappearance of his long-vanished father -- and Larry's carefully organized world begins to look a lot less certain.