The Dice Man is a cult novel written by Luke Rhinehart in 1971. The protagonist is also called Luke Rhinehart, but it is a fictional role and is by no means autobiographical.

In the story Luke Rhinehart is a psychiatrist bored by the routine and order of his life. He has a wife, two children and a decent home. He is writing a book on sadomasochism. All this changes when one night upon spotting what he believes to be a die under a playing card, he resolves that if the item is a die and the upfacing number is a one, he will go downstairs and rape his friend Arlene, who lives in the flat below. The die does indeed show a one and then Luke does indeed go downstairs to rape Arlene.

Slowly Luke gets more and more into the idea of letting the die decide what he does. It orders him to do all manner of strange things. Luke justifies these actions by saying he is experimenting in the human personality and what happens if it is removed. Eventually, Luke's entire life is ruled by the dice as they make him do ever more extreme things.

The novel raises a lot psychological questions about what would happen if everyone acted in a completely random way. It challenges the notions of order and predictability. To help stress this, the novel itself is written in quite a random way. It spontaniously jumps from first person to third person and has a variable writing style.

Over the years The Dice Man has gained a cult following. The Discovery Channel aired a program called The Diceman which was a travel show inspired by the novel. Many fan sites have appeared and there is the usenet forum alt.fan.dice-man (actually the hero-worship of comedian Andrew "Dice" Clay. (thanks Anark)

The dice man, by Luke Rhinehart, published by Harper Collins

On the cover of this book there are three lines of text. One is the title; the second is the author and the third advertises the author of the book as "Novelist of the century" – Loaded.

I should have known what to expect. Nevertheless, I had a lot of time on my hands; a friend had given me the book and I started reading.

I have to conclude that this is an ideal book for someone who has plenty of time and doesn't want to over-tax their brain. And likes fast cars and wears check shirts and thinks Britney Spears is a great artiste. And he must have a penis.

OK, so I do have a penis, but I didn’t like the book. I have to tell you why. First, the whole premise is completely unbelievable. Second. It's a book designed to appeal to a fairly specific audience; the audience of Loaded. Third, it's just too long.

So why do I think it’s aimed at the Loaded audience, even though it was written in 1971, well before Loaded was even conceived? Mostly because there’s a lot of sex in the book. Sex with boys, sex with girls, sex with toys; group sex, anal sex, gay sex, straight sex, sex with virgins; sex with prostitutes, sex with nymphomaniacs, BDSM sex.. need I go on?

The other reason is that the sex is always wonderful to the protagonists, but leaves the reader somewhat unsatisfied. The following passage is, perhaps, the best of Rhinehart’s sex scenes. I should explain that Rhinehart has, at the behest of the dice, just killed his old friend Osterflood with poisoned whisky during a marathon SM session with the prostitute-dominatrix, Gina.

Canned, hilarious laughter from the TV flowed hilariously across the room along the rug bubbling hilariously over Osterflood’s twisted torso up Gina’s long sweat and semen-stained legs, over taut, dripping breasts, over my wet mouth, drooling on her neck down my moisture-streaked chest and belly to bubble and reverberate hilariously at last in the endless sensual roll and moil of my mighty oiled meat in the fold upon fold of Gina’s molten, honeyed, holy-motioned, slow-rolling holy bowl. She was moaning now, holding the belt lifelessly at her thigh; I was growing and flowing in that holy motion of creation, my hands sliding around her weary arms to enclose her moistened round rubbery taut-tipped mounds.

Hilarious, I’m sure but hardly a turn-on. To be fair, the book does have some funny moments when Rhinehart manages to think of something other than sex. There are a few laugh-out loud moments, but in 550 pages or so, they are like nuggets of gold extracted from the dirty, grimy ore.

There are some gentler examples of humour, some of it a bit sick, but funny nonetheless, like when Rhinehart is about to be thrown out of his professional society. An ancient member of the council votes in Rhinehart's favour, preventing the blackballing, but then dies. The anecdote is well-told and induces a gentle smile. Rhinehart also manages some clever digs at various aspects of modern urban society, such as America's love-affair with psychoanalysis. In another positive, the basic premise might well appeal to men of a certain age.

That premise is that we do what society expects; not because we want to do, but because non-conformity means social exclusion and professional suicide. Rhinehart starts the book as a respectable professional approaching a mid-life crisis. The crisis is resolved by his decision to allow a dice to make a few small decisions for him. As the book continues as he steadily relinquishes more and more control over his life to the dice. As he does so, he loses his grip on his well-ordered middle-class life. Gradually, other people start to adopt the same approach. Eventually, with the support of an eccentric millionaire, Rhinehart and his friends establish centres which are temples to 'the dice-life' as Rhinehart calls his abrogation of responsibility.

Because Rhinehart and his colleagues are psychiatrists, the author introduces some pseudo-intellectual discussion about the personality and the ego and how releasing personal decisions to the dice can release the personality from the problematic influences, but it’s pretty superficial.

In the end, the book brought to mind nothing more high-brow than the series of cheap, soft-porn movies popular in the UK in the 1970s, Confessions of a Plumber, hairdresser or whatever. In those, the star (always male) went from sexual encounter to sexual encounter, with the women (in those days it was all hetero) always dropping their knickers either willingly or after a brief protest. The girl was always left wanting more, while the plumber (or hairdresser or whatever) moved on to the next conquest with no commitment or emotion or understanding.

Early in his dice life, Rhinehart lets the die decide that he will go to the apartment downstairs and rape his best friend’s wife. Guess what? She has huge jiggly, bouncy breasts. Guess what else? She has been nurturing a rape fantasy for years. Guess what else? She’s sex-starved, because her husband can only manage it once a month and she has a stratospheric sex –drive. Guess what else? She loves it. Guess what else? They start doing it regularly. Up the ass, deep throating, in threesomes, oh yeah, I think they did it straight once as well.

Next encounter comes as a result of some research into personality. One of the experiments involves Terry, a young catholic girl. A virgin. Rhinehart himself performs the initiation (poor, unfortunate man that he is). Within 30 minutes, the girl is sucking one guy off while Rhinehart proposes multiple orifice sex with the immortal words, "Is your ass as warm and juicy as your cunt, Terry?"

The encounters go on, and on, and on. To the point of utter boredom.

Perhaps you have got some sense by now of why Loaded thinks Rhinehart is a better novelist than, say Murakami Haruki. In any case, if you are looking for a series of poorly-written sexual encounters under the guise of a lifestyle novel wrapped up in some psychiatric pseudo-babble, this is the novel for you. If not, then I’d strongly recommend you give it a miss.

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