The Dice Man was another book that I picked up because I adored the concept as presented by the blurb. Having had that method of picking books to read backfire on me more recently, I came to this perhaps a little more warily than I may have initially picked it up. But I am ever optimistic, so the book was not to be abandoned regardless of wary preconceptions.
Presented as an autobiography, The Dice Man follows Luke Rhinehart, a respected psychiatrist and happily married father of two, who finds that despite his life being successful in all areas deemed socially acceptable he is unhappy and bored. Whilst drunk one night, he decides to base his next decision on the roll of the dice: roll a one and he is to have sex with his colleague’s wife, roll any other number and he is to go to bed and continue life as normal. When he gets a one, he finds that leaving the decision-making to chance has opened up possibilities that he could never have expected.
Having now finished reading The Dice Man, I find myself a little lost with regards to how it should be reviewed. Because the issue with a main character who compulsively bases his decisions and behaviour on dice rolls can’t really have a character arc as such. While your average novel would focus on a change from one status quo to another via a period of conflict. So when your main character has their character arc within the first third of the novel, transitioning from regular socialised human being to a diceman, the rest of the novel becomes watching the rest of the world reject or accept the radically different main character. While that can be an interesting prospect, I will admit that it does make the events of the novel blur somewhat. It was by no means uninteresting, but when your protagonist’s reaction to every major decision is “as the Dice wills” then the only way for them to have any meaning is by measuring the reactions of secondary characters, all of whom are essentially pitied by not being dicepeople. So yeah, I can see why a lot of readers would find this a bit on the bloated side.
Another thing to consider when picking up The Dice Man is that it is set in the late 1960s-early 1970s, and the attitudes really reflect this. It’s weird how things like black-suffrage and the anti-Vietnam protests are mentioned, but don’t really get much focus beyond “I work in a mental facility and many of these people are sectioned”. Honestly, it can get a bit uncomfortable with how unsympathetically they can be portrayed at times. Probably not a thing that you’d want to focus on for your psychology novel, but perhaps a bit unfortunate.
The only thing that honestly bothers me is that the book doesn’t so much end as stop. In the middle of a sentence too. While I don’t think that the subject matter would ever really allow for a proper, satisfying ending, I do somewhat object to stopping in the middle of a sentence.
A weird novel that kind of defies definition. While an interesting concept, it does suffer from the fact that the main character’s changes are all artificially dictated, so the majority of the novel’s events suffer from blurring together. Might still be worth it if you are ready for this when first picking it up. 3/5
Next review: The Benson Murder Case by S. S. Van Dine