The Player of Games (Culture Series #2)

The Player of Games (Culture Series #2)

by Iain M. Banks


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The Culture - a human/machine symbiotic society - has thrown up many great Game Players, and one of the greatest is Gurgeh. Jernau Morat Gurgeh. The Player of Games. Master of every board, computer and strategy. Bored with success, Gurgeh travels to the Empire of Azad, cruel and incredibly wealthy, to try their fabulous game...a game so complex, so like life itself, that the winner becomes emperor. Mocked, blackmailed, almost murdered, Gurgeh accepts the game, and with it the challenge of his life - and very possibly his death.

Praise for Iain M. Banks:

"Poetic, humorous, baffling, terrifying, sexy — the books of Iain M. Banks are all these things and more" — NME

"An exquisitely riotous tour de force of the imagination which writes its own rules simply for the pleasure of breaking them." — Time Out

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780316005401
Publisher: Orbit
Publication date: 03/26/2008
Series: Culture Series , #2
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 416
Sales rank: 841
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.25(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Iain Banks came to controversial public notice with the publication of his first novel, The Wasp Factory, in 1984. Consider Phlebas, his first science fiction novel, was published under the name Iain M. Banks in 1987. He is now widely acclaimed as one of the most powerful, innovative and exciting writers of his generation.

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Player of Games 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 108 reviews.
Adam Buecher More than 1 year ago
Ive only recently discovered Banks and his Culture series. This is a very well written and unique universe. In this installment the reader is drawn into competative gaming. Banks keeps the reader riveted through action, interesting characters, and even incomprehensible alien gaming.
GeorgeK More than 1 year ago
I've just starting to get into Iain Banks fairly recently--this is the third book of his I've read. I like his writing style, and his stories are definitely different! I especially like his characterizations of aliens and robots--they really have personalities, sometimes very humorous. The Player of Games wasn't my favorite Banks sci-fi novel so far, but it's very good.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good world-building and good clash-of-cultures plot. I'm so glad I discovered Iain Banks' Culture books. I'll read most if not all of them.
JohnnyM More than 1 year ago
Player of Games continues the Culture series of Iain M. Banks sci-fi novels after Consider Phlebus, and if you read that one first, get this one next. I could live in the world of M. Banks' characters from the Culture series and you could, too. Just buy the books. JM
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is an excellent story. I highly recommed it--full of new worlds, ideas, characters and situations. Banks is fantastic. His prose is great, his characters alive.
psiloiordinary on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The second SF outing from this author and the second "culture" novel. Banks now seems to be starting to hit his stride. We see the introduction of overarching themes in much more detail than in the first book.We also start to see hints of Banks' love of innovation in writing with a few quick excerpts from strange perspectives.I loved his realisation of "the game" which whilst immersing you in the feel and structure of the play managed to give you so little detail that it could retain its realism in your imagination far better than details would have allowed. Characterisation is much better than the first book with glimpses of Banks' ability to analyse and describe reactions and emotions in illuminating precision which in reality are over and done with in a flash.I wasn't convinced after reading "Consider Phlebas", but Banks is now on my - read all books by - list.
despina on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Player of Games blew my mind - an early book for Banks and he really found his own style with this one. Probably my favorite Bank's book.
Widsith on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this one. I don't normally think of myself as a huge Banks fan, but I just thought this was sheer pleasure from start to finish.There is a rich sense of how life works under the Culture which I did not get from Consider Phlebas; and for me, the focus on a smaller number of locations made this a more satisfying book. The complex game of Azad is a great conceit, and Banks is careful to give us enough details of how it works to have some idea of what's going on, but few enough that most aspects of the game are supplied by our own imaginations. (In my head, it's a kind of cross between Stratego, Jenga, and pot-holing..)Because Banks has shown such a willingness to kill off his central characters, you can never count on a happy ending in his books, and he makes you feel grateful for any hope on offer to his collection of anti-heroes. I won't say which way this one goes, only that I found the ending very nicely handled and enormously satisfying. There is a characteristically playful twist-ette at the end, which suggests that the author likes to play games with himself as well as with the reader.Witty, hugely imaginative, smarter than genre fiction gets credit for ¿ and most of all, enormous fun.
towo on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Player of Games, Banks' second Culture novel, is an expedition into the social system of his almost omnipotent Culture, taking a look at what motivates individuals of the Culture, which is all too different, almost "enlightened", compared to normal societies.To enrichen the contrast, Banks fields a more classical society, the Empire of Azad, which still very much has concepts like biological mortality, currency and property, gender bias, social ranking, etc, and pits them against each other in a game.Quite ingenious are the sometimes less or more subtle parallels between the games the protagonist Gurgeh plays in Azad and the actual happenings, which make them seem to be more of a game than life, something which The Player of Games can (and, mostly, will) master.Anthropological aspects are a key part of the Culture novels, how much society effects its members and their perception. Only in the end Gurgeh notices the deceit around him, while the reader clearly saw what was happening, to a degree that many results seemed no great surprise. That's not what the novel is about, anyway - it's about how the way to the finishing line is perceived, and not how it actually was.
xtien on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I like all of Banks' books, with our without the M. This is a particularly nice book about a game player who gets to play the ultimate game, representing "humanity" in a clash with an alien culture. It ends in an unexpected way.
DRFP on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I was distinctly unimpressed with Consider Phlebas, the first Culture novel. Thankfully, this, the second one written, is far better. Unlike Phlebas this is a coherent novel and not a bunch of different science fiction ideas loosely hanging together. True, Banks almost lets things run away from him towards the end but he manages to reign them. I thought it a shame Gurgeh's thoughts aren't delved into in too much detail towards the end but that's a minor criticism as the plot rushes you along.So, simply very enjoyable space opera. I was wary of reading more of the Culture series are Phlebas but I'm glad I gave it a second chance. Definitely looking forward to Use of Weapons after this.
isabelx on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
When he woke up that afternoon, it was with the memory of defeat. It was some time before he recalled that he had in fact won the Stricken game. Victory had never been so bitter.The Culture is a very interesting civilisation, in which humans and intelligent machines live as equals. This was the first Culture novel that I read, and I have gradually been acquiring the others since then, although I've only read the short stories in "The State of the Art" so far.
selfnoise on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The shortest and most tightly written of the Culture novels. Probably the finest in terms of pure enjoyment... the novel is both a fascinating exploration of an exotic culture and a terrific, suspenseful puzzle.
closedmouth on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The narrative is good, but I felt disconnected from the main idea, that of the games. Banks takes on an impossible task in describing "the most complex game in the universe", so much of the action is a variation on the phrase "X made his move and it was a good/bad one". He also takes a lot of shortcuts with the overly humanoid aliens which I never quite managed to swallow. I'm also not into board games in the slightest, so even the idea of it was kinda dull, and the denouement is pretty OTT. It's well-written for the most part, but I guess it's not really my book, unfortunately.
Anome on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
For me, this is the strongest of the Culture books to date.
JudithProctor on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I read this book as an antidote to 'The Game Players of Titan' and it was much better. Banks's games are never described in enough detail to be able to play them, but the overall feel is of games with depth. eg. An early game in the book is based on the four-colour map problem.Gurgeh is not a totally likeable character, but he is believable, and all the more believable in that he isn't perfect. His Culture is advanced enough to be able to supply all a person's needs, thus, equality is a given. It's hard for him to relate to a world in which people don't have total freedom, but when he encounters such a world the possibilities of power start to intrigue him.The Empire of Azad is based around success in the game of Azad and Gurgeh - the best games player in the Culture - is 'persuaded' by Contact to go and play Azad.Contact are a devious bunch, and very good at hiding what they actually intend...How much of the time is Gurgeh doing what he wants, and how much of the time is he doing what Contact want?I enjoyed this book (stayed up late to finish it) and it's definitely worth reading more than once.
Goldengrove on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Iain M Banks is the version of his name that Iain Banks uses for his sci-fi novels, and this one is set in the milieu of The Culture - a sophisticated society from the future where crime is almost unknown (it's such a social faux pas to be accompanied everywhere by a sentient drone - no one invites you to parties!), and the most intelligent beings are electronic Minds that control vast interstellar vessels.Jernau Morat Gurgeh - the game player - is bored. But when he takes up the offer to play the ultimate game, a game so engrossing that an entire empire is not only named after it, but ultimately based upon it, he finds his understanding of life and its meaning changed forever. My third reading of this extraordinary book makes me think I'd understood it even less than I thought, but does not change the enormous enjoyment of Banks' imaginative and descriptive powers. In fact, 'descriptive' is almost an insult - he displays to the nth degree that essential skill of the writer: to show, not to tell. Whether Gurgeh is safely on his home Orbital, or outwitting the game playing colleges of Ea, the reader is there alongside him. It's sort of book that lodges inside and changes the outlook. I will definitely be reading it a fourth time.
moontyger on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I'm really divided on this book. It didn't really grab me until about page 200 and I never did really like the main character. (For a guy living in a utopia based around tolerance, he's sure kind of sexist. But not having read any other Culture books, I cannot say if that's a recurring problem or just this character.)OTOH, the world of the Culture and the general ideas of the book are intriguing, enough that I wanted to finish once I really got into it.
geertwissink on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Very entertaining - finished the book in a couple of evenings, the book has a quick pace, finding myself staying up too late after being totally absorbed by the story. Negatives: the main character is quite dull and there's a very irritating voice-over at some points in the story and at the end. But these are only minor disruptions in a great story.
meersan on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Discontented professional games player from a hedonist space civ topples fascist empire ruled by not-as-good games players.
jonathon.hodge on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A masterclass in leading the reader to a startling conclusion. Left an impression years after I finished it.
KevlarRelic on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The protagonist has his PhD in board games, meaning that he gets picked to contact a newly discovered society whose culture is based on the most complex board game imaginable. I liked learning about the games and hearing the strategies. The world building was entertaining as well. The plot was intriguing and the ending was exciting. Good book.
bezoar44 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This story explores themes of competition and dominance, both between individuals and between societies. The main character is not a pleasant person; his raw skill as a game player is attractive, but he is remarkably insensitive and shortsighted, which is perhaps part of the point. The plot involves games within games, including a narrator who may or may not be reliable.
mgreenla on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The player of games is played like a pawn by the AI of the Culture to help topple a empire. My second Culture novel, looking forward to adding more to the collection.
TimONeill on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Possibly the sharpest and perhaps the bleakest of Bainks' socially satirical brand of science fiction. It doesn't take too long to recognise our own culture in the nastier aspects of Azad and its cut-throat "game" that decides who rules its despotic system. Then again, the Culture itself comes out of this one looking even more morally ambiguous than ever and the protagonist isn't exactly a knight in shining armour. Some amazing scenes, characteristically bizarre elements and sharp wit, but blacker than many of the rest of the Culture novels.