The Player of Games (Culture Series #2)

The Player of Games (Culture Series #2)

by Iain M. Banks


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The Player of Games (Culture Series #2) by Iain M. Banks

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: 110,369
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 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 82 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.
tikitu-reviews on LibraryThing 4 days ago
From what I've read (mainly Abigail Nussbaum's blog "Asking the Wrong Questions", where she's reviewed some three or four other Banks offerings), this is a fairly standard Banks novel of The Culture. The Culture is a utopian interstellar civilisation and Banks is very cynically exposing the nastier side of that picture.The "player of games" of the title, Jernau Gurgeh, is blackmailed into acting as an ambassador for the Culture to a feudal empire founded on the playing of an extremely complicated game, used basically to regulate a caste and class system. As (I gather from Nussbaum) is frequently the case, Gurgeh's handlers do want something particular from his work as ambassador (slash spy), but don't want to tell him precisely what's wanted. Instead they manipulate him just as they are manipulating the empire, and leave both rather the worse for wear.The cynical anti-utopian politics are rather predictable, and the plot more or less likewise, but I did enjoy the character Gurgeh very much. He's heroic in precisely one dimension, his ability to learn and master games, but the rest of his personality is neither heroically pure nor tragically flawed -- he's just as complicated and just as simple as most folks, which makes a welcome change from so much sf. On the downside, for a real game theorist the descriptions of games are both painfully vague and laughably unimaginative, and the sociology of the empire is painted with an equally broad brush.All in all, I enjoyed it but I wasn't wildly impressed.
name99 on LibraryThing 4 days ago
As you'd expect from Banks, interesting, entertaining and innovative stuff.Much like _Consider Phlebas_ while reading this I got occasional twinges of deja vu, though the recollection wasn't as strong as when reading that earlier book. Memory is a strange thing.
nakmeister on LibraryThing 4 days ago
"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.Boerd 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" A brilliant and fascinating science fiction novel from Iain Banks. It's an extremely clever novel, the best that I've read by this author.
Karlstar on LibraryThing 4 days ago
This ie one of Banks' more 'human' Culture novels. As usual, his characters are excellent and the universe he builds sweeps you along with the story. A bit of a departure from his usual AI-centric and warfare centric novels.
kryptikrayg on LibraryThing 4 days ago
Who is the player,who is the pawn?The essence of the Culture is defined most clearly in this lyrical tale.Who/what are/is the culture?If you haven't yet been "contacted" this novel serves as the perfect introduction(you lucky barbarian).
clong on LibraryThing 4 days ago
I've always liked, and been pretty darn good at, games of strategy, probability, tactics, alliance, and the like. So a couple of the basic premises of the book really appealed to me. . . things like the existence of a society where being a player of these kinds of games could be your principal occupation (complete with at least a faint echo of the fan adulation and media coverage we give to professional athletes), not to mention the idea of an empire in which the Emperor is selected (and retains his/her/its position) through a massive strategy game tournament. The protagonist Gurgeh was an interesting character, complicated and not always likable, a many-layered character that was revealed slowly. Banks did a good job of taking the reader along with Gurgeh as he made mistakes, changed opinions, and at times rode an emotional roller coaster. It was fairly easy to see that the drone Mawhrin-Skel was not what it claimed to be, and that rather Gurgeh himself was being manipulated by the powers that be of the Culture for their own agenda. I also found the Azad society, and how it interacts with the outsider, to be intriguing, if not always believable. The "Fire Planet," the setting on which the final round of the tournament was played, was very cool. So there were a lot of things to like about this, but not everything. The sexual politics issues of the three sex Azad society would have been handled much more effectively by an author like Ursula Le Guin. I was disappointed in the final scenes, and in particular Nicosar's meltdown. Gurgeh's romantic interest Yay seemed to be a completely superfluous character. And the hidden depravity of the Azad culture seemed needlessly over done and heavy-handed. In the end, the Culture came off more sympathetically in this book than in the others I have read in the series. But The Player of Games left me more confused than ever as to who is running the show. All in all, quite an enjoyable book, if not really in the same class as Use of Weapons (which to date is by far my favorite Culture book).
topps on LibraryThing 11 days ago
In The Player of Games, Iain M. Banks presents a distant future that could almost be called the end of history. Humanity has filled the galaxy, and thanks to ultra-high technology everyone has everything they want, no one gets sick, and no one dies. It's a playground society of sports, stellar cruises, parties, and festivals. Jernau Gurgeh, a famed master game player, is looking for something more and finds it when he's invited to a game tournament at a small alien empire. Abruptly Banks veers into different territory. The Empire of Azad is exotic, sensual, and vibrant. It has space battle cruisers, a glowing court--all the stuff of good old science fiction--which appears old-fashioned in contrast to Gurgeh's home. At first it's a relief, but further exploration reveals the empire to be depraved and terrifically unjust. Its defects are gross exaggerations of our own, yet they indict us all the same. Clearly Banks is interested in the idea of a future where everyone can be mature and happy. Yet it's interesting to note that in order to give us this compelling adventure story, he has to return to a more traditional setting. Thoughtful science fiction readers will appreciate the cultural comparisons, and fans of big ideas and action will also be rewarded
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good heady stuff from start to finish.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Some of the best sci-fi
Go4Jugular More than 1 year ago
This is a clever sci-fi novel with a particularly interesting element of game-playing, initially on a personal level for the somewhat enigmatic main character Jernau Gurgeh, then on a societal level as our hero is sent to represent the Culture in its encounter with a militarily powerful but morally suspect Empire. The science fiction elements are strong and the descriptions of both the games and the game-play are interesting, with good action and a plot that moves along at a steady pace. Throughout, the idea of the Culture and the reader's understanding of what it represents and how it works grows - I anticipate subsequent novels will continue to expand on this understanding.
Ethanator More than 1 year ago
This is my second Culture novel (after Consider Phlebas), and I'm definitely on my way to becoming a Banks fanboy (or perhaps a member of the Culture Club?). The idea of the Culture is just so cool. It's a post-scarcity anarcho-socialist paradise that accommodates a vast diversity of humanoid and AI citizens. The Culture isn't an extrapolated Earth future, but rather a galactic civilization that is (at least in Banks's universe) out there right now. If it were out there, I wish we'd join up, at least if they'd have us. For all my (and Banks's?) enthusiasm for the Culture, Consider Phlebas and The Player of Games do occasionally delve into nagging questions about whether Culture citizens are perhaps a bit smug in their superiority and how exactly a behemoth of a free, egalitarian society like the Culture should coexist with less egalitarian societies. But what about this book? Let me start by comparing The Player of Games (PG) with Consider Phlebas(CP). The plot of PG is structured more conventionally, which makes it a lot easier to follow and relate to than CP, so it might be an easier place to start one's journey into the Culture. On the other hand, the protagonist of CP is not a Culture citizen, so the outsider's perspective is maybe a better introduction to the Culture. Gurgeh (the protagonist of PG) is grumpier than most Culture people, but he is (as he discovers along the way) very much a Culture person. Both books have a fair amount of wry humor, especially with the drones (who I love) and even the names of the ships, some of which are hilarious. The Player of Games focuses on Gurgeh, a game player who's growing tired of all the same old games (he's not a "professional" since nobody in the Culture needs to work for a living, but game playing is his main occupation). Special Circumstances (the Culture's answer to MI-6 or the CIA) contacts him with the prospect of playing a game like no other: the game of Azad, which is not only exceedingly complex, but actually forms the basis of political power in the Empire of Azad - yes, the Empire gets its name from the game. One becomes an Emperor by being the best Azad player. Lots of culture clashes (pun intended?) and hilarity ensue as Gurgeh and his AI companions interact with the hierarchical, often cruel society of Azad. I'd really recommend this book to anyone who loves games and what they can tell us about ourselves. It's also just a great deal of well-written science fiction fun! I'm really excited to see what the rest of the Culture novels have in store.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I could not help but be drawn into this story. It is all the more poignant with news of the author's passing less than a week ago. This book is a part of the Culture series of works and like all of this series it does not disappoint.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A fun pleasure read. Not as intense as Culture 1. Ian M. Banks is the best. RIP.
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