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The Player of Games (Culture) Paperback – March 26, 2008
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Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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But there are still parts of the galaxy, or at least parts of the Magellanic Clouds, where the Culture has not yet gained influence. Those parts of the Galaxy are the business of Contact, the part of the very loose government of the Culture that deals with alien civilizations. And in the difficult cases, Special Circumstances steps in to solve the problem. "Special Circumstances," like most names in Banks' books, is a euphemism: "Special Circumstances" isn't bound by the legal, moral or cultural constraints that bind the rest of the Culture.
Gurgeh, the protagonist, is recruited, perhaps blackmailed, by Special Circumstances to help Contact with an awkwardly difficult alien culture. The Azadians present a space-faring civilization, less advanced than the Culture but still powerful, whose entire ethos is based on The Game. Social position, military rank, governmental power, wealth; all of Azad is based on one's performance in The Game. Gurgeh is one of the Culture's best games players. Special Circumstances sends Gurgeh to Azad to compete in The Game.
At one level, Banks is writing about the effect of an advanced culture on a less advanced one. At another, he is having fun with a traditional space opera culture that is in contact with his more subtle and sophisticated one. At another, he is poking fun at traditional SF authors.Read more ›
The above aside, the story is compelling, the writing superb, and the author's premise intelligent without being condescending or dense. Banks has created a version of Utopia, called the Culture, and thought it through quite well. Ownership and status have been eliminated, there's plenty of space, there's equality (even sentient machines share the same status as humans), people can internally create whatever drugs/state of mind they need/want and even select their gender, and people are happy and engaged. So when Jernau Gergeh, a professional game player, is recruited to play the game of Azad in the far-distant empire of Azad, he is reluctant to leave his home for the five years the game will take. But Gurgeh does leave, and Azad turns out to be a civilization much more like our own than that of the Culture. Azad is hierarchical, crowded and violent, and status is everything.
One of the interesting things that Banks has done is to make us recognize ourselves in the empire of Azad, while still finding ways to make the Azadians different than the alien races one so often finds in mediocre science fiction writing. For one thing, the Azadians have three genders. Banks also focuses on the difference between the languages of the Culture and the empire, and how language may shape thought.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Not quite as good as some of the other culture books, but I am glad to have read it.Published 3 days ago by George F Miller
This was my first novel of the Culture series. I felt that it was a great introduction to this universe that the author has created, and that the ideas in this book are very... Read morePublished 27 days ago by Indigo
I had to read this for an English class and actually enjoyed it. This is one of the few mandatory books I had to read that I didn't just skim over or speed read just to get through... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Emilio Molina
If you want a book that's an enjoyable space opera romp, this is the book for you. It isn't particularly deep or mentally challenging, buts its enjoyable for what it is.Published 1 month ago by Lisa Van Tuyl
This book starts out slow and feels lacking in purpose but slowly builds to a brilliant and unexpected climax. Read morePublished 1 month ago by C. Scott
This book is Asimovian in featuring as its protagonist not the main character or the action, but the idea of an entire society. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Ryan C. Reich