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The Player of Games (Culture, 2) Paperback – March 26, 2008
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About the Author
- Publisher : Orbit; Reprint edition (March 26, 2008)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 416 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0316005401
- ISBN-13 : 978-0316005401
- Item Weight : 12.8 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.5 x 1 x 8.25 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #86,524 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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I loved this book and the world Banks has set up so very much. The game player in this book is named Jernau Morat Gurgeh. He is considered one of the best game players in the galaxy. Through a series of circumstances, he is recruited/forced to play a top secret high-stakes game in another star system, Azad. However the “game” he is playing is anything but just for fun. The planet’s society, politics, religion, and very existence hinge of the outcome of the conclusion of the tournament.
What I found fascinating about this novel is that the tone is extremely different from the other Culture novel that I read. That one was full of action and multiple settings and a dare-devil protagonist. In this one, Gurgeh is a thinker and philosopher of games. He likes his routine and current lifestyle. He is an unwilling game participant at first but becomes engrossed as he gets more and more involved in the life and game of Azad. Yet the background of the Culture makes this book as compelling as the first novel in spite or maybe because of these differences.
I am not a huge game theory fan so the game itself did not always have me focus. But what certainly did were the politics and interactions of the characters. The Culture world has a “humanoid/machine symbiotic society.” Yet Azad is more primitive. I loved Gurgeh and his attitude of almost nonchalance towards everyone else. The game is the only thing for him.
I also loved his robot friend, Chamlis, who is crazy old and lovable for a machine. Gurgeh’s machine ambassador, Flere-Imsaho was also a hoot. He spends his free time bird watching and the remainder of the time trying to keep Gurgeh from making political and social blunders. He also has to hide what he is and he made me laugh with his complaints. I love the spaceship, Limiting Factor. Basically all the machines in this novel have fantastic and distinct personalities. They were nice contrasts to Gurgeh’s own personality.
There is no major way to explain the plot any further due to its complexity. This book was a fast read and I think the writing is superb. Needless to say I recommend the two culture novels I have read so far and I certainly shall be reading more in the series.
Apparently there are 10 books in total. Only 8 to go. But I shall take me time with them to savor the Culture flavor.
Side note: Apparently Mr. Banks passed away in 2013 from cancer. Boo-hiss! Cancer sucks. But I am grateful he left behind a whole world for me to explore.
Okay, but it's made pretty clear that the Culture is doing all this more-or-less as a hobby, trying to take down the empire in the subtlest way when it really doesn't need to. We see for instance that the hero could teleport to safety easily and that a frisbee-sized robot could probably slaughter an imperial army. So while the minimum-force approach is interesting, it doesn't feel like the hero or the Culture is ever in any real danger, and is only acting out of monumental boredom.
So I didn't care much. It was at least interesting to see the Culture and the enemy empire, and the concept of the game of Azad itself is a cool one.
After a short interval to reflect, I've now read the second book in the series: "The Player Of Games," in which Banks has done a great job of laying out the basic precepts of his universe. I now have a much better understanding and appreciation for the complexity and scale of his vision. Indeed, I can now grasp some of the actions taken by various characters in "Consider Phlebas" and the story makes better sense to me in reflection. While the first book had autonomous "Minds" and petulant "Drones," they all seemed fanciful and somewhat nonsensical. Now I more clearly understand their actions and motives.
As for the actual story, "Player Of Games" is a tightly structured examination of one individual, the ultimate strategist and grand wizard of gaming in the galaxy. This is his story as he is inserted into a barbaric and backward empire whose social structures, religions and politics all center around a complex series of games (or one large game) from which all wealth, privilege and power is derived. Is he there as an ambassador, a subversive spy for The Culture, or just to play the game? Even he doesn't know for sure. The characters are great, the story is complex yet very fast paced and highly entertaining. There are no slow spots - just taught story telling of the highest caliber.
As with all great science fiction, there are plenty of corollaries and allusions to our real world issues, which ultimately makes the book worth reading; more than just a ripping good yarn. If you're like me, a relative newcomer to The Culture books, I cannot imagine there is a better place to start than with "The Player Of Games." I wish I had read it first, as it has given me a greater appreciation for Phlebas. I'm well an truly hooked now, and will plow on through the rest of the series with great anticipation.
Top reviews from other countries
Banks at his best has the ability to mix thought-provoking subject with gripping narratives and a wondrous imagination. I also feel that the books have a fantastical nature to them. By this, I refer to the portrayal of a world which the reader longs to be part of.
Anyone wanting to enter the Culture universe would do well to first read Banks' online essay on the Culture: "A FEW NOTES ON THE CULTURE". It's good background to the concepts introduced by the books without in any way containing spoilers.
I'm going to drop this series, I was under the impression that Ian M Banks was a great scifi author but so far I have seen nothing to suggest this, and I do not wish to continue with the Culture series.
This novel focuses on Gurgeh, a man who plays games at the highest level, who travels to a distant planetary system - the Acadian Empire - to compete in the game which shapes their society. This is a society utterly unlike the Culture - cruel, hierarchical, hypocritical - a kind of horrid blend of ancient Rome and totalitarian regimes today.
Once there Gurgeh faces challenges unlike anything he has every experienced before. The novel races along with page turning narrative, conjuring up one mental image after another. It is fantastic reading, and hasn't aged a day.