Okay, this is my last Iain Banks book. I gave him two tries, and that should be enough.
Someone else mentioned that this could have been a novella. That is true and all you really need to know.
He's not a bad writer. And the book does have a satisfying conclusion. It just didn't take me in the direction I wanted it to go. Too much time was spent on inconsequential things, in my opinion. I also do not like the amount of sexual references and depravity that we see or hear mention of. Sure the Empire is a decrepit and corrupt place and needs to go, but there must have been more tasteful ways to convey that.
The personalities of the droids shine through again, and he does a good job of describing the game without getting too bogged down in details. I just don't understand why both this book and the previous one, Consider Phlebas, actually center around fringe storylines rather then really taking us through the Culture and all the vast wonders that must surely be part of it.
Alas, I don't have the patience to try another one to see if this ever happens.
Hey Audible, don't raise prices and I promise to buy lots more books.
And the winner is.... THE DROIDS!!!
Yeah, of course the best part of The Player of Games (TPoG) is the droids and how they are played by Peter Kenny who, I believe, makes this book much more than it would have been without his involvement. TPoG is Not a Game of Thrones by any stretch of the imagination nor is it even in the class of something like The Glass Bead Game of Hermann Hesse though certainly some comparison may be drawn. For example, “the game” or the rules of which, are only alluded to in each book and are so sophisticated that they are not easy to imagine. Playing the game well requires years of practice and we are lead to believe the hero of our story becomes such a master on his trip to the planet where it is played. The stakes are high, any thing from castration to death by torture, but the reward, ah yes the reward: emperor over this planet of ethnocentric, sexist, megalomaniac planet of degenerates. Sound interesting? Me thinks not. I found the performance to be excellent but what the narrator had to work with utterly moronic, waste-of-time and -credit stupid.
This was my introduction to the Iain Banks Culture. I chose this book because a reviewer said that it was a good intro to that series. I seldom give up on an author after just one book so I will continue to search for another installment in the hopes that something more than this drivel will obtain.
I've heard a fair amount of praise for this author, and this was supposed to be his best. I had tried starting with his first book (Consider Phlebas) and it failed to grab me, to the extent that I gave up around halfway through. Disappointed in that, but thinking that 'Hey, an author's early work is usually poorer,' and knowing Banks' books to be more episodic than not, I thought I would give him another chance, but alas.
It's hard for me to describe why I grow so easily bored with this author. I can say that some of it stems from feeling unattached to most of the characters, the main protagonists especially. Gurgeh, the main for this book, was too close a Mary Sue for my tastes. I cared very little as to whether he would succeed or fail, especially after some rather cartoonish efforts were made to make his opponents (a whole civilization) out to be thoroughly vile and contemptuous.
Spoilers (sort of?) from this point on.
The fact that Gurgeh was shown to be obviously capable of breezing through every obstacle in his path, yet still had to be manipulated into doing "what needed to be done", and therefore was not so much the glorious hero as a selfish but useful buffoon, didn't make him any more interesting or respectable, it just made me feel all the more disappointed for giving *his* story any attention. The perspective of his handler(s) might have been more interesting, but on the whole, the lack of any real conflict/challenge means it would likely feel stagnant either way.
I enjoyed this story greatly. The only drawback was the narrator. Was the man mainline Nguyen 5Hour Energy or what? I kept checking to see if the speed was right. It was. He just read like he had to be someplace in the next five minutes.
I would strongly suggest reading the series from start to finish. This one, however, is one of the highlights on the journey. Masterfully crafted. Beautifully written. Wonderful characters. Cutting social commentary. Brutally honest.
RIP Mr. Banks. This book has made you immortal.
I never once "phased out" and needed to rewind. I'd often find myself sitting in my car, listening, well after I'd arrived at my destination. I can't recommend this enough.
This was my first foray into the Culture series and I fell in love with the setting. The Player of Games is listed as book two, but its story is self-contained and serves as a fine introduction to the universe. Banks hands out little nuggets of information about his world as the story goes on, such that the reader is constantly intrigued by the characteristics and vast scope of The Culture without ever getting mired in heavy world-building.
The story of master game player Jernau Gurgeh is well imagined and interesting. At times while reading I thought it linear and bland, but at the conclusion of the book Banks reveals a new layer of complexity and design behind the story. I won't spoil the finish for you, but to say that The Culture is as much a character in the plot as anyone else is.
My one complaint with the story is that the characters spend much of their time playing games that are never adequately explained. I would have loved to know more about the rules and strategies of Azad and the purpose behind them. As it is, I never felt invested in the game. This hampered my enjoyment of the many game-playing sequences, though they still moved the plot along easily, and after all they aren't the most important part.
The drone Mawhrin-Skel. Kenny voices all of the drones well, but Mawhrin-Skel stood out as unique. Flere-Imsaho was also quite amusing. Kenny does a good job of navigating the made-up names of all of the characters. He pronounces them confidently, which helped minimize my confusion early in the story.
Peter Kenny's performance is one of my my favorites in my library. He is the perfect choice for the story, and handles the critical revelation at the end very, very well.
I laughed on a couple of occasions. Banks interjects moments of humor into dialogue and into a couple of narrating segments that took me pleasantly by surprise. Though far from an outright comedy, the book is written with a tone that stops just short of taking itself too seriously.
A good introduction to a classic sci-fi universe. I can't wait to start my next Culture novel.
I absolutely loved listening to this story, excitement, intrigue, and scentient machines as the protagonists.
The performance really brought the characters to life.
Well put together story with excellent twists. Banks is a great storyteller and this is an excellent second or third novel to read in the Culture series.