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.
©2008 Iain M. Banks (P)2011 Hachette Audio
"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)
I value intelligent stories with characters I can relate to. I can appreciate good prose, but a captivating plot is way more important.
The Culture novels get a lot of praise, and so I've tried to break into the series many times. I started in with Matter, lost interest and then tried Consider Phlebas, lost interest and then finally tried The Player of Games, which was supposed to be the best entry point into the Culture universe.
As with the first two novels I tried, I found that Banks has no interest in easing the reader into his universe. In fact, had I not already had a little bit of back story from my brief forays into his other works, I probably would have been left with a lot more questions at the end of this novel.
Thoughts on the writing style: It's somewhat engaging, accessible certainly, but far from captivating. This was not a page-turner so to speak.
There were moments, conservatively scattered, where I did find myself very invested in the protagonist... but then there were also passages that hardly even held my attention. Oddly when I tuned back in 20 minutes later, I found I really hadn't missed anything critical.
There are definitely some very clever aspects to the Culture universe. I love Banks's handling of robots- from tiny droids to powerful AI minds he them utilizes them more cleverly than almost any sci-fi writer I've encountered.
The characters and the plot seem under cooked in this novel, but Banks's unusually sharp grasp of humanity's inevitable progress in the future kept everything on track.
I realize that this is one of Banks's earlier attempts, and so I am hopeful that as I return to some of his newer works I will find that he grew into a better author regarding character development and crafting suspense.
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.
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.
The synopsis doesn't do this book justice! I wasn't sure if I would like it, but once it started it just kept building to the point that I didn't want to shut it off. And it was never predictable. Although I'm always trying to figure out what will happen next, I was regularly surprised. I'm going to seek out more by Mr. Banks.
Peter Kenny excellently captured both the gravitas of the game and the zaniness of the drones; my one complaint is that he narrates very fast, and some rewinding was required. Highly recommended.
The story had substance, but the premise was a little cheesy and anticlimactic. The story is slow and boring for 3/4 and the last 1/4 is fast and short. story is heavily focused on the title subject, at the cost of content on the games being played.
This was my first Culture novel. While the underlying plot was fairly predictable, the beauty of the story is the creatively imagined society that extends progressive politics and scientific advancement to interesting conclusions.
The introduction to The Culture society and the protagonists life style was fascinating while at the same time showing the cracks in a potential utopia. The resulting narrative story keeps you hooked, even at times where the messaging seems over the top. The ending nuances took this book from good to great
The second book of the Culture series tells the story of a serious game player (think board games, card games, etc.) who is manipulated into traveling across the Galaxy to participate in a tournament where the winner becomes Emperor of an alien civilization.
The Culture is a vast, technically advanced civilization where great machine minds keep most of the human populace living in liberty and high luxury. With all their needs provided for, the people of the Culture spend a great deal of their time in research, art, and recreation. However, a small number join "Contact," the Culture organization responsible for engaging with other civilizations and trying to peacefully share the Culture's values with them. Occasionally, Contact encounters a civilization which is either dangerously hostile or so backwards that direct engagement with the Culture could be calamitous for their less advanced neighbors. These are "Special Circumstances," and the SC group handles them.
The Azadians are indeed a backward civilization by the Culture's standards; aggressive, repressive, brutal imperialists subjugating every world they encounter. But their Empire is ordered according to the intricately complicated game of Azad. Hence SC decides the best approach might be to send in one of their top gamers... Only in the Culture, no one can be forced to do anything, and their best candidate doesn't seem to be interested.
Peter Kenny does a fantastic job voicing the characters and smoothly moving the story along.
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