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The Player of Games | [Iain M. Banks]

The Player of Games

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.
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Publisher's Summary

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

What the Critics Say

"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)

What Members Say

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4.3 (434 )
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  •  
    Robert Yamhill, OR, United States 06-22-12
    Robert Yamhill, OR, United States 06-22-12 Member Since 2009

    Hey Audible, don't raise prices and I promise to buy lots more books.

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    "And the winner is... THE DROIDS!!! Yayyy... Boooo"

    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.

    3 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Joshua mcleansville, NC, United States 01-07-12
    Joshua mcleansville, NC, United States 01-07-12 Member Since 2011

    www.newimperium.org

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    "Should have been shorter or longer"

    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.

    3 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Paul Helotes, TX, United States 08-23-14
    Paul Helotes, TX, United States 08-23-14 Member Since 2014
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    "Good, but could have been more."

    A master game player in the Culture, Gurgeh, is manipulated to play the game of Azad in the Empire of Azad, a game that determines status and success. Gurgeh does very well and ultimately begins to win the game against the emperor himself. A person's skill at the game is a reflection of their values. The implication is that a member of the Culture (which treats everyone equally, even drones) has higher values than a member of the empire (which is highly discriminatory). At the end, Gurgeh learns a little bit about his manipulation and has the opportunity to learn the whole truth, but doesn't seem too interested.

    I sort of figured out half way through the novel what was going on, and I hoped that Gurgeh, rather than being manipulated, was in fact secretly manipulating the drones and everyone else. After all, he is one of the best game players of all time. He should have the ability to see life as a game and position himself well in the final outcome. I was disappointed that this brilliant person was clueless and nothing but a pawn.

    The novel is interesting and was worth reading, but was a little bit one dimensional for me.

    Peter Kenny is an awesome narrator. His variety and precision with voices is amazing.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    sam shreveport, louisiana, United States 02-06-14
    sam shreveport, louisiana, United States 02-06-14 Member Since 2008
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    "A Great Starting Point To A Great Series"

    If you're looking to get into Iain M. Banks' The Culture series this is the place to start. Yes, I know this is technically the second novel in the series, but the novels can be read in any order with the only connection being the shared setting. Also, the "first" novel doesn't so much introduce you to The Culture as toss you at them.

    This novels gives us a great introduction to The Culture, an intergalactic utopian society that entertains themselves (amongst other means) by helping less developed civilizations overcome various issues. That doesn't really do the novel much justice at all, let's get more specific!

    Our protagonist, Jernau Morat Gurgeh, is a member of The Culture with a knack for games; all sorts of games but especially those with high stakes. When Special Circumstances, the part of the culture responsible for helping lesser civilizations, ask for his help on a mission to a planet where games are a way of life he jumps at the chance. But Gurgeh has no clue what he's just gotten into.

    Mr. Banks, who has since passed away, was one of the greatest science fiction, or just general, writers of the late 20th/early 21st century. This language of this novel was smart and witty, which Peter Kenny handled with absolute mastery. Like I said, Banks is quite the word crafter and Kenny is quite the narrator.

    Here is a series that redefines what science fiction can be, and a great starting place if you want to get into sci-fi. Colorfully imaginative civilizations, engaging characters and prose, there's a lot to love here.

    I think I've found a new series be obsessed with, and strongly encourage you to give it a try too!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    A Reader Named Matt PA USA 01-06-14
    A Reader Named Matt PA USA 01-06-14 Member Since 2012

    Matt

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    "Great intro to Iain Banks' Culture novels"

    This was recommended to me as a good starting point into Banks' Culture novels (although technically its book #2) and I enjoyed it immensely.

    The narration was fantastic, read at a fairly fast pace but not hard to follow. Kenny adjusts his voice in subtle ways to suggest different people, but does not treat it like an audio play. It felt like a book being expertly read to me. While I have recently grown to appreciate other narration styles, this is just the kind of experience I originally joined Audible for.

    I'm disappointed to see that not all of the Culture books are available on Audible, but I'll listen to the ones I can, particularly if they are narrated by Peter Kenny.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Roman Minnetonka, MN, United States 12-26-13
    Roman Minnetonka, MN, United States 12-26-13 Member Since 2010
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    "I wish we were there"

    A great story. Lately I became tired of the 'kill the evil superior technologically aliens with our low technology but right to exist and propagate in our primitive ways values' kind of science fiction. So I tried to find something of a different kind. And this is just what I was looking for. There is just a tiny obligatory overtone of the above theme. Well developed story. Narration is also excellent.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Alexander granite bay, CA, United States 09-18-13
    Alexander granite bay, CA, United States 09-18-13 Member Since 2010
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    "An interesting sci-fi listen"

    This book kept my attention. The narrator is good and the subject matter while not my usual fare was engaging.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Shane ALEXANDRIA, VA, United States 09-15-13
    Shane ALEXANDRIA, VA, United States 09-15-13 Member Since 2010

    kinshane

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    "Good Second Book"

    I really didn't like the first book of the Culture series, but a buddy of mine told me that Consider Phlebas is not representative of the remainder, so I gave Player of Games a shot. It's really good. The narration is excellent and the story is excellent. I'll check out the third book in the series next.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Bob Bobson USA 05-25-13
    Bob Bobson USA 05-25-13 Member Since 2013
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    "Excellent book, excellent narration"
    What did you love best about The Player of Games?

    The Player of Games is an allegory, largely of a more feudal society, but in many ways also of the modern developed state. As such, it offers insight into both human history and contemporary human society. The game of Azzad (I cannot say more for fear of spoiling things) is a brilliant deconstruction of how political and moral beliefs shape, and are in turn shaped by, the political, economic, and moral circumstances that a society finds itself in. The Player of Games is political philosophy in space (I would like to clarify here that having read the actual canon of political philosophy, I know that this is an exaggeration by a long shot - but it is very interesting for someone who has read the canon nonetheless).


    What did you like best about this story?

    I really liked both the pacing, and the ending. I am also a big fan of some of the just hilarious dialogues and comments by the narrator.


    What does Peter Kenny bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    Kenny is an excellent narrator. He did different voices for each character, which made the situations easier to follow. I found the ending to be properly tailored to the audiobook - indeed, Kenny added a flourish that could only be achieved in an audiobook (saying what it is would be a spoiler). Finally, I think that he was very aware of the tone of the book, and seemed to have a very good sense of the sarcasm and irony in the book.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lee Wertz 03-18-13
    Lee Wertz 03-18-13 Member Since 2010
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    "Great follow up to CP"
    What did you love best about The Player of Games?

    Great story. took me a while to warm up to the Culture (seemed like a boring place to live and everyone a dilettante).
    Once it got going, though, the game playing part of the book is detailed, exciting, and relevant.


    What did you like best about this story?

    I think the protagonist was great.


    Which scene was your favorite?

    The scenes involving game play.


    Any additional comments?

    Nope.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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