Guide The Player Of Games: A Culture Novel (Culture series Book 2)

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Gurgeh is pressed into travelling to a faraway empire, a society somewhat less utopian than The Culture that uses a series of games - where the stakes can be life and death - to determine who will be their next leader. Gurgeh is to enter these games as a Culture observer, under the close protection of his Special Circumstances AI drone, but of course, his role may be a little bigger than he anticipates I won't divulge any more as I would hate to spoil your reading fun, and what fun you'll have!

Bank's wit, so rare in an SF writer and liable to make you laugh aloud, is evident here, along with his gift for pulse-racing action sequences, allied to an enviable skill at building completely plausible and immersive worlds. This is a fantastic novel that had me daydreaming about the Culture for weeks. Read it, and prepare to lock yourself in a room with the brilliant series of books that came after it. Seriously, if you love SF, and you haven't read The Player of Games stop what you're doing, ignore your friends and family and get thee to a bookstore.

My only regret with having read the entire Culture series is that, like an idiot, I greedily gobbled them up too quickly, saving none to be savored later. With Banks' passing the Culture series is prematurely over. This is a terrible loss, but in my opinion, we're very, very lucky to have what he had time to write. Shelves: scifi-and-fantasy-club-bookshelf , language , scifi-fantasy-clubchallenge , highly-recommended , science-fiction , space-opera , game-theory , aliens , dark , favourites. Well played Mr Banks.

Well played. I'm struggling to find the words to express my awe in the wake of finishing this book. I feel much as I'd imagine a wizened game player would watching true masters dance across the board. Unable to do so myself, but completely transfixed by the beauty and depth of their movements. I don't think I can recommend this highly enough. It isn't necessary to have read Consider Phlebas which is the first book in the Culture series. I've read half of it and had to stop t Well played Mr Banks. I've read half of it and had to stop to read a book club book and haven't pick it up since though I'm not sure why.

Kim really enjoyed this one and suggested I add it to my challenge. I'm so so glad I did! It started out a bit slowly, but it wasn't in any way dull or boring. We learn a lot about the Culture and how those who are born within it live. It's a fascinating society. Highly technologically advanced, they live in a nearly utopian world where each citizen is free to do whatever they find most enjoyable. The Empire by contrast is not as advanced nor as accommodating. It's a brutal place where people have little in the way of rights and the Emperor rules supreme. Interestingly they choose their ruler by means of a highly complex and competitive game called Azad.


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I couldn't help but draw parallels between the planet Ea and Earth. Of course this was the worst possible parts of Earth and humanity, but it was in my head from near the beginning. You learn more about Ea as the book progresses that makes your blood run cold and I wished I hadn't made that connection in my mind early in the novel. I don't know if it was intentional on the part of Iain M. Banks but it resonated deeply in me. The game theory aspect was fascinating.

It's always been a subject that I find interesting and it was put to such good use here. This next bit is a spoiler since it only comes out near the end, but I don't think it ruins any part of the story at all.

THE PLAYER OF GAMES discussion (The Culture group read)

I'm marking it anyway for those who are completely spoiler averse. Speaking only the language of the Empire for an extended period of time had a noticeable effect on the protagonist which was a subtle but genius touch I thought. I'm really looking forward to reading more in the Culture series. I'll be thinking about this one for months yet! View all 17 comments.

Oct 09, Michael rated it really liked it Recommended to Michael by: apatt. Shelves: fiction , artificial-intelligence , books , aliens , dystopia , science-fiction. A very satisfying read for me and a worthwhile homage to a modern master of science fiction whom we lost this year. In the Culture, all basic human needs are taken care of through technology, there is no war or crime, and its peoples are free to party A very satisfying read for me and a worthwhile homage to a modern master of science fiction whom we lost this year. In the Culture, all basic human needs are taken care of through technology, there is no war or crime, and its peoples are free to party, pursue the arts, take up useless hobbies, or apply themselves to building the next artificial world.

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If they are bored with their sex life, they can change their gender. Our hero, Gurgeh, has become a highly respected master of game playing, living for the next success in a tournament or the acclaim of his next academic paper on game theory. He is basically a neutral, non-judgmental character by which the reader gets to experience an interesting contrast between utopian and dystopian societies. But life in paradise inevitably becomes boring, and as a reader we become starved for an interesting plot development.

Iain M Banks: Science fiction is no place for dabblers

Gurgeh hears of a secret distant empire, Azad, which is effectively founded on a game used to winnow out who succeeds in their society, and a Contact agent drone easily persuades him to travel a couple of years to join their tournament in what he is told is an ambassadorial initiative. It turns out, these aliens have a society with all the ills of our current human civilization, including wars of domination, political corruption, the cruel hierarchy of the haves and have-nots, violent crime, pornography, etc.

It becomes hard to recognize them as aliens, save for the quirk of having three genders. Gurgeh is so concentrated on succeeding at the game of Azad, it takes him a while to truly become disgusted with these folk. With a bit more advancement in technology, the Azadians could become quite a dangerous scourge in the galaxy. How can an idealistic, egalitarian society like Culture deal with such a throwback to dog-eat-dog life without playing their own game of forceful domination?

Late in the game Gurgeh comes to understand he is a pawn in the clash between cultures.

There are plenty of other writers who push the envelope further in areas of space colonization, impact alien cultures on human sensibilities, and use of technology in the service of hopeful utopias. Yet Banks excels with these subjects by taking a less thrilling or splashy route, one that puts you personally in the picture through a self-centered anti-hero. In closing, I would like to share a couple of examples where the prose occasionally takes flight. In the following, Banks nicely captures some of how game playing infects Gurgeh's way of looking at the world: As happened every now and again, everything he saw around him seemed to be part of the game; the way people stood like pieces, grouped according to who could take or affect whom; the way the pattern on the marquee was like a simple grid area on the board, and the poles like planted power-sources waiting to replenish some exhausted minor piece and supporting a crux-point in the game; the way people and police stood like the suddenly closed jaws of some nightmarish pincer-movement… all was the game, everything was seen in its light, translated into the combative imagery of its language, evaluated in the context its structure imposed upon the mind.

The pupils widened at first, then shrank, became pinpoints. The drone waited for the wide, staring eyes to fill with moisture, for the tiny muscles around the eyes to flinch and the eyelids to close and the man to shake his head and turn away, but nothing of the sort happened. The screen held his gaze, as though the infinitesimal pressure of light it spent upon the room had somehow reversed, and so sucked the watching man forward, to hold him, teetering before the fall, fixed and steady and pointed at the flickering surface like some long-stilled moon.

View all 14 comments. In adjournment you are offered a cast iron safe opportunity to cheat. But it may change how you win. So what do you do?

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Apr 02, Stuart rated it really liked it Shelves: distant-worlds , galaxy-spanning , favorites. The Player of Games: A game so complex it mirrors the society around it Originally posted at Fantasy Literature The Player of Games is the second published book in the well-known Culture series featuring the post-scarcity utopian machine-human galactic empire known as the Culture. Once again Iain M.

Thoughts on Iain M. Banks Culture novels

Banks adroitly chooses to focus on the interactions of the Culture with a non-Culture society, this time the more primitive empire of Azad. The Azadian society is centered around an incredibly c The Player of Games: A game so complex it mirrors the society around it Originally posted at Fantasy Literature The Player of Games is the second published book in the well-known Culture series featuring the post-scarcity utopian machine-human galactic empire known as the Culture.

The Azadian society is centered around an incredibly complex game called Azad, and every six years it holds a tournament that begins with 12, players, with the winner becoming the Emperor.

The Player of Games (Culture Series #2) by Iain M. Banks, Paperback | Barnes & Noble®

The idea is that anyone brilliant enough to master the game and defeat all rivals is worthy to run the Empire as well. Of course, being so good and facing few difficulties in life, Gurgeh feels a bit unsatisfied. When he is presented with the opportunity to play in a game with more complexity and layers than anything he has ever played before, he is immediately drawn to the idea. However, it takes a little old-fashioned blackmail to push him into action, and I found this a bit implausible since he is supposedly a strategic genius.

He really walks right into a trap that anyone should be able to recognize. But his desire to find a new challenge apparently overrides his better judgment.


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We see how the Azadian press initially considers Gurgeh an oddity, and not much of a threat.