My first dip into the sea of imagination created by Iain (M) Banks was this inspired story; The Player of Games. This novel not only displays the rich and flavourful society of the Culture it also exposes the way the it treats other societies considered 'inferior' or simply a potential threat to their eutopian-like way of life. Orchastrated by the Contact branch (a sort of special services network in the culture) the Culture sends their best strategest and game player, Jurgen Gurgeh, to the distant Empire of Azad to play in a contest of perhaps the greatest of games, one that forms the very positions one assumes in society, the highest prize: being made Emperor.
The sheer contrast between the Culture and Azadian societies is shown magnificently; where the Culture is open on all fronts we quickly see that, although the rise to power in the Azad system forms a seemingly stable Empire, underneath its glossy surface unimaginable and speakable acts are commited.
This intelligent and fast novel will have you racing to the next page, its sci-fi technology driven worlds, though deeply imaginative and original, will not leave you floundering in doubt. This is an extremely enjoyable read that despite its setting opens your eyes to how life actually is in OUR world, and how Societies today behave towards those seen as a threat.
If you are new to the Culture novels this eases you in with the expert edge only Banks possesses...