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The Player Of Games [Paperback]

Iain M. Banks
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (107 customer reviews)

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Book Description

4 May 2001

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.

Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Orbit; 15th edition (4 May 2001)
  • ISBN-10: 1841490954
  • ISBN-13: 978-1841490953
  • Product Dimensions: 17.2 x 11 x 2.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (107 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 633,210 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Iain Banks came to widespread and controversial public notice with the publication of his first novel, THE WASP FACTORY, in 1984. He has since gained enormous popular and critical acclaim for both his mainstream and his science fiction novels.

Product Description

Amazon Review

In The Player of Games, Iain M. Banks presents a distant future that could almost be called the end of history. Humanity has filled the galaxy, and thanks to ultra-high technology everyone has everything they want, no one gets sick, and no one dies. It's a playground society of sports, stellar cruises, parties, and festivals. Jernau Gurgeh, a famed master game player, is looking for something more and finds it when he's invited to a game tournament at a small alien empire. Abruptly Banks veers into different territory. The Empire of Azad is exotic, sensual and vibrant. It has space battle cruisers, a glowing court-- all the stuff of good old science fiction--which appears old-fashioned in contrast to Gurgeh's home. At first it's a relief, but further exploration reveals the empire to be depraved and terrifically unjust. Its defects are gross exaggerations of our own, yet they indict us all the same. Clearly Banks is interested in the idea of a future where everyone can be mature and happy. Yet it's interesting to note that in order to give us this compelling adventure story, he has to return to a more traditional setting. Thoughtful science fiction readers will appreciate the cultural comparisons, and fans of big ideas and action will also be rewarded. -- Brooks Peck --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.


Few of us have been exposed to a talent so manifest and of such extraordinary breadth (THE NEW YORK REVIEW OF SCIENCE FICTION )

Poetic, humorous, baffling, terrifying, sexy - the books of Iain M. Banks are all these things and more (NME )

Banks is an incredibly talented writer. All his books are lively and entertaining. They are laced with a wry humour, fascinating characters and inspired plots. THE PLAYER OF GAMES, I am pleased to say is no exception... Go on, treat yourself, you won't be disappointed. (STARBURST )

In The Player of Games, Iain M. Banks presents a distant future that could almost be called the end of history. Humanity has filled the galaxy, and thanks to ultra-high technology everyone has everything they want, no one gets sick, and no one dies. It's (Brooks Peck, AMAZON.CO.UK )

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
46 of 47 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How to let a game take over your life... 14 Mar 2003
In "The Player Of Games", an immensely powerful but somewhat lazy and hedonistic man-machine society called the Culture plays a game against the much smaller but aggressively militaristic Empire of Azad. The Empire has as one of its key social drivers a hugely complex board game called Azad (which means Life). Successful players of Azad prosper in the Azadian society, winning promotions in the military and civil service. Every few years the society stages a major tournament at which the best Azad player becomes Emperor.
Into this milieu the Culture plays its "piece", a professional game-player called Gurgeh who has spent his entire life playing every sort of game of strategy but would probably hurt himself if he tried to use any kind of weapon. Gurgeh's attempts to compete in the Azad tournament reflect the many contrasts between the two civilisations - and also show up unexpected similarities.
This fine novel can be read in different ways. On one level, it's simply a blast - pacy, exciting, suspenseful widescreen space opera. Read it on a beach and get badly sunburnt. However, there's a lot more depth there if you want it. Banks raises a lot of interesting questions about how we set the rules of our society and how all kinds of play interact with those rules. Are cruelty and ruthlessness taught by game-play - whether in the children's playground or in multiplayer internet shoot-'em-ups - or do people's choice of games tell you about their society? Banks is a known addict of the "Civilization" series of strategy computer games, which many otherwise mild-mannered people play as brutal conquerors and commit acts which in Real Life(TM) would be war crimes. The Culture itself, of course, has gained power and stability at the expense of what one might call "soul".
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Layers of Games 4 July 2006
Shifting between lives that mirror games, games that control lives, with confusion between reality, gameplay, and subterfuge, The Player of Games is a truly splendid novel. The story expands (along with Gurgeh's horizons) as homely Chiark is left far behind en route to play the Game, but the full stream of the narrative (and Banks' frankly mind-boggling imagination) really switches on when he reaches Azad.

A fantastic and deeply realised, well-characterised story. Beats me what the negative reviewers have been reading.
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29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How to like this book... 31 Jan 2007
This is not a book for purists (Iain Banks or Sci Fi). This is the most Culture-d(imho) of Banks' books. All the amusing ship names and foul mouthed witty droids are here, plus excellent alien races and sly and not so sly reference to modern popular culture. There are some great themes about boredom, cheating, redemption and the glory of untamed cultures with primaeval urges and how attractive that can be. The Culture does not come out of this one unscathed; but the rationale for its power and success is evident.

Banks continues a theme started in Consider Phlebas about the importance of games in a society where much of the danger, and therefore excitement has been diluted by obsessive and overbearing technology - people cannot even die decently and eventually get bored and order themselves to be destroyed; it seems that immortality will eventually suck.

The visceral thrill that the protagonist feels when he realises that his entire reputation is on the line because he has cheated is relevant to how we currently live today, fairly insulated from excitement or having hygiencally cleansed experiences like bungy jumping to try and reconnect with our limbic system and some more basic pleasures like, fear, lust and anger.

If you like the Culture element of Banks' books then this is the one to read and if you like a bit of redemption and thoughtfullness then go for it!
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Player of Games 24 Feb 2003
By A Customer
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...
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Another excellent Banks Novel
Imagine a world with no wars, no Poverty, no illness and you have The Culture. Bored with his successful Life, Jernau Morat Gurgeh, a famous and skillful player of board games... Read more
Published 21 days ago by Mike Gamba
5.0 out of 5 stars Great story... Compelling reading all the way with loads of...
Great read. Right from the start it's a rip-roaring yarn, with lots of human interest and roller-coaster action. Loved it...
Published 24 days ago by Andrew W Green
5.0 out of 5 stars My first Iain M Banks
I'm not normally a SF reader but having read most of the Iain M Banks novels I decided to dive in. Loved it and will now go on to read the others starting with Consider Phlebas.
Published 1 month ago by Woodworm
5.0 out of 5 stars A masterpiece
This Culture story is one of my favourites, being vey human centric it differs from the others in the series. Read more
Published 1 month ago by willz
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic book by Banks
I'm fairly new to Sci-Fi, and bought this on other reader's recommendations. My first Iain M. Banks book was Consider Phloebas, which I loved despite the bulk of it. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Hops
5.0 out of 5 stars The best introduction to the Culture.
Probably my favourite SF book. The games described within seem so vivid, I want to play them (but maybe not make any bets on Azad!) The Player of Games was the first Iain M. Read more
Published 4 months ago by charlotte bright
5.0 out of 5 stars Very good price
I bought this as a Xmas present for someone who has been looking for this book for a while. Excellent value, delivered promptly.
Published 4 months ago by Esme Howard
4.0 out of 5 stars A grower
A slower start and less of a sweeping 'epic' than most culture novels but it develops into a fascinating character led story.
Published 6 months ago by James Sena
5.0 out of 5 stars Very good
Iain Banks was an excellent story teller, giving you enough detail to describe the Culture world but keeping it blurred enough for your imagination to take over. Read more
Published 7 months ago by ExBurpiCausa
5.0 out of 5 stars Top notch!
There is something that is beyond my meagre writing skills to describe about Banks' culture series. Despite the book oozing with futuristic hyper technology these are really... Read more
Published 7 months ago by P. Joseph
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