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The Player Of Games (The Culture) Paperback – 10 Aug 1989


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The Player Of Games (The Culture) + Use Of Weapons (The Culture) + Consider Phlebas: A Culture Novel (The Culture)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Orbit; New Ed edition (10 Aug. 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1857231465
  • ISBN-13: 978-1857231465
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.3 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (136 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 25,042 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

Review

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

4.4 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

48 of 49 people found the following review helpful By Dr Frazer Anderson on 14 Mar. 2003
Format: Paperback
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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30 of 32 people found the following review helpful By William K. James on 31 Jan. 2007
Format: Paperback
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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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By L. Davidson VINE VOICE on 7 April 2006
Format: Paperback
"The Player of Games" is an exquisitely constructed piece of science-fiction and it is one of the best novels that I have read for some time. Iain M Banks creates a detailed and entirely credible future world populated with a wide range of interesting and intriguing characters. The standard of writing is exceptionally high ,as one would expect from this author, with life on the Chiark Orbital and the Fire Planet Echronedal being portrayed particularly vividly. "The Player of Games" is set against the backdrop of an engagement between the Culture and a newly discovered Empire called the Azad, whose power structure is based around success in an elaborate game of the same name. Chiark Orbital resident and expert games player ,Jernat Gurgeh, is asked by Culture S.C. to participate in the game as a representative of the Culture at the behest of the Azadian Emperor. As the game progresses, Gurgeh finds out that success at this game comes at a much higher price than he could ever have imagined. While the storyline is entertaining and absorbing , the best part of the novel is the backdrop of the clash of values and attitudes between the cruel and aggressive inhabitants of the Azad and the hedonistic, hi-tech cunning of the Culture, which like all of the best science fiction novels mirrors events and conflicts on Earth. The drones ,Mawhrin-Skel and Flere-Imsaho, are wonderful creations as is the talented ,phlegmatic games player , Gurgeh. The book is perfectly paced and builds up steadily, culminating in an exciting finale with a surprising little twist at the end. I would recommend "The Player of Games" not only to science fiction fans , but to mainstream novel readers as well.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Owlwithoutfeathers on 10 Jun. 2013
Format: Paperback
I have been meaning to read the Iain M Banks novels for several years now, often glancing at the cover and wondering what lies beneath the surface. I embarked on my journey, diving into Consider Phlebas with gusto, having received the 25th Anniversary box set as a birthday present earlier this year. And how timely it was with the recent, sad news of Mr Banks' passing. Whilst people laud the first book as the classic Iain M Banks Culture novel - and it undeniably is the one that provides the momentum to start the ball rolling - I did feel that there was something missing. The Player of Games, for me, has provided that missing gear.

It is a subtle (and in many ways, not so subtle) story. An intelligent read, lending itself to explore the politics and psychology of the individual and how society shapes one's thoughts. This is more than lasers, masers and space combat in the tour de force of Player of Games; more than merely being painted as "a space opera". It echoes Cold War politics and I often had thoughts of how life would be for the Grand Masters of the great chess tournaments between East and West and the "loneliness of the long distance runner" (or chess player) in crossing these cultural and political barriers, journeying into quite often an "alien" society (and often hitting them head on). Iain M Banks was often hailed as a prescient author. And the "clash of civilisations" affirmed in Consider Phlebas, and gently nodded to in The Player of Games, still resonates today in 21st century geo-politics: the in-depth portrayal of the Azadian state-system in the novel could be North Korea, Iran, Syria, or to a lesser extent, a small number of African states, or even China; lending itself to cold, callous politburo, murderous barbarism and decedent xenophobia.
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