The Player of Games by Ian M. Banks

Pyan

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That's really odd, because this is the first Banks novel I read, and the one that got me hooked into the Culture - I remember I went to the library the next day and stripped it of all the Banks novels, including several non-Culture ones.

I was completely blown away by the sheer imaginative span of the thing - massive populations, ditto habitats, etc, and the sentient droids. Most of the ones I'd met before were either comic relief or evil plotters, so the idea of extremely powerful yet (generally) benign droids was totally new to me.

Oh, and I read Consider Phlebas next, as it was written befoe TPoG: and it nearly put me off reading the rest of the Culture books. Practically the opposite of your experience...
 

AE35Unit

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It just confused me. I didn't know if Gurgeh was on a planet, in space, on a station or what. It was like jumping in a book in the middle, by which time stuff had been explained. Or as if it were a sequel. Very odd. And just plain boring
 

Rodders

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The Player of Games is generally regarded to be the most accessible of the Culture books, so im sorry that you weren't able to get into it.

I loved the opposed morality of the Culture and the Empire of Azad, but it seemed to me that they were just opposites of the same coin. Gurgeh ultimately ended up the only thing that gave him a purpose. A great ending.

Personally, its my favourite book and i've read is a few times and still love it.
 

reiver33

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I dislike the culture of the Culture but enjoyed this book, if only because there is almost enough detail of 'the game' to reconstruct it...
 

picklematrix

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Thats a shame. For a lot of people its the other way around, with PoG helping them get into tbe universe more so than CP.
I dont know if i would recommend Use of Weapons. I loved that book, but since you didnt enjoy player of games, its likely to be even less enjoyable.
 

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I recently listened to this on audiobook which was very nicely read by Peter Kenny. It's interesting that Peter used a distinctly British accent for Gurgeh and quasi American accents for other members of the Culture. I wonder whether that's intentional as Gurgeh is written as quite a stand offish character.

I haven't read anything about Iain Banks himself, but does he have any affinity with games, as i think they're mentioned a few times over the course of the Culture series? Ships (battleships especially), too.

It's been a while since i read it and i think there's still a lot to unpack.

I think the book picks apart a lot about human attitudes. On the face of it, the Culture is very socialist, egalitarian and "fair", almost the perfect society, but I felt that there was still much desire for conflict, (usually done by way of Contact and Special Circumstances by proxy with some other, "lesser society). Juxtaposed to the Culture is the Empire of Azad which had a core element of posession and ownership to it. I always felt that the Empire of Azad was Banks criticism of Western culture and our obsession with money, things and show.

I also thought more on the sexist or bigotted parts in some elements of the book. Obviously, the Azadian Apices "owned" their males and females and the idea of "females selling themselves, usually within the contract of marriage" was an interesting thought. I also felt that Gurgeh was perhaps somewhat bigotted toward the Culture drones too.
 
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Pyan

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I haven't read anything about Iain Banks himself, but does he have any affinity with games, as i think they're mentioned a few times over the course of the Culture series?

Sadly , we lost Iain Banks to inoperable cancer nearly ten years ago.
 

Rodders

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I still miss him, Pyan.

I was curious as games are one of the features quite often used in his books. (Damage in Consider Phlebas, Azad in tPoG and in surface detail, there is a game on the estate using miniature battleships.)
 

Vertigo

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I recently listened to this on audiobook which was very nicely read by Peter Kenny. It's interesting that Peter used a distinctly British accent for Gurgeh and quasi American accents for other members of the Culture. I wonder whether that's intentional as Gurgeh is written as quite a stand offish character.

I haven't read anything about Iain Banks himself, but does he have any affinity with games, as i think they're mentioned a few times over the course of the Culture series? Ships (battleships especially), too.

It's been a while since i read it and i think there's still a lot to unpack.

I think the book picks apart a lot about human attitudes. On the face of it, the Culture is very socialist, egalitarian and "fair", almost the perfect society, but I felt that there was still much desire for conflict, (usually done by way of Contact and Special Circumstances by proxy with some other, "lesser society). Juxtaposed to the Culture is the Empire of Azad which had a core element of posession and ownership to it. I always felt that the Empire of Azad was Banks criticism of Western culture and out obsession with money, things and show.

I also thought more on the sexist or bigotted parts in some elements of the book. Obviously, the Azadian Apices "owned" their males and females and the idea of "females selling themselves, usually within the contract of marriage" was an interesting thought. I also felt that Gurgeh was perhaps somewhat bigotted toward the Culture drones too.
Interesting observations, and yes he was a massive fan of board games in, I think, pretty much all their forms. He talks a little about it in Raw Spirit: In Search of the Perfect Dram; ostensibly about whisky but also about his beloved Scotland, his love of cars and along the way a fair bit of autobiographical detail about himself.

I've always felt that all his books about the Culture are his very serious examination of the idea of a Critical Utopia. This sums the concept up quite well:
A non-existent society described in considerable detail and normally located in time and space that the author intended a contemporaneous reader to view as better than contemporary society but with difficult problems that the described society may or may not be able to solve. The work also normally takes a critical view of the utopian genre.

Should you be interested in looking more into his whole Culture journey this is a very good and readable critique: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23875588-culture-series-of-iain-m-banks. I read this in parallel with my reread of all the Culture books and I have to say it enhanced both my enjoyment and understanding of them.
 

Rodders

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Thanks Vertigo, i have that on my Kindle. (I think you or Vince recommended it.) I'll try and give it a read as my next book as i think i'll be absorbed in the Culture for a while now.
 
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Swank

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It just confused me. I didn't know if Gurgeh was on a planet, in space, on a station or what. It was like jumping in a book in the middle, by which time stuff had been explained. Or as if it were a sequel. Very odd. And just plain boring
Given that you read Phlebas with descriptions of Orbitals, how were you confused by Gurgeh also living on an Orbital?
 

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